Wild Hazelnut Crunch
Almost every year I make these sweets a couple of weeks before Christmas and store them in an airtight jar to keep them crisp. I put them into little individual cellophane bags to give as presents. A little care is needed when cooking them, as the liquid caramelised sugar used to make the hazelnuts stick together is extremely hot and can burn: I use a half lemon as my shaping tool to save my fingers.
Makes 1kg (2 1/4 lb)
Croccante di Nocciole
- 700g (1 lb 9 oz) hazelnuts, shelled weight
- Thinly pared rind of 1/2 lemon and 1/2 orange
- 700g (1 lb 9 oz) caster sugar
- 6 tbsp good-quality runny honey
- 1/2 lemon
- Preheat the oven to 230 C/450 F/Gas 8.
- Put the shelled hazelnuts in a metal tray and roast in the preheated oven for about 5-10 minutes until the skins start to crack, but the hazelnuts remain pale brown in colour. Watch them very carefully, as they can burn easily. When they have cooled a little rub the nuts together in a cloth (or shake in a sieve), and the skins should come off easily. Leave to become completely cold.
- Slice the lemon and orange rind into fine strips, and then into cubes. Put the sugar in a heavy-bottomed pan along with the honey over a medium to strong heat. Stirring most of the time, cook until the sugar and honey have become liquid and turn brown in colour: this takes about 10 minutes. At this point add the rind and nuts to the caramel in the pan. Stir, keeping the pan on the heat until all the nuts are well coated. Remove from the heat.
- Now lay out the sheets of rice paper and make large heaps of the hazelnut caramel. The nuts tend to stick up from the caramel: wait until you reach the bottom of the pan and use the remaining caramel to fill up any gaps round the nuts. Flatten the heaps by patting down with the lemon half-but take care, as they will still be very hot. Leave to cool a bit, but when still warm, cut with a large knife into 2 x 3 cm (3/4 x 1 1/4 inch) pieces. Store in airtight jars.