Hazelnuts can be purchased with their skin off (left) or on (right), but the peeled ones are usually a bit pricey. Sometimes they are a time saver and it’s good to know they are available, but if you are more of the DIY sort, there are two methods for getting that clingy skin off – a dry method and a wet method.
The dry technique will skin and toast hazelnuts all at once. If you don’t want them toasted, then you cannot use this technique. Spread nuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet pan and toast at 350°F until they begin to give off an aroma, the skins have turned dark brown and have split – usually less than 10 minutes. Shake the pan once or twice during toasting to encourage even browning. Remove from the oven and cool briefly on a rack, then take clean kitchen towels and rub the nuts vigorously between them. With a little work, the skins will come off. Bits of papery skin will be everywhere. We like to do this over a large, wide bowl to catch the skins with another smaller bowl nearby to place the skinned nuts as you go. Sometimes a few hazelnuts retain a tiny bit of extra-stubborn skin on them; that’s okay.
For the wet method, place a clean kitchen towel on a rimmed baking sheet pan; set aside. Bring 1 gallon of water to a boil over medium-high heat and add ¼ cup baking soda. Dump in 2 cups of hazelnuts and boil for 4 minutes. Fish a couple of nuts out with a slotted spoon and see if the skins are slipping off easily (if they aren’t, keep boiling in 30-second increments). When ready, drain immediately and pour nuts out onto prepared pan with towel. Rub vigorously until the skins come off. Warning: the water turns a very odd shade of purple/black and may stain your towels, so don’t use anything fancy. No matter, you will have nice skinned hazelnuts. Rub them with a clean towel to dry as thoroughly as possible. If you want to dry them out further, or toast them, place them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet pan and bake at 350°F until fragrant and very light golden brown, typically less than 10 minutes.
Image: Peter Muka