Friday, September 26, 2014

Fresh Black Raspberries in Season

Fresh Black Raspberries: Yum!

Bushes full of berries...

There has been an absolute abundance of wild berries this year here in the southwest United Kingdom, especially blackberries and black raspberries.  The image below shows a typical wild black raspberry bush, or patch — perhaps better described as a hedge of raspberries or nearly a forest of raspberries — that I keep running into all over the region along footpaths, bridal paths, hiking trails, biking trails, and so on.
Wild Black Raspberries on the bushes

These berries are simply everywhere: I call these berries the "national weed of the UK" due to how widespread they are.   I definitely do not mind, as unlike most "weeds", these plants produce a very useful crop — a delicious fruit that is quite versatile and can be used in many of my gluten-free recipes.  I used to pick these same types of berries in Ohio in the United States, but I never encountered them in such abundance as I have seen here.

...but, picking still takes time.

Even with so many berries on so many bushes, I have found that my ability to pick them peaks out at about 1 quart per hour.  The black raspberries are quite a bit smaller than the nice big plump fresh blackberries I was picking earlier this year (compare the picture below to the pictures in the blackberry blog-link — shown in same size pan); in fact, it probably takes 6 or 8 of these small berries to equal the size of a medium blackberry.

Next, there is the issue of the thorns on the bushes that must be avoided; those do not feel so nice and/or can get get your clothing all caught up in them.  If that were not enough, so often where these wild raspberries are growing, so grow large patches of stinging nettles around them and/or mixed throughout them — and if you have experienced the "sting" of those stinging nettles, you will soon realize why it is with great care (even if it slows down the harvest) that I work my way through the wild berry patches.

Fresh-picked black raspberries - much smaller berry than blackberries.

Lovely treat worth the effort

Even with the effort required to pick these lovely little flavorful berries, it is so worth it!  Much like with the blackberries, I eat these black raspberries fresh and I also freeze any extra ones.  I freeze some of the berries whole and others I cook down a bit prior to freezing the resulting very thick puree (many of the berries remain nearly whole).  I use these in some lovely gluten-free berry pies and other dessert recipes too!

One characteristic of the black raspberry I very much prefer to the larger blackberry is how it stays much more solid and has less liquid (per volume) than the blackberry when cooked — this denser and more solid texture makes for a much nicer berry pie, berry crisp or crumble, and so forth (the dessert does not succumb to sogginess).  And, they are simply loaded with flavor!  This all makes for them being quite a treat when placed in the morning granola or yogurt.  Hope you have a chance to enjoy some where you are.

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Gluten-Free Recipe: Fresh Hazelnut Butter

Simple Recipe for Homemade Hazelnut Butter

It does not get any easier!

I have been putting my freshly picked and roasted hazelnuts (aka, cobnuts or filberts) to use in a variety of ways in my gluten-free baking and cooking. My last blog posting was about how to make your own Nutella (type) hazelnut / cocoa spread.  This time, things get even easier since my hazelnut butter is just a simplified version of the last recipe — basically just leave out the cocoa and sugar.

Ingredients / Directions

Hopefully you have access to a nice chopper, food processor, or heavy duty blender (e.g., a Vitamixer) into which you can place your roasted hazelnuts. Choose whatever quantity of hazelnuts you want and grind / chop the nuts until they are as coarse-ground or fine-ground as you prefer (I opt for a more coarse-ground version, as shown in pictures here).

Once chopped to near-final desired, add some gluten-free vegetable oil to your mix to make it somewhat "spreadable" — I chose sunflower oil.  The amount you use will depend on how thick / thin you want your hazelnut butter to be.  Now, you can mix in the oil by hand (to preserve the coarseness of your ground nuts), or if you are going for a creamier butter, you can use your Vitamix or other suitable appliance to further chop the nuts down along with the oil until you have a creamy product.

Although I do not personally use these, optional ingredients  (to personal taste) can include a touch of salt and/or sugar.  That's essentially it, and your fresh-made hazelnut butter should be absolutely delicious!

Fresh Ground Roasted Homemade Roasted Hazelnut / Cobnut / Filbert Butter

I placed the end product of my recipe into some recycled Greek Yogurt containers I cleaned up, and the butter has been fine for a week or so outside of refrigeration.

Next recipe using these lovely fresh-picked and roasted hazelnuts: I will combine them with some fresh-picked black raspberries, some gluten-free oats, and a few other ingredients to back up a "crumble" that is just lovely.

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Recipe : Nutella-like, but better, Hazelnut / Cocoa Spread

Chocolate Hazelnut Enjoyment

Simple Recipe for Nutella-like Hazelnut / Cocoa Treat

I just recently harvested and roasted some fresh Hazelnuts / Cobnuts for gluten-free recipes I think they will work well in.  I am starting with some very simple ways to use them, beginning with a variation on the Nutella (brand) chocolate-hazelnut spread.

My version is quite different from Nutella — if anything it is much closer to what a premium / gourmet brand of chocolate hazelnut spread called Rawtella is like. That is, simple core ingredients without the extra junk I do not want.  I found Nutella's recipe online to be the following:

Ingredients. Sugar, Vegetable Oil, Hazelnuts (13%), Skim Milk Powder (8.7%), Fat-Reduced Cocoa Powder (7.4%), Emulsifier (Lecithins) (Soy), Flavouring (Vanillin).
Compare that to something like Rawtella which is just Hazelnut, Cocoa Nibs, and Sugar — they keep it all "raw" by using dehydrated hazelnuts, but I will roast mine since I have no easy way to dehydrate them.

I much prefer Rawtella's idea of getting rid of Nutella's skim milk powder, the masses of sugar and oil, and the soy lecithin that Nutella uses (not to mention improving upon that paltry 13% hazelnut and even less cocoa Nutella uses).  And, like Rawtella, my version is not just gluten-free, but also dairy-free / vegan.

Ingredients / Directions

Here is what I chose to use in my own recipe for a rather "coarse grind" chocolate hazelnut spread / butter:
  • approximately 2.5 cups of roasted hazelnuts / filberts / cobnuts
  • between 1/2 cup and 1 cup of muscavado sugar — to taste preference
  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil to smooth things out a bit
  • 1 cup cocoa
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
I used my Vitamixer to grind the nuts down to a slightly-coarse meal. Next, I added the sugar, cocoa, oil, and vanilla and ground the combination a bit more, stopping the mixer quite frequently to manually churn the mixture a bit since I did not plan to grind to a fully-smooth butter.  You can certainly grind to any degree of smoothness you prefer, and you may want to up the oil to help in this process.

That's really about it.  The final result is shown here — both in close-up (to show texture) and after I placed it in a plastic container.   I have found I like this stuff plain and absolutely love it on coffee-flavored ice cream!

Hazelnut Cocoa Spread - semi-course texture
Hazelnut Cocoa Spread - ready for use!

I now need to put some of my hazelnuts to use in some brownies, tart-crusts, and other gluten-free recipes, but for now I am going to very much enjoy this cocoa-hazelnut treat.  I also made some plain hazelnut butter which I will feature soon.

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Fresh Hazelnuts Harvest and Preparation

Harvesting and Preparing Fresh Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts / Cobnuts / Filberts in Season in the UK

I very much enjoy the flavor of hazelnuts.  Hazelnut (the nut of the hazel tree) is also referred to as cobnut or filbert nut according to species.  I do not know the specific species of hazelnut I have harvested this year, but they sure do taste good!

I really have no idea how many hazelnut trees are in the UK since they do not appear terribly abundant  — I have only found a few so far (Turkey is the big commercial producer in the world with about 70% of the total, though in 2014 the hazelnut crop was 90% lost due to frost and such).

I encountered some trees located right along a paved public bike-trail nearby in the Southwest of the United Kingdom, but only located them by chance when I saw all the pulverized nut shells and mashed (by bikes) filberts on the trail.  There is a bit of work involved in manually collecting fresh hazelnuts.

It was not too difficult to locate the source cobnut tree(s) based on where the nuts had rolled to on the ground — just a bit of back-tracing.  But, then came the fun of dealing with stinging nettles growing all around the base of the trees! (ouch!)  With careful movement, I was able to collect about a kilogram of nuts with only a few nettle stings.

Hazelnuts Nutritional Value — Healthy-Eating

Hazelnuts are a rather healthy nut and a great gluten-free ingredient.  They are high in dietary fiber and low carb.  In fact, they have more protein than they do "net" carbs (carbohydrates less fiber portion of carbs). They are rich in vitamin E especially (100% daily requirements in 100g of nuts)!

In addition, the nuts contain a nice balance of minerals and other vitamins: B1, B6, and folate are notable vitamins; manganese, magnesium, and iron are noteworthy minerals.  Furthermore these nuts contain a lot of healthy unsaturated fats (especially oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat) that may even help lower "bad" (LDL) cholesterol.

Hazelnuts in Pictures (in husks, clusters, loose, and shelled) 

Here are some pictures that show the hazelnuts in their varied states, along with a look at the tree leaf that may help you identify a hazel tree along the way:

Hazelnuts / Cobnuts : on tree, in husks, and husked

Shelled Hazelnuts / Filbers / Cobnuts -- ready to toast / roast

Roasted Hazelnuts

How to Roast the Hazelnuts

It took a few hours to shell all the hazelnuts.  I chose a pair of pliers to crack the nut shells with and my wife opted for the meat-hammer to crack them open with.  Shelling the hazelnuts is the hardest bit of work in the entire process — it takes time and my forearms and hand muscles can still feel the aftereffects of squeezing pliers for hours.  Perhaps there is an easier way, but this worked I guess.

Roasting is optional.  You may prefer the nuts raw — the flavor at this point is much milder and the consistency is rather like fresh coconut.  Roasting really brings out the hazelnut flavor that you may be used to tasting in hazelnut praline and similar products, and I really like that well-developed flavor.

Once the nuts are all shelled, simply place the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet (or jelly-roll pan with a slight edge — as I have done — so they do not roll off) and put them into a 150-degree-Celsius (300 degree F) oven for about an hour or just over.  You can decide how long to bake them based on the desired consistency.  I like them nice and crunchy, but I do not mind them slightly soft in the center either (still with that coconut-like consistency).  You can test them by pressing down on them with a fork or other utensil and observing whether they "give" yet — a crunchy nut will not give at all.  My preferred crunchier nuts took about 1 hour and 10 minutes in a convection oven.

Coming up: Using Hazelnuts in Recipes

I have been using these fresh hazelnuts in a variety of gluten-free recipes lately. The simplest of these recipes is a nice nutty granola with toasted whole hazelnuts, fresh coconut, almonds, raisins or currants, and some gluten-free oats.

I have been making homemade hazelnut butter with the roasted nuts. Another favorite is my own version of "Nutella" (brand) hazelnut / chocolate spread but without all the sugar and with a LOT higher percentage of hazelnut and cocoa — here is a link to my gluten-free Nutella-like cocoa hazelnut spread recipe.

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available.