Make, Jane, make!: Nice evenly-sized nuts.


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Friday, January 7, 2011

Nice evenly-sized nuts.

Okay, I had a little fun with my post title today. But since it's today's post subject is never fun for me, I thought it was fitting.

I hate finely chopping nuts... It's okay for the first cupful or so, but after that I start getting tennis elbow or carpal tunnel or nutchoppinitis... whatever that tired hand, tight shoulder, sore neck feeling is called. It probably doesn't help that I'm slightly taller than average, making stooping over my cutting board to scrutinize my handiwork even more of a chore.

So I did some research to see if there was a better way and there seems to be a net-sensus that the two best ways to finely chop nuts for home baking (not including gimmicky uni-taskers like the Slap-chop :) are:

1. Put them in a zip top bag and pulverise them to your desired size with something hard like a rolling pin, meat mallet, or other heavy household item.

2. Chop them on a cutting board with your chefs knife.

I've used both methods in the past, but I usually chop by hand as I can better control the size and uniformity of my nuts. (Also banging my rolling pin on the kitchen counter is not usually the best idea during an after-the-kids-have-gone-to-bed baking session). However, it's tedious to sift through the nuts and pick out the big ones for rechopping, so I tried to find something in the house that could sort my nuts for me.


Let's try the colander out for size...

Not bad first pass. Took some shaking and stirring to coax those little pistachios through the holes.

And a second round of chopping begins.

It took three passes through the colander to get some pretty uniform nuts. Still had some super powdery bits, but not nearly as many as when I keep on chopping trying to get the larger nuts down to size.

Bottom line?

This produced some really nice and super uniformly sized pistachios... but I'm not sure it would be worth the trouble (of washing an extra bowl and colander) for eat-at-home baking, a smaller batch of nuts, or for nuts that were easier to chop, like pecans/almonds/etc. The only advantage was that it lessened the amount of nuts that I ground into a powder because it helped me sort out all the smaller nuts. Fun experiment, but not as successful as I would have hoped! Maybe next year I'll just throw them in the Cuisinart and let my Christmas cookies turn pistachio green? Kinda downplays the nice green colour of nuts in the blond shortbread... but then again, maybe red cranberries in a green cookie would be even more festive?

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