250g raw hazelnuts
450g demerara sugar
a few spoonfuls of honey
a cookie sheet
a quart pan
a rolling pin/large flat knife
a sieve and three layers of cheese cloth
a jar or bottle to keep the syrup in
1. Roast the hazelnuts at 320F for 15-20 minutes. Open the oven and stir them from time to time to prevent burning.
2. Rub the hazelnut between two sheets of paper towel (or between your hands) to remove the skin. Don’t worry if there’s some skin left, but most of the skin shouldn’t be left on: this is for syrup, not bitters.
3. In a quart pan, try to dissolve as much of the sugar as possible in the water. Add honey to taste and put on medium-low heat (keep an eye on it and stir a bit if the sugar hasn’t dissolved yet).
4. While the syrup heats up, crush the hazelnuts with a rolling pin or with the side of a large flat knife. If they aren’t breaking into small enough pieces, chop roughly until it looks like sundae garnish.
5. Add all the crushed hazelnuts to the pan. Bring the heat to high and wait for the syrup to boil. Stir to prevent the sugar from burning.
6. Once the syrup reaches boiling point, boil for another 5 minutes before letting it simmer on medium heat for 45 minutes to reduce by a third. Again, stirring is key to prevent burning.
7. Take the syrup off the heat. Strain to remove the hazelnut pieces. *
8. At this point you have two choices:
- Use triple-lined cheese cloth to strain the very very hot syrup into a mason jar for canning (preserves the syrup for up to a year in the pantry, but the syrup must be kept in the fridge after opening and consumed within three weeks of opening)
- Wait for the syrup to cool and strain it through the cheese cloth into a jar/bottle that goes in the fridge (and use up the syrup in the next three weeks)**
In any case, the syrup tastes better after it sits for a day or two, but you can start using it everywhere right away.
*Hazelnuts are not cheap so here’s how to turn them into a snack/actual sundae toppings: Lay the hazelnut pieces in an even layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Leave it in the oven set to the lowest temperature (160F-175F) for a few hours (about 3) until the hazelnuts are dry.
**To prolong the shelf life of simple syrup without canning, add a little vodka (more or less 1:10) after the syrup cools. Obviously, the vodka syrup will be adults-only, but it keeps longer in the fridge (up to 6 months).
Simple syrup for drinks is 1:1 water and sugar brought to boil for a minute or so. Hazelnut isn’t the only nut that you can add. Almonds work just as well with a dash of rose water or orange blossom water and cardamom.
The double straining should take out all of the impurities from the syrup, which also helps to tell if it spoils. Look out for cloudiness in the syrup: that’s a sign of mold!