Also known as cobnuts and filberts, hazelnuts are grown in Europe and America. Inside the shell, the nuts are encased in a dark brown, slightly bitter skin. This is usually removed before it is used in cooking. Put them on a baking sheet in a medium oven for about 10 minutes before rubbing in a clean teatowel to remove the skins. They are particularly good if they are roasted before use, but if they are to be used as ground hazelnuts, always allow them to cool down before grinding, as they can become rather oily, which will have an adverse effect on the cake, meringue or biscuit.
Why not add them to meringues and fill with cream and raspberries or try them in cakes with chocolate or apricots? They are also very good added to soft cookies with chunks of chocolate. Hazelnuts, like many nuts, are very good in bread and mix well with raisins or apricots. Praline can be made using hazelnuts, as well as almonds, and this can be used in the finishing of cakes. Make caramel, add some hazelnuts and pour on to a greased baking sheet. Once it is cold it can be broken up to a powder in a food processor and added to icings or as a decoration.
Fiona Burrell, co-author of Leiths Baking Bible, from the Leiths School of Food and Wine