Chopping Nuts has never been one of my favorite things to do when baking. At the bakery, we would buy whatever size nut we wanted in 30 pound boxes. Since we used most nuts toasted, we would toast the entire box, cool them, and then re-box and store them in the freezer. It worked out wonderfully.
So for this Tidbit Thursday offering, fast forward to no more bakery. I have no idea why I dislike cutting nuts. Spoiled perhaps? Probably. But whatever the reason, I do. Then I came up with a quicker way. I understand I can buy chopped nuts in small amounts but I am skittish about how long and under what circumstances, the nuts have been stored. They are also really expensive in smaller amounts.
In the fall, when the new nut crops come in, I buy large bags of pecan and walnut halves and large pieces to store in my freezer. These are softer nuts and heavy in oil. They can go rancid fairly fast if not kept cold or frozen. Almonds and hazelnuts are harder and don't seem to become rancid as quickly although they go in the freezer also. I usually buy these whole or in the case of almonds slivered but not sliced.
When I had the bakery, I sourced my nuts from distributors that specialized in selling nuts and kept them refrigerated which ensured they would be good to use anytime of the year.
When I have to chop nuts, I prefer to do it by hand and not in the processor. Because the processor blade whirs around at about 30 miles an hour, it can really pulverize nuts in a hurry. Even if they are pulsed, there seems to be a lot of powder. While I save the powder to use elsewhere, it seems like a waste.
Here's my latest technique.
While I didn't do it for the photos, it is easiest to put them in a rimmed baking sheet for this technique because they will scatter.
If the nuts are frozen, let them sit in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet for a few minutes until thawed.
Using a meat pounder or heavy pan, simply smash them.
If you gather them up under the cupped palm of your hand and shake them around, the large pieces are easily separated out in case they need to be "chopped" further.
This works for any nut.
Using the Nuts
If using the nuts to add to cookies or a cake, just scoop them up and add where called for.
If using for decoration that will be seen, strain the nuts to remove any powder so the finish will look clean.
That's pretty much it. Quick, easy and no chopping!