Rebecca Stewart: The hardwork reality of homegrown, handmade hazelnut biscuits


Rebecca cracks some hazelnuts to make some delicious bikkies.

Photos: Summer Stewart

A cuppa and a bikkie usually signals it’s time to put your feet up, have a spell and unwind. Perhaps even an opportunity to contemplate the world and all its whims and woes, or to read a good book and leave its pages smeared with bikkie crumbs.

Living a low-carb life and making most food from scratch adds another whole element to the bikkie moment. We’ve spent a lot of time experimenting with low-carb baking, making it as homegrown as possible while keeping it tasting good.

With a stash of hazelnuts in the drying cupboard it was time to crack out the hazelnut recipes and that meant cracking a whole lot of nuts. How much we take for granted when we go to the pantry, pull out the flour plus a few other ingredients and throw together something sweet and tasty for afternoon tea.

For this recipe we not only have to process the nuts but also use some of our precious homemade yacon syrup. Stores are dwindling since the teenager discovered yacon syrup goes great with yoghurt. No wonder we only have baking occasionally.

The quickest low-tech way for us to crack the hazelnuts, and walnuts too for that matter, is using an old towel laid on the concrete and wielding a hammer. Spread out the nuts on the towel (this helps stop nuts ricocheting and keeps the flesh clean) then a quick tap, tap, tap over the nuts. Sort them into good nuts, bad nuts and shells (the shells make good fire starters). The good nuts are popped in the woodstove oven to roast until their skins loosen and they smell delicious. They are then wrapped in a tea towel to sweat for a few minutes, before the tea towel is rubbed like crazy to remove the skins. There are always some nuts holding tight to their skins. We don’t fuss too much as the skins are merely a small amount of indigestible fibre. We cool the nuts before grinding into a fine meal. And we are part-way towards making our bikkies.

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If we’re going for the fully homegrown we’ll have to make the starch. And this is pretty easy if using a homegrown starchy food such as corn, potato or arrowroot. It generally involves soaking, grinding, soaking again, straining, pouring off the water once the starch has settled. Then it is time to dry the starch.

Then comes the butter, from our cow who has been milked and the result churned, and the yacon syrup from our crushed, pressed and boiled down yacon tubers. The salt we could dehydrate from clean-sourced sea water, but the vanilla extract is a bit more of a challenge as we don’t live in a tropical area. I have to say that soaking vanilla beans in vodka makes the most fragrant and tasty vanilla essence. Fortunately, the recipes for these bikkies doesn’t require a raising agent as we are yet to experiment with alternatives to baking soda and tartaric acid, though we have not bought baking powder in probably 10 years.

After all that work, we will need that cuppa and bikkie, or maybe I’ll just have the cuppa…

But for any who are game, here’s the recipe, with a bit of added sweetener due to the yacon shortage. Must plant more yacon.

INGREDIENTS

1 ½ cups of hazelnuts
1 cup arrowroot starch
½ tsp salt
100g butter, softened
¼ cup yacon syrup
¼ cup erythritol (or whatever sweetener you choose)
1 tsp vanilla extract

METHOD

Preheat oven to 150°C.

Process hazelnuts in food processor to a fine meal. Add arrowroot, butter, salt, yacon syrup, erythritol and vanilla. Process until well blended.

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Roll mixture into tablespoon-sized balls and place on a buttered or lined tray. Press the balls flattish with a fork or by hand.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until starting to turn golden. Allow to cool before removing from the tray.

For more weird and wonderful low-carb, homegrown baking checkout our book ‘Life on Fodder Farm’ available in all good book stores.

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