Nuts

Nuts may be used whole, chopped into coarse pieces, sliced or ground. An exception is coconut where, because of the size of the whole edible part within the nut, after drying (to form copra) it is shredded to a desired size.

Nuts, being living seeds, will not store well in damp or humid conditions. When they have been shelled and damaged, either by accident or by chopping or grinding, the enzyme, lipase, is released which will rapidly result in deterioration by fat rancidity. To prevent this and also to improve the flavour, it is common to roast or deep fry nuts. The heat treatment destroys the enzyme.

It is of great importance that pieces of shell are removed from shelled nuts because they are very hard and can cause damage to teeth. The shell must be removed before the nuts are chopped or sliced.

There is a growing interest in refined (fine ground) nut paste for biscuit cream fillings and as centres for dual element cookies.

Almonds

Almonds are highly prized for biscuits. They may be used as pieces, slices or ground into a coarse flour and are usually roasted. The brown skin of the nut is not only bitter but releases enzymes that quickly spoil the nuts if damaged. A technique of blanching and peeling is therefore common for almonds. This involves immersion in hot water which softens and loosens the skin for subsequent easy removal. After the almonds have been peeled, it is much easier to check the soundness of the kernels from their colour. Almond butter may occasionally be used to flavour biscuits.

Coconut

Coconut in desiccated form, is obtained principally from the Philippines.

Desiccated coconut is graded according to particle size and shape. For biscuit doughs it is best to use very fine coconut, known as coconut flour. As this tends to lump badly in storage it is best to buy a larger grade (medium or fine) and to mill it immediately prior to use.

Coconut is dried but not normally roasted. It may however be purchased as roasted or toasted which is a browned product which has a fine nutty flavour and is said to be easier to digest than the unroasted type.

Coconut should have a moisture content maximum of 3% and a fat content minimum of 55%.

Storage in good conditions, about 10-15°C at a relative humidity of 50%, will allow coconut to be kept for many months.

Hazelnuts

Hazelnuts (filberts) are the most commonly used nuts in baking. They are particularly popular in European and Mediterranean countries which is where most are grown. Strangely, these nuts are not popular in the USA.

Peanuts

All the nuts described here are so far are tree nuts but Peanut, (ground nut) comes from pods formed underground. Peanuts are commonly used in biscuits, particularly in the USA. They may be used as "halves", to decorate the biscuit surface, or chopped and roasted. In certain cases peanut butter is useful. This is made from milled nuts. There is a growing concern about peanut allergy so products containing peanuts should be very clearly labelled.

Walnuts and Pecans

Walnuts are by far the most popular nut used for bakery products in the USA. They are available for biscuits as pieces and slices. Walnut is never roasted before use.

Pecans are similar to walnuts but of milder flavour.