I usually do not skin almonds because the skins add flavor and color to most recipes, and they are thin enough not to be intrusive. The exception is when making delicate cookies such as macaroons. In that case, I buy blanched almonds, which are always available.
For hazelnuts and walnuts, toasting not only adds flavor but also helps to remove the skins, which can be tough and bitter. You can toast and skin the nuts yourself or buy them already toasted and skinned at natural foods and ethnic markets that sell them in bulk.
To toast hazelnuts or walnuts, place them in a shallow pan in a 300°F oven. Stir the nuts every 3 minutes and toast until the skins begin to crack and loosen and the nuts are lightly browned, about 5 to 8 minutes. Watch them carefully, as they quickly go from toasted to burned. Setting a timer helps.
While they are still hot, place the nuts on a clean towel. Rub the nuts in the towel to remove the skins. Let cool before using.
From "1,000 Italian Recipes." Copyright 2004 by Michele Scicolone. Used with permission of the publisher, Wiley Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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