Have you ever noticed why your favourite pack of nut chocolate tastes so delicious? Yes, it is because of the fine tempered chocolate but also because of the nuts that many chocolate makers add to make it delicious. 
I am talking about hazelnut, which has recently been adopted by not only chocolate manufacturers but also other food manufacturers and has been used to make their products delicious and healthy at the same time. 
Hazelnut, as the name denotes is a small delicious nut originating in the Southern Europe and Turkey. Taste-wise, hazelnut is sweet and incredibly nutritious kernel from the birch tree family. It is also known as “Filberts,” because in Europe they are ready for harvest on August 22, which is celebrated as St. Philbert’s Day. 
Sometimes they are also denoted as “Cobnuts” in United States, where it is widely cultivated as an important commercial crop. However Turkey is the largest producer of these nuts. Hazelnut tree begins producing fruits about three years after plantation. During each spring season, the tree bears attractive inflorescence consisting of clusters of flowers arranged closely along its central stalk, which subsequently develop into fruits by autumn. Hazel appears in clusters and each nut is inside a leafy enclosure covering about three quarters of the kernel. The shape of the kernel is roughly spherical to oval in shape and they are 1.5cm to 2cm long and 1.2- 2cm broad, featuring a light scar at its base. 
These tasty nuts are highly prized by culinary professionals for their easy to crack shells and small sweet kernel. They are used in soups, entrees and desserts. Their subtle and delicate flavour blends with most of the food items and thus compliments them. Mostly you’ll find them in confectionery products as an addition to chocolates, biscuits, cakes and sweets. Hazelnut butter is particularly popular among people who are allergic to peanuts and is less salty and tastier than peanut butter. You can eat them plain, roast them, salt them or sweeten them as per your choice. 
The selection and storage of hazelnut is an easy affair. They are available in the market all the year round. You can get them from stores in various forms like shelled, unshelled, salted, sweetened or ground. Try to buy unshelled raw nuts instead of processed ones. The nuts should feature bright brown yellow colour, compact shape, uniform size and heavy in hand. They should be free from any cracks, moulds and spots and free from rancid smell. You can store unshelled hazels for years, however the shelled ones need to be stored in air tight container in refrigerator to avoid them turning rancid. 

Benefits of hazelnuts
Hazelnuts are energy powerhouse and are loaded with numerous health benefiting nutrients that are essential for overall optimum health and wellbeing. They are rich in mono unsaturated fatty acids and essential fatty acids that help lower the bad cholesterol and helps boost the level of good cholesterol, which helps in avoiding coronary artery disease. 
These nuts are a rich source of dietary fibre, vitamins and minerals. They are exceptionally rich in folate, which is a unique feature to these nuts. Each 100gm of hazelnuts have 113mg of this vitamin, about 28% of the recommended daily intake. 
Hazelnuts are also a good source of vitamin E, with just 100 grams giving you the 100% of recommended daily intake for the vitamin. Hazelnut oil has a nutty aroma and has excellent astringent properties. It helps keep the skin well protected from dryness and flakiness. This oil has also been used in cooking and as base oil for medicines in massage, aromatherapy and cosmetic industry. 
I often get requested by a lot of readers for more baking recipes, so I present this classic recipe of chewy cookies, which are one of my favourite tea time cookies. 

Chewy Hazelnut Cookies

Refined flour 250 gm
Oats 100 gm
Unsalted butter 200 gm
Castor sugar 100 gm
Brown sugar 150 gm
Salt ½ tsp
Baking soda ½ tsp
Egg 2 no
Hazelnut 200 gm
Cinnamon powder ½ tsp
Vanilla extracts ½ tsp

Crush the oats and add sifted flour, cinnamon powder, salt and baking soda and keep aside.
Cream butter with castor sugar, brown sugar till the sugar dissolves.
Gradually add eggs and vanilla extract while creaming.
Now add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and combine well so that there are no lumps.
Rest the prepared dough in refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow it to be firm.
Divide the dough into tennis ball sized portions and place them 1 inch apart in the baking tray, do not flatten the dough.
Pre-heat the oven to 160 degree Celsius and line baking tray with parchment paper.
Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the cookies are golden in colour.
Allow the cookies to cool down and cool completely, the cookies can be stores in air tight containers.

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