The Simple Tip For Baking With Nuts Like A Pro

It's no secret that baking is a careful science. Unlike cooking, which leaves room for creativity, one wrong estimate in a baking recipe and you have a hot mess in the oven. But this isn't to say you can't play around with baked goods — adding extra steps that don't radically change the recipe, but do make it a tad tastier, is always a sure bet. For instance, if you roast nuts before baking with them, you'll have deliciously nutty baked goods like you've never tasted before.

You can bake with raw nuts, but because so many aromatic compounds form during the roasting process, roasted ones have a bolder taste and smell, giving your baked goods more depth of flavor and a heavenly scent. Similarly, roasting nuts triggers the Maillard reaction, a chemical process between amino acids and sugars that causes foods to brown. This gives the nuts a richer and more complex taste with a bigger crunch. 

Roasting nuts also makes them easier to digest, and they last longer than raw ones, meaning you can save any leftovers without worrying about spoilage. While you might try to outsmart pre-roasting the nuts, assuming they'll get nice and toasty while they're baking in your muffins or cookies, they're are usually too deeply embedded in the dough or batter to take on the benefits of a proper roast. You'll have to take a few extra minutes to toast them, but it's well worth it.

The many ways to roast nuts

Out of the many baking tips every home cook should know, roasting nuts is an easy one. There are a few different roasting methods to choose from. For one tried-and-true nut roasting method, turn to your oven. Ovens are great for roasting large batches of nuts, and thanks to their air circulation and even heat distribution, the nuts will cook uniformly while developing that must-have caramelized texture and flavor. 

Do you have no time to preheat the oven? Fire up the air fryer for smaller batches of nuts. These appliances work similarly to conventional ovens, only they cook food twice as fast, in many causes. Using a skillet and spatula is another quick way to roast nuts, and while it requires more active work, you won't have to check on them constantly. Simply sautée the nuts in a hot pan, sans fat, until they turn golden brown, crisp, and fragrant.

No matter which technique you use, you'll want to avoid making some of the biggest mistakes when roasting nuts. Because chopped nuts will roast unevenly, roast them whole and chop them up later for your recipe. Plus, different types have different roasting times. While large macadamias take longer, tiny pine nuts can turn brown in a flash (and then burn if you're not vigilant!).

Delicious pairings for roasted nuts

Once you taste perfectly-roasted pecans, walnuts, or whatever other types you choose, you'll want to use them in everything. Roasted nuts pair well with both sweet and savory baked goods. We're sure we don't have to convince you that chocolate is the perfect complement to nuts. Your chocolate cakes, brownies, and more will have a sweet, earthy, and fragrant flavor, with a texture that's soft with pockets of crunch. 

Similarly, berries and nuts go hand and hand. The tart, juicy essence of fresh berries complements the woodsy flavor of nuts for a full-bodied and well-rounded flavor profile. Try the combo in muffins, scones, and pancakes. For an umami-forward roasted nut pairing, introduce cheese into your baked goods for a charcuterie board-inspired flavor. This combo is also delicious in savory scones or quick breads.

Feeling spicy? Jalapeños and nuts are an underrated and delicious pairing. The heat from the peppers creates a mouthwatering contrast to the gentle whispers of nutty sweetness. Whether you're fashioning a nutty Italian cake or walnut-topped banana bread, or something more savory, roasted nuts can take any baked good to tasty new heights.