Macadamia nuts make rich snack, lend elegance to salads, desserts

Subtly sweet, somewhat buttery macadamia nuts have soared in popularity and are now approaching all-
Macadamia nuts add extra crunch to recipes, such as these white chocolate and milk chocolate macadamia nut cookies.
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Macadamia nuts add extra crunch to recipes, such as these white chocolate and milk chocolate macadamia nut cookies.

Compared with other nuts, the macadamia has a relatively short history with little tradition behind it. Nevertheless, the orbed morsels have soared in popularity and are now approaching all-star status.

Indigenous to Australia, these subtly sweet, somewhat buttery delights were not recognized from a botanical standpoint until almost 1860. It then took more than two decades for the nuts, which have been compared in size, shape and color to the chickpea, to be introduced to the Hawaiian Islands, where the common, smooth-shelled strain was cultivated. Even then, they were not sold commercially until more than a century later.

While most all macadamias sold in the United States come in vacuum-packed jars and tins, fresh nuts — unroasted and unsalted — are available. Some shops carry them in bulk. Either way, they are not cheap, averaging $9 or more a pound.

Part of the high cost of the crop can be attributed to the length of time required for the trees to bear fruit — between seven and 15 years.

In addition, cracking through a nut’s rock-like shell requires the pressure of more than 300 pounds per square inch. In the old days, they were crushed between boards over which heavy objects were dragged or pressed. Only through the advent of modern technology have people been able to enjoy the nuts whole.

Macadamia nuts are frequently substituted for hazelnuts or almonds in baked goods and dessert recipes. They can also be blended into a fine nut butter, and many people use the nut’s aromatic oil in myriad dishes.

Multiple uses

Macadamias are compatible with chicken and fish, are ideal mixed into appetizer spreads and dips and add flavor and texture to sauces. They also lend an elegant touch to salads, but are probably best known for their incorporation into sweets.

Though the nuts are high in fat, more than 80 percent of the fatty acids in macadamias are of the monounsaturated type. Often referred to as good fat, it has been shown to lower blood cholesterol and may even have some cleansing effect on the arteries. Like all vegetable products, macadamias have no cholesterol, and unless they are roasted and salted, they contain little sodium.

Hawaii accounts for a majority of the world’s production. Australia comes in second. Other producers include Costa Rica, Guatemala, South Africa, Kenya, Malawi and Brazil.

In the continental United States, trees can be found in California and Florida. Unsalted, raw macadamias are the most versatile. If you want to roast them, a process that imparts a toastier flavor and makes them crunchier, place them in a single layer on a baking sheet and set them in the middle of an oven heated to 325 degrees for three to five minutes or until lightly browned.

It helps them to cook more evenly if you give the pan a shake halfway through the process. Watch them carefully, because nuts burn easily.

If all you can find is the salted variety and the recipe calls for unsalted nuts, place them in a strainer and rinse with warm water for about 10 seconds. Then place in a single layer on a baking sheet and dry them out in an oven at 250 degrees for about three minutes or until completely dry, shaking the pan occasionally.

Once a container of macadamias is opened, they should be used within one month or frozen airtight for up to six months. Though recipes for these nuts number well into the thousands and beyond, most agree they are best enjoyed as a snack right out of hand.

Macadamia Nut Biscotti Dipped in Chocolate and Coconut

Recipe from “Gorgeous, The Sum of All Your Glorious Parts” (Cumberland House Publishing 2007).

For the biscotti:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

11⁄2 teaspoons baking powder

1⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

3⁄4 cup granulated sugar

1⁄2 cup butter, room temperature (1 stick)

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 cup macadamia nuts, coarsely chopped

For the dipping:

1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

1⁄3 cup flaked, sweetened coconut

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt in a small bowl. Use an electric mixer to combine the sugar and butter until smooth and fluffy in a separate bowl. Stir in the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla.

Stir in the flour mixture, followed by the macadamia nuts. Divide the dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and freeze for 20 minutes. Remove the dough from the freezer. Use your hands to form each piece into a log, about 12 inches long and 3 inches wide. Place both logs on a Silpat (or parchment) lined baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Cool the logs for 15 minutes. Use a serrated knife to cut each log into diagonal 1⁄2-inch slices. Lay the slices onto the baking sheet. Bake until the biscotti is golden and dry to the touch, about 30 more minutes. Cool on racks.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water until smooth (or melt in a microwave oven, stirring often). Place the coconut into a shallow bowl. Dip one end of each cookie into the melted chocolate and then into the coconut.

Makes 30 cookies.

Raspberry Oatmeal Muffins with Macadamia Nut Butter

Recipe from “Gorgeous, The Sum of All Your Glorious Parts” (Cumberland House Publishing 2007).

For the muffins:

12⁄3 cups old fashioned rolled oats

2⁄3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (plus 2 tablespoons to toss with raspberries)

1⁄2 cup whole wheat flour

3⁄4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1⁄2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

11⁄2 cups fat-free buttermilk

1⁄4 cup canola oil

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups frozen raspberries

For the butter:

1 cup macadamia nuts

2 teaspoons canola oil

2 teaspoons honey

1⁄8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the oats into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to grind the oats into crumbs. Pour the oat crumbs into a bowl. Add flours, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and salt into the bowl. Whisk to combine.

In separate bowl, stir together the buttermilk, canola oil, eggs and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture. Use a wooden spoon to just combine the ingredients.

Toss the raspberries with 2 tablespoons flour. Gently fold into the batter. Spoon into a muffin tin with paper liners. Bake until the muffins spring back when touched and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Prepare the butter by placing the nuts into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Pour in the oil, honey and cinnamon. Pulse until the mixture is puréed. Store in an airtight container for up to one week in the refrigerator.

To serve, split one muffin in half horizontally. Spread one half with a dollop of macadamia butter. Place the top half back onto the muffin.

Makes 12 muffins.

Scallops Sauteed in Macadamia Nut Oil with a Macadamia Nut Crust

Recipe from The Food Network Kitchens.

2 cups macadamia nuts

7 scallops

3 tablespoons macadamia nut oil

1 bulb fennel

1 tablespoon water

Salt and pepper

1 piece star anise

Toast the macadamia nuts in the oven for about 5 to 10 minutes until they are toasted blond. Watch them carefully as they will burn quickly. Once they are toasted blond, let them cool down and grind them.

Cut 7 scallops into 2 horizontal pieces. Brush them lightly with macadamia nut oil and press them into the ground macadamia nuts to coat completely. Arrange them on a baking sheet and set aside.

Remove the greens from the fennel and reserve for garnish or another use. Slice the bulb thinly and put the pieces in a small frying pan with the macadamia nut oil, water, salt, pepper and star anise. Bring to a simmer and cover for 15 to 20 minutes, simmering slowly until it is the consistency of a compote. Set aside. Heat on high in the oven for 10 minutes before using.

Put the sheet with the scallops in the oven only for 2 minutes just to stiffen the scallops and cook through. Place the fennel confit in the center of the plate and arrange the 31⁄2 roasted scallops in the shape of a fan.

Garnish with the fennel greens.

Haupia Macadamia Nut Bread Pudding

Recipe from The Food Network Kitchens.

15 croissants, preferably 1 day old

5 eggs

11⁄2 cups evaporated milk

11⁄2 cups coconut milk

1 cup sugar, granulated

1 quart water

1⁄2 cup coconut, shredded

1⁄2 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Cut croissants into 1-inch cubes and spread along the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Mix eggs, evaporated milk, coconut milk and sugar; add water until it has a custard texture. Pour custard mixture over bread cubes.Top with shredded coconut and macadamia nuts. Bake for 11⁄2 to 2 hours.

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