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How To Properly Blanch Pistachios For Delicious Desserts

close-up pistachios in shells
close-up pistachios in shells - 101cats/Getty Images

Pistachios are an earthy, flavorsome nut with several savory uses in dishes like pistachio-crusted rack of lamb. But they also appear in much-loved pistachio-infused desserts, especially the classic pistachio ice cream. A handful of pistachios might be a perfect ready-to-eat snack, but if you're using them in a dessert, they should almost always be blanched before use. Blanching makes it easier to remove the skins, which are edible but have a dusty taste and dull brownish color, so are not welcome in most desserts. When done properly, blanching also helps to preserve the bright green color of the pistachios, as well as boost their flavor and aroma.

Before blanching pistachios for use in desserts, you want to select the best ones you can. Sicilian pistachio varieties have a thicker, darker skin than that of their American counterparts, and their flavor is much stronger, making Sicilian pistachios better suited to adding that unique pistachio flavor to your dessert. If you can afford them, that is: They're substantially more expensive than American varieties!

To blanch them, soak your pistachios in cold water in a sautée pan for five minutes, then turn on the heat until the water is steaming but doesn't boil. After a minute or two, transfer your pistachios to an ice bath, then remove the skins either one by one or by rolling them in a clean cloth.

Read more: Cake Hacks Every Baker Will Wish They Knew Sooner

How To Blanch Pistachios Like A Pro

shelled and peeled pistachios
shelled and peeled pistachios - Jtyler/Getty Images

Blanching is used to help improve the desirable qualities of food, like color and flavor, and to help preserve it for longer. The process uses hot water to inactivate the natural enzymes in fresh produce, helping it stay tasty, vibrant, and nutritious for longer. Blanched pistachios benefit from all of these factors, but the main reason for blanching pistachios is to remove their skins.

You should blanch pistachios in hot water for long enough that the skins loosen but not so long that they soften -- that's a sign that their flavor and texture have changed. After soaking them in cold water for a few minutes, their skins absorb water and weaken. Then, heat the water, and the skins should loosen quickly. To prevent overcooking, get the water steaming but not boiling, then remove one pistachio and try to pinch off the skin. If it doesn't come off easily, keep them blanching a little longer. As soon as the skin slips off, strain the pistachios through a sieve and put them in an ice bath to stop them from cooking before peeling them. This can be done in various ways, including straight from the ice bath so you can wash off any skin that sticks to your fingers. The pinching technique is the simplest, but the skins tend to dry and stick to you. You can also wrap them in a cloth and rub them together, but this can crumble your pistachios.

Other Tips For Making Desserts With Pistachios

baklava with ground pistachios
baklava with ground pistachios - Enez Selvi/Shutterstock

In various dessert recipes, pistachios appear in the form of pistachio cream. In its simplest form, this is a combination of sugar and blanched pistachios ground together with milk or cream. You can easily make your own at home and put it to good use making a Sicilian pistachio torta or a pistachio cheesecake. Chopped, blanched pistachios work well in cookies, especially when combined with other distinctive flavors like chocolate and mint in triple chocolate pistachio mint cookies. Or if you're feeling a little more virtuous, you can always mix and match chopped pistachios with other ingredients as yogurt toppings for a dessert that doubles up as a breakfast option or an afternoon snack.

Many other dessert recipes involving pistachios call for your blanched almonds to be ground. In this form, pistachios are particularly useful for baking. It's hard to name a more well-known pistachio-based dessert than Greek pistachio and cinnamon baklava, where the coarsely ground pistachios pair fantastically with honey syrup to make ultra-moist, moreish bites. Ground pistachio can also be used to give pistachio notes to desserts which typically don't feature pistachio. Pistachio and almond financiers, for example, upgrade the traditional almond-only financier with a mix of ground pistachio and almond, which complements the nutty brown butter aromas perfectly. A final idea: Keep your pistachios whole and cover them in melted sugar. When dry, you'll have candied pistachios to add crunch and flavor as an ice cream topping.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.