Hazelnut Pudding

Hazelnut Pudding

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1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
2 cups whole milk
2 large egg yolks
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
a hefty pinch salt (if you're not topping puddings with additional flaky salt, you may want two hefty pinches)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pats

For serving: lightly sweetened whipped cream, additional toasted and chopped hazelnuts, flaky salt, etc.


If your hazelnuts are raw, roast them: preheat your oven to 275° Fahrenheit, and pour the nuts onto a rimmed baking dish. Bake, shaking to turn them once or twice, until they get a nice rich golden color and smell amazing, ~15-20 minutes. Let cool slightly, and then rub in a clean dishtowel to remove the loose skins. You may need to do this a few times — get off what you can, but no need to go nuts about it (sorry). Some skins are fine.
Place the roasted hazelnuts in a blender, along with half of the sugar and all of the milk, and blitz for a few minutes, until as smooth as possible. Pour into a large saucepan, and heat over a medium flame until it just begins to steam.
While the milk is heating, scare up 6 small dishes for the finished pudding. In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, egg yolks, cornstarch, and salt until smooth and lump-free. When the nutty milk mixture is steamy, pour it into the yolks mixture slowly, whisking constantly (you'll have to whisk like the Dickens at first, but it'll be less critical as you loosen the mixture up). When everything is incorporated, return the mixture to the saucepan. 
Cook over a medium (or, if you want to be extra careful, medium-low) heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens (this should just take a few minutes). Eventually the mixture will come to a boil — let bubble for a minute while you stir, then turn off the heat. Add the butter and vanilla, stirring to combine. Pour into your serving dishes and chill until cool and set.
To serve, topped with whipped cream and flaky salt or toasted hazelnuts if desired.