Fall sends me straight into squirrel mode. Nuts galore! Any time the oven is on is an excuse to roast some nuts. Fold them into a batch of scones, sprinkle them over a salad, or stuff them into stuffing — there's definitely no lack of ways to use up a batch of roasted nuts! Here's a tip I picked up somewhere in my nut-fueled adventures: It's best to chop toasted nuts when they're fresh out of the oven. Can you guess why?
When they're warm, nuts are relatively soft in texture and the oils inside are loose and liquidy. If we chop nuts while they're still in this soft and pliable state, the slices will be clean and straight. This also makes it a lot easier to get uniformly shaped pieces for, say, a special batch of holiday cookies.
As they cool, nuts gradually crisp up and become more brittle. Cutting the nuts at this point means that they're more likely to flake and break instead of cutting cleanly. We wind up with pieces of different sizes along with a mess of crumbs.
Chopping warm nuts is actually one of my most favorite kitchen tasks! There's something so satisfying about crunching down through a mound of nuts and seeing them cut into perfect pieces. I'll take nut-chopping-duty over clean-up duty any day.
This post has been updated. Originally published November 13, 2009.