Browned Butter Hazelnut Nectarine Bread

I looked out of our living room window this morning and noticed that the very tops of the mountains are beginning to change color. The vegetation has gone from dark green, to a lighter green, and will be turning yellow and orange shortly. Autumn will quickly be upon us. I love the month of September. It is still warm and we have an abundance of peaches, apples, pears, nectarines and berries, beans, corn, peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes, and soon fresh nuts. There are so many fresh ingredients for a cook to enjoy and I want to turn on the oven and begin baking again.

Hazelnuts are my favorite nuts. They are harvested from late September through October. The state of Oregon produces the majority of hazelnuts consumed in this country. I always toast hazelnuts before using them. It enhances their distinctive flavor. The inspiration for this recipe came from the Miami Herald for peach bread and used pecans, but I love the combination of nectarines and/or peaches and hazelnuts. I think browning the butter enhances the nuttiness as well. There are several steps to this recipe; it begins with browning the butter and roasting the nuts. This can be done a day or two before baking.

For those of you who are equipment-obsessed, I use Danish loaf pans for this recipe. They make longer, skinnier loaves. I bought them years ago from King Arthur Flour catalogue and I love them, but sadly, I don’t think they carry them anymore. You can use traditional loaf pans. Also, I found that quarter sheet pans are perfect for roasting small batches of nuts. I recently purchased one from a restaurant supply company and wondered why I hadn’t done it sooner.

Browned Butter Hazelnut Nectarine Bread
3/4 c. hazelnuts
1/2 c. unsalted butter
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2-1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 c. buttermilk
2 c. chopped nectarines or peeled peaches

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place nuts on a baking sheet and roast 10-12 minutes. Be careful not to burn them. They should be golden and shed their skins easily. Remove nuts from the oven and place on a clean dishtowel. Fold it up and rub the towel on the counter. This will loosen the skins. Remove the nuts from the towel, leaving the skins behind. Place nuts in a ziplock bag and crush nuts with a rolling pin. Set aside. While the nuts are roasting, place butter in a small frying pan. Melt the butter on medium heat. It will foam first, then the butter will begin to produce brown flecks on the bottom of the pan. It will take about 7 minutes. Remove browned butter from frying pan, then place it in a small plastic container with a lid. At this point you can refrigerate it for later use or place it in the freezer for 30 minutes to solidify.

Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Grease 2 loaf pans. In a mixer combine browned butter and sugars. Beat until combined. Add eggs one at a time and the vanilla. Beat until smooth and thickened, about 2 minutes. Sift dry ingredients and spices. Add dry ingredients to butter and sugar mixture in three additions and blend until smooth. Add buttermilk, then nuts and chopped nectarines. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating once during baking. It may take longer for traditional loaf pans. Bread is done when inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool on rack 10 minutes then remove bread from pans and cool completely. Makes 2 loaves.

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