Hazelnut Spice Pyramids
Mustachudos are dense, chewy clusters of ground nuts, warm spices and citrus rind.
Some recipes call for making them from almonds. I like coarsely ground hazelnuts with a blend of warm spice and citrus. You can make them with walnuts, too, which are also strong enough in flavor to hold their own against the spice, or a blend of walnut and almond.
Making mustachudos is a lot of fun. Getting the first pyramid shape can be a bit of a challenge, so I’ve tried to be especially clear in my instructions. Follow them, think “pyramid” and you’ll work it out.
The recipe can be halved, and if you’re making a small batch I suggest grinding the nuts by hand with a mortar and pestle. It’s time consuming, but you can create a varied and interesting texture and it makes for a very delicious mustachudo.
This is one of my favorite Passover recipes. I hope it becomes one of yours, too.
4 scant cups chopped or ground toasted hazelnuts
2/3 cups vanilla sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
zest of 1 large orange
Yield: 2 – 3 dozen
Hazelnuts must be toasted before you begin. Toast them either in a 350ºF oven or on the stove. Stove method: Put the hazelnuts in a dry frying pan over low heat. Shake or swirl the pan gently to prevent the nuts from scorching. Using either method, remove the nuts from the heat as soon as they release their fragrance. Wrap the hot hazelnuts in a kitchen towel. When they’re cool enough to handle, remove the chaff by rolling the nuts between your palms a few at a time. If some chaff adheres to the nuts, that’s fine, but if none of it comes off, the nut needs more toasting.
Hand chop, pound, or process the cleaned hazelnuts to a small but coarse grind. If you’re using a food processor, pulse the nuts to avoid making paste. Mix all the ingredients with a fork until they hold together in a dense paste. Cover the paste in a bowl and chill it for 20 minutes in the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Line cookie sheets with baking parchment or Silpats. Moisten your hands lightly with cold water, divide the paste into 24 to 36 balls and compact them well by rolling them between your palms. Space the balls one inch apart on the cookie sheets.
Press each ball into a pyramid. Form the base first: using your thumb and first two fingers, push straight down on the ball to flatten the bottom against the cookie sheet. Turn the cookie on its side and this time press down at an angle, to form the first triangular side. Rotate 90° and repeat, making sure the second side is equal in size to the first. Repeat on the remaining two sides, for a total of four triangular sides plus the square bottom. If you remember mustachudos made by a Rhodesli and like that funky pinched bell-blob shape, after you’ve made the pyramid you’ll want to give one last push down on the top with your thumb and first two fingers, which will dimple the peak of the pyramid. Who am I to mess with your memories?
Bake on the center rack of the oven for 25 minutes. Mustachudos should be lightly toasted, at most. Don’t let them brown (they’ll dry out and crack), and don’t worry if they come out of the oven looking a little pale – they’re done. Transfer to a plate or wire rack to cool.
Mustachudos will store well in an airtight container for about 3 weeks, though in my experience the need for long-term storage has never comeup!