It is possible to make a very flavoursome liquid by infusing roasted hazelnuts in vodka or brandy. Can this be achieved without using alcohol or sugar?

  • 1
    Probably with propylene glycol which is used instead of alcohol in extractions. – Jolenealaska May 7 '18 at 0:00
  • Looked up "hazelnut extract" Every last one of the first six reasonable hits included alcohol. Home recipe: purplefoodie.com/hazelnut-extract-recipe Some things require alcohol, or worse, to be soluble, and it looks like Hazelnut flavor is one of them. Glycerin or ethylene glycol might work as a replacement for the booze, but I did not see that in any of the links. – Wayfaring Stranger May 7 '18 at 1:37
  • I found some "hazelnut essence" brands that contain propylene glycol, although I'm not sure they're made by infusing hazelnuts in that compound and perhaps they do not even contain any substance that derives from actual hazelnuts. But isn't propylene glycol an alcohol anyway? – user60495 May 7 '18 at 2:38
  • 1
    Propylene glycol is in the alcohol group, but not intoxicating in the way that ethanol is, and possibly not toxic except in much larger amounts than a few drops of hazelnut essence. Ethylene glycol is antifreeze, intoxicates, and is toxic in any quantity. – user60495 May 7 '18 at 11:25
  • Propylene glycol is used in some vaping (e-cig) mixes, so it's not horribly toxic in small quantities. Beside smoke generation, its purpose there is to dissolve flavorants that don't go into water or glycerin. – Wayfaring Stranger May 7 '18 at 15:14

I would say you are out of luck, unless your requirements are less strict than they appear to me.

There are three main solvents in cooking: water, alcohol (*), and fat. You cannot use alcohol, so we are left with water or fat.

Hazelnuts contain lots of oil and little water. So it is possible to press hazelnut oil, therefore there is no need to try to make an infusion. This is about the strongest you can get. When I buy hazelnut oil, it tastes as if made from raw hazelnuts, not roasted, although it should be possible to make it with roasted ones. In any case, you are left with a liquid which has an unmistakeable hazelnut taste when eaten pure.

However, it would be highly unlikely that somebody tries to eat hazelnut oil in ways where it can be tasted pure, except maybe to dip pieces of bread in it or to pour it over a salad. If you try mixing it, you have two problems. First, it is an oil, and won't mix with anything that is water-based. Second, the aroma is not as concentrated nor as volatile as in a hazelnut liqueur. I don't know how you want to use your liquid, but if you want to add it to stuff (cakes, ice cream, whatever) as an aroma, you will have to use a large amount to get a very small hint of hazelnut.

With water, the best you can make is hazelnut milk, since it is not just an infusion, but also contains some of the original hazelnut solids suspended in the milk. Again, it is strong enough when tasted on its own, but cannot be added spoonwise to something else to achieve hazelnut taste - it will have to be the main ingredient somewhere. So you can use a recipe where the base is mostly water and replace it with the hazelnut milk, but not, say, bake a cake and hope for strong hazelnut taste.

Concentrating a water based concoction may be possible to some extent, but you are more likely to end up with the equivalent of double-strength coffee, not the equivalent of nescafe, when using procedures accessible to the home cook.

Other solvents exist, but they are not foodsafe in the amounts required for making infusions at home. Industrial processors use them when they have some synthetic aroma which is way too strong, to dilute it into usable levels.

So, to sum it up, you cannot make something at home which, when used in small amounts, can flavor a large batch of food, the way you can do with, say, vanilla essence. But if hazelnut oil or hazelnut milk are good enough for you, then you can easily get hold of those, or even make them at home if you invest in the proper equipment.

* In this post, I use "alcohol" to mean "ethanol", because this is the standard meaning in cooking and everyday life. If you mean "alcohol" in the chemical sense, please edit it into your question, since this is not obvious when you simply use the word "alcohol".

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy