uncandied almond photo by dano
Promise me, dear readers: after reading this post you will never again buy ridiculously expensive, fancy-pants candied nuts. Or at least you'll only buy them in a dire nut emergency. Life or death, okay?
Here's why you can renounce your candied-nut buying ways: it's easy-peasy to make your own, and you can make them exactly the way you want--cuz you know you're picky about your nuts.
Candied nuts make an excellent gift--I sent all my holiday party attendees away with jars of cinnamon-orange almonds. If you live within the orbit of an all-powerful Trader Joe's, you can hook yourself up with cheap nuts, too, of all shapes, sizes and flavors. I always start with the plainest nuts possible--no salt, unroasted--so I have complete control over the flavors.
I prefer the on-the-stove technique over oven-roasting, again, because of the control. I encourage you to experiment with different recipes to find what works best for you, and once you have a technique down, your flavor options are endless.
1 orange, grated rind only
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
nutmeg, freshly grated
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups almonds
Combine the orange peel, sugar, cinnamon and water in a deep sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring regularly until it boils. Add the nuts and reduce the heat to medium-low so the liquid is simmering. Stir constantly while the water evaporates. At first, the glaze will be shiny. As the water boils off, the sugar will form brown, crusty crystals on the nuts. When the nuts are completely coated and all the liquid has evaporated, remove from the heat. Make sure to stir constantly to prevent the nuts from burning. Spread the nuts on a cookie sheet to cool and crisp. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
Gingered Pepitas and Peanuts with Dried Cranberries
adapted from Martha Stewart, December 05
4 cups pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds)
1/2 c. sugar
1 tbsp. coarse salt
2 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/3 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 c. sugar
3 tbsp. freshly grated ginger
2 c. roasted peanuts
1 c. dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 300. Spread pepitas out on a rimmed baking sheet and toast about 12 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from oven and set aside.
While pepitas are roasting, stir together 1/2 c sugar, salt, ginger and cinnamon in a big bowl. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, combine vanilla, remaining 1/3 c. sugar, and 3 tbsp. water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Stir in fresh ginger. Add peanuts and toasted pepitas; cook, stirring, until liquid has almost evaporated and sugar is starting to crystallize on the nuts.
Remove pan from heat and immediately mix in sugar-ginger mixture until nuts are well coated. Spread out nuts on a baking sheet and let cool completely, ideally overnight. Stir in dried cranberries. Mixture can be stored in airtight containers at room temp up to two weeks.