Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I Like My Nuts Candied:
Cinnamon Almonds and Gingered Pepitas

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.

Cinnamon-Orange Almonds

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.


cookiecrumb said...

Those sound great! I never knew that's how you get the sugar glaze on the almonds...
I was watching Rachael Ray do Christmas dinner the other day. She stirred up a big pan of walnuts, etc., with various seasonings and butter... and then she dumped in a *can* of :::Smokehouse::: almonds for the final touch! Ayyeee!!

Anonymous said...

i have yet to ever be in a dire nut emergency.... but i will never buy candied nuts again! and thanks for suggesting i make these a while back when i asked for suggestions. now that i see some examples of the great things you can do, i will try them.

Erin S. said...

cookie--why can't she just leave well enough alone? Sometimes she does just fine and I appreciate the encouragement to get everyone in the kitchen, but c'mon.

connie--lucky you--no nut emergencies :) just you wait...

Kristen said...

My best friend called my on my cell yesterday while I was at the mall and asked me to stop by The KC Nut House kiosk to pick up 3 bags of candided almonds. I did it for her, but will never do it again... I promise!

Kate said...

Hmmm....your gushing on Trader Joe's makes me wonder if they are better on the West coast than the one that landed in MN. I wasn't that impressed but have heard of many people who think it is DA BOMB

Your nut recipe looks fab. I hardly ever buy anything but plain roasted unsalted nuts from the bulk bins at the store. We have a nut fetish in our house, and eat them a lot!

Erin S. said...

kristin--ok, exceptions for best friends. :)

kate--interesting. I really like trader joe's for certain things--the aforementioned cheap nuts, great yogurt, breakfast bars w/o high fructose corn syrup, peanut butter filled pretzels, cheap, decent wine and cheap, good liquor, and some good frozen lunch entrees that aren't too processed. Also, they have some jarred tapenades (the artichoke!) that I really like. That said, I could care less about its produce and most of its meat. And the aisles are tiny and the closest one to my house is always crowded.

wayne said...

Here is a slightly more complicated candied nut recipe. At work we call this "Shiny Nuts", but their look will please and their taste is a great salty sweet.

Ingredients: Water, Walnuts or Pecans. Sugar. Wire rack and 2 sheet trays.

1.Bring to simmer 1 Part Water:1 Part Sugar, enough to cover the nuts.

2. Sift the dust off the nuts.

3. Add the nuts and cook on medium heat, just over a simmer, until the nuts are translucent. Stir often. You can add spices and other flavorings at this point if you'd like.

4.On another burner, when nuts are nearly done, in a medium to large pot, bring about 4" of oil to ~350 degrees F.

5. Drain the syrup from a small amount of nuts using a spider or similar tool and fry the nuts, stirring constantly. The nuts are done when they have a nice caramelized color. Play with this,as different folks like different colors. I cook mine about 60 second or slightly less. Depends on heat and amount.

6. Place hot nuts on wire rack (preferably on a sheet pan with parchment on it to ease cleaning). Separate and Salt well. You should see the salt on them, until it absorbs in from the heat. Place on another sheet tray on parchment paper to cool. Ensure they don't touch each other.

7. Cool completely and if you store in an airtight container they will keep for a few weeks or more.

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I do not like the cinnamon , Can I add other spice , such as Ras el hanout (North Africa)!!!This looks so delicious and thanks for step-by-step instructions. Very interesting ingredients!

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