Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Candied Nuts

This holiday season my gift budget is significantly tighter than it was in year's past. While there are many, many perks to culinary school, a steady income isn't one of them. So in thinking about what to give my favorite people this year, I knew it was going to be a) food-related and b) DIY. My family and friends are scattered around the country, so I knew it needed to be something that would stay fresh for more than just a few days. Cookies and other baked goods are great for those who live nearby, but something that needs to be shipped has to have a longer shelf life.
So I thought, what's something that people love that's relatively easy to make in large quantities? Candied nuts. Or at least I hope they do! (Except for those with a nut allergy, who will be receiving a nut-free gift.) Every Christmas my aunt makes candied nuts for an appetizer on Christmas day (I devour practically the entire bowl), so I was inspired to do the same. I didn't have her recipe, but I did a little digging and experimenting and found what sounded like a great recipe from Smitten Kitchen, which was originally adapted from Elizabeth Karmel of Hill Country.

Needless to say, the nuts turned out wonderfully. The combination of sweet and spice is just right, and no one flavor overpowers the other. And they were so easy to make. Now I'm inspired to test out my own recipes, and I have a few ideas that I'm hoping to share here over the next week or two. I'm keeping my packaging a secret for now, because I want to surprise those I'll be giving these too. But maybe once they're all done, I'll give you a sneak peak. And hopefully you're now inspired to make these, whether for a gift, a cocktail party you're hosting, or a snack to eat while you snuggle up and watch old Christmas movies. I've already devoured my first batch and it hasn't even been a full week.
Candied Nuts
Time: 10 minutes active, 30 minutes inactive
Yield: 1 pound
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 pound walnuts
1/3 pound pecans
1/3 pound almonds
1 egg white, room temperature
1 tablespoon water
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Mix sugars, salt, cayenne, and cinnamon with a whisk until fully combined.
Beat egg white and water until frothy, about 2 minutes (I used a whisk, but you could also use a hand mixer).
Add nuts, stir until completely and evenly coated.
Add sugar mixture, stir until completely and evenly coated.
Spread on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden brown and crunchy (they will become crunchier once they cool).
Spread nuts as they cool, otherwise they will stick together (mine did this and I had to break them apart).
Serve immediately or store in an airtight container such as a mason jar. The more frequently you expose them to air, the more quickly they will become stale.

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