January 16, 2013
Last Christmas, I made nuts, which, while tasty, where sticky and hard to get apart. The end result of making these nuts was a giant mass of nuts that seemed almost cemented together. This year, when buying my combo of pecans, walnuts, almonds and cashews, I knew I didn’t want a repeat of last year. Sure, they tasted really good, but candied nuts are supposed to be fun to eat, not hard work!
I flipped through Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table, looking for a meal to make that evening, and happened upon her recipe for sweet and spicy cocktail nuts. While I haven’t made many recipes from this book, I am an enormous fan of her baking book, and know that I can trust any recipe she puts out. This recipe sounded promising – the spice mixture of salty, sweet and spicy was just what I was looking for, and the use of egg whites told me that these nuts would not stick together with that shellacked veneer of baked sugar.
As to be expected, these nuts did not disappoint! They stuck together after baking, but were easy to break apart, and they stayed separate after being put in their jars. The coating stayed on the nuts, was crunchy and perfectly sweet and salty (but more sweet than salty). I would probably add a but more heat to them next time, as I couldn’t really detect any spice. I mixed the nuts in the egg mixture and didn’t do a great job draining them after (I didn’t do it at all, actually), so I think it took longer for everything to bake up and added to them sticking together, but it also meant more coating on each nut, and as I said, they weren’t difficult to break apart after baking.
I loved this recipe and will be using this egg white method for all future spiced nuts. It makes them light, crunchy and each nut is packed with flavour. The recipe below is Dorie’s, but I put my changes in italics. I doubled the recipe. It’s easy to test the spice mixture as you go along and add more of anything you feel is missing. I think these measurements are great suggestions, but everything should be to taste.
Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts
from Around My French Table
Makes 2 cups
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (I increased the salt)
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder (I used Mexican chili powder)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of cayenne (I increased this amount, and would increase it even more next time)
1 large egg white
2 cups nuts (whole or halves, but not small pieces), such as almonds, cashews, peanuts or pecans, or a mix (I doubled the recipe, and used almonds, pecans, walnuts and cashews. The cashews were actually my least favourite in the mix)
1. Center rack in oven and preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spray nonstick baking sheet with cooking spray or line baking sheet with silicone mat or parchment paper.
2. Mix sugar, salt, chili powder, cinnamon and cayenne together in small bowl. Beat egg white lightly with fork in larger bowl, just breaking up the white so that it’s runny. Toss in nuts and stir to coat them with egg white, then add sugar and spice mixture and continue to stir so that nuts are evenly coated.
3. Using fingers, lift nuts one by one from bowl, letting excess egg white drip back into bowl (you can run dipped nuts against side of bowl to get rid of last bit of egg white), and transfer to baking sheet, separating them as best you can. (I did not do this, but dumped everything onto my baking sheet)
4. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until nuts are browned and coating is dry. (Mine took much longer to bake than this, but I checked them every five minutes or so after the 30 minute mark. They seemed a little sticky still, but they crisped up as they cooled)
5. Cool 5 minutes then transfer to another baking sheet, a cutting board, or piece of parchment paper, breaking them apart as necessary and let cool completely.