Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sugared pecans

Or cashews, walnuts, almonds, hazel nuts, macadamias, peanuts. Once you learn this basic method, there are endless possibilities. I did this the other night and while I still don't have all the measurements, this is one of those recipes, let's face it, that you may have to do one or two times before you get it right. Some are just that way. So don't be afraid. But I will tell you what I've learned so that maybe you won't be wasting ingredients.

Take a small nonstick fry pan. Leave it dry. Put it on the burner and I then crank it up to high heat. I put 1/3 C. of white sugar in the pan. Have the nuts ready. How many nuts you ask? I had enough to make a layer over the sugar in the pan. I didn't measure them, but I'm thinking it was 3/4 to 1 C. of nuts. If I am using them for salads, then I usually chop them once or twice with a large knife. Now you have two choices here. If you want a hard crunch glazy type coating on the nuts, then let the sugar totally liquify. You may want to turn the heat down ever so slightly but either way you have to work fast and get those nuts in the pan, stir them around and then bam onto parchment paper to cool. The sugar goes brown and if you mess around too much it will get burnt tasting. Or taste burnt, whatever is correct English here. Or you can go for the second option and put the nuts in when the sugar just starts to liquify or liquifies halfway. Then coat, get onto a sheet of parchment paper or waxed paper or a sheet pan on your counter (if using the sheet pan I would spray a thin spray of PAM onto it before putting the caramelized nuts on it). If you do it the second way the nuts will be sugary and crunchy but not as hard or evenly glazed as the other way. I like them the second way actually but I am usually messing around and don't get them in the pan fast enough and they turn out the first way. You're actually making caramel, so do it when you don't have to answer the phone and when the kids are not in the kitchen with you. Send the dogs outside even. Oh, and sometimes, when the sugar is in the fry pan, I like to sprinkle a little cinnamon over it. Or over the nuts once I've added them. You could experiment with other spices also, sweet or savory type spices. These are great in salad with blue cheese or feta, craisins and/or mandarin oranges. You'll save a lot of money by making them yourself instead of buying them already sugared. You may eat most of them as is before they make it to your salad bowl.

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