Friday, September 4, 2009

The 'Wow': Spiced Candied Walnuts

I love when something is so good you are compelled to the following sorts of reactions:
-"Oh my God"
-"this is /so/ good"
-eyes lighting up
-eyes closed
-ecstasy visibly crossing your face
-the inability to stop consuming what is in front of you

And, it is always surprising to me when I make something that forces people in these directions. Not because I am shocked that I could make anything tasty. It is more that I completely lack the ability to anticipate what items will win this sort of approval. Take these candied walnuts, par example.

Look, they are delicious. They are candied walnuts after all. And they are a superior version of candied walnuts. Often, when you get candied walnuts on a salad in a restaurant, it is more like a clump of powdered sugar with something on the inside that might possibly be a walnut. The coating on these walnuts is light, just enough to caramelize and get a little crunchy in the oven, but never approaching gob-like consistency. Another great feature of these walnuts is all the flavor. Each bite has some sweet, some salt, some pepper, and just a hint of spice from cayenne.

So, I get it, these are tasty morsels. But for whatever reason, these walnuts are one of those things that just make people, time and again, say "wow" as they reach for more.

Bonus: they are so very easy to make.

For the coating, mix sugar, salt, black pepper, cayenne, and light corn syrup.

Toss the walnuts in the mix.

Spread on a sheet and put them in the oven.

Remove from the oven, cool, and brace yourself for the 'wow'.

I especially like these walnuts on a salad with mixed greens, Anjour pear, and Gorgonzola. But, they are great as an appetizer or as a dessert. I promise you, if you leave these in a bowl, they will rapidly disappear just about any time of the day.

Spiced Candied Walnuts (adapted from Epicurious)
1 Tablespoon sugar
a little less than 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
a generous pinch of cayenne (and if you compulsively measure like me, about 1/8 tsp)
2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
1 cup walnuts (I prefer walnut halves)

Preheat oven to 325. Spray sheet with Pam or cover with parchment paper.

Combine sugar, salt, pepper, cayenne, and corn syrup in a medium bowl. Stir in walnuts. Once walnuts are coated, spread on a baking sheet (some nuts may clump). Stir occasionally and bake about 15 minutes, until nuts are deep golden and mix is bubbling. Let cool on sheet.

Can be made three days ahead.

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