December 3, 2010

Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts

As much as I consider myself a cake baker and dessert maker, you know what one of my most requested recipes is? Spiced nuts. Seriously, right?!?

I've copied or emailed my recipe to my mom a few times. My sister called and asked for it just before Thanksgiving. The nuts disappear quickly at parties and are always welcome as a hostess gift. And get this, my teenage brother asked for spiced pecans for his Christmas present from me... more than once even! Now that's saying something!

For my recipe, I always use pecans, our family's favorite nut, tossed in egg whites and then a combination of salt, sugar, cumin, cayenne, and paprika. Heavy on the cayenne because we're good Texans.

I don't feel boastful if I say that I've become somewhat expert in the field. I've learned that you should roast the nuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Waxed paper will be a total disaster, and even a Silpat doesn't seem to work as well. Watch the timer and the baking process carefully. The nuts can go from underdone to perfect to burned in a matter of a minute. Let the pecans cool thoroughly before you touch or eat them. The spice coating needs a few moments out of the oven to get nice and set.

I tried a new recipe today from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table for Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts (p. 18). Her base recipe calls for your favorite nut - almonds, cashews, pistachios, or pecans (the latter being the least French of the lot) - or a mix of several. They're spiced with sugar, chili powder, cinnamon, and a pinch of cayenne. The spices are interchangeable, too, and she suggests getting creative by using Chinese five-spice powder, curry, cardamom, or herbs.

I thought Dorie's recipe looked very similar to my tried and true one, so I opted to spice it up (har har) by using almonds instead of pecans and some of her alternative spice suggestions. Since I had some Chinese five-spice powder in my cupboard just aching to be used, I pulled it out for this recipe. It took only a few minutes to mix the nuts with the spices and get them in the oven.

Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts

They came out beautifully. I could certainly taste the anise and fennel from the five-spice powder, which tasted like a mild black licorice and reminded me of the little after-dinner Mukhwas you see at Indian restaurants. The almonds weren't too sweet or salty. I think the only change I'd make for next time is to use a full teaspoon of cayenne pepper instead of only a heavy pinch. I'm a good Texan, after all.

Be prepared to make multiple batches. You'll want to snack on some and have enough left over to share them with friends, and they're highly addictive.

Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts


Steph said...

Your nuts look terrific. I'm so glad they lived up to your own "signature" nuts! Well done.

evil cake lady said...

glad to hear the chinese 5-spice version is good, too! your nuts look great.

Lana said...

I would go for that: better that asking me to make a torte, or a seventeen-hours cookies with creme anglaise and chocolate ganache. Yeah, nuts.
I'll try to remember to use the parchment paper - it should not be hard - I'll make the nuts in a day or two:)

Anonymous said...

I really want to try the five-spice version - sounds so good!

krissy said...

Your post was great...very informative and will help me as I make these nuts very soon...and now that I have seen so many wonderful posts with the will be even sooner than soon.