December 20, 2012

Candied almonds

This is the kind of recipe I like to try out when I want to mix things up a bit.  It's fairly quick, no-bake, and involves something I love to munch on - nutsDavid Lebovitz says he calls on this appetizer more than any other and that grabs my attention.  So if you're a little worn out from all the holiday baking and cookies (I should say, fortunate enough to be worn out because I feel lucky to be occupied in this way), try this easy candy-making for a change like I did a couple of weeks ago.
These are candied almonds, very much like what you can get from Street vendors in New York City.  Incidentally, after many years of living and working in the NYC area, I didn't give those nuts a try until last Christmas when my family and I played tourist and stayed there for a couple of days' "vacation."  I found myself easily munching and crunching my way through my little paper bag of nuts.

I think these homemade candied almonds are all the more addicting and better than the version you get on the NYC sidewalk.  They have the advantage of being homemade, of course, and there's just a freshness to them because of it.  They are crunchy and sweet, with just a bit of salt thrown in to make things vibrant.  As an added bonus to making these, you benefit from a wonderful sweet/nutty aroma of caramelized nuts in your kitchen.
I went with almonds but you can also use peanuts.  I've gained a new appreciate for peanuts lately but couldn't find raw peanuts for this recipe.  In the end, I decided almonds would be a better way to go since they're generally more popular or seem a little more "special" to most people than peanuts, and I planned to pack my batch up as gifts (with plenty left for the cook to nibble on).
For this recipe, you only need 4 ingredients, a big wide skillet or pan, and no more than half an hour's time.  There's a good amount of stirring involved but I found that relaxing - an escape from the world outside - with the reward of watching  these caramelized nuts come into being.  

Tossing these nuts in their sugar coating reminded me of something my grandfather used to make.  He used to toss fried pieces of taro (I'm pretty sure they were fried first) in a wok with a sugar syrup until they were each coated with a thin, white layer of sugar.  Once they were cool enough to eat, we'd bite into it and come into contact with the first layer of sweet, crackly sugar and then fluffy, starchy taro within.  It was one of many interesting things he cooked for us.
But back to these candied nuts; they make a great appetizer or snack to go with drinks at a gathering.  They are also something easy to make for a hostess gift or general homemade holiday gift.  I made these for an ornament exchange party I went to recently.  I love having a good excuse to try something new.

This is the kind of recipe that calls for the play-by-play with pictures.  Here's how it worked for me:

To make about 3 cups of these candied almonds, start by putting 2 cups of raw almonds, 1 cup of sugar and 1/3 cup of water into a large, wide, heavy-duty skillet or pan.  That's three of the four ingredients in this recipe; only other thing you need is coarse salt.

(Tip: I scoured the comment section under David's post about these candied nuts and learned that you should not use a Le Creuset dutch oven - precisely what I'd planned to use for these!  Apparently, David tried it once and they came out "funny", possibly because the pan retained too much heat.  I went with a stainless steel pan but apparently non-stick should work also.)
(Note: I'll also mention that I followed the recipe from the website rather than the version in David's book, The Perfect Scoop (called "pralined almonds" - and the intention there is to make it and chop it into ice cream).  Instead of 1/3 cup of water, that recipe would call for 1/2 cup for this amount of nuts.  I'm not sure what accounts for the change/difference but I say be a little generous with that 1/3 cup of water for the recipe; next time, I may even try using 1/2 cup of water to see if the nuts get shiner that way, as I'll explain below.)

Under medium to high heat, cook the mixture, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or sturdy spatula/spoonula.  Wait for the sugar to melt and liquid to start boiling.  This takes about 4-5 minutes.
Keep cooking and stirring the mixture and in another 4-5 minutes, the sugar crystallizes and becomes sandy and dry.
Lower the heat to medium and keep stirring until that sandy sugar starts to liquefy and turn into a dark syrup.  This took another 3-4 minutes to begin happening.
Sugar starting to liquefy and turn into syrup
Keep stirring the nuts, pulling that syrup at the bottom of the pan to coat the nuts.  Continue doing this until the almonds are glazed and look a bit glossy and shiny.  If necessary, tilt the pan or remove it from the heat as you toss them so you don't burn the nuts while trying to get them evenly coated.  I didn't have a problem with them over-heating and I think a wide pan really helps.

Ultimately, the goal is a bronze sort of sheen on the almonds.  I found that it takes patience to get them from a totally dull sugar-coated state to more of a glossy state.  Keep working on it by stirring and coating the nuts with the syrup.  I did this for a good 10 minutes so they would lose most of the matte, sandy look and turn more glossy.  Mine were not ultra glossy but I was happy with it.  However, it did make make me wonder whether a little bit more water would help...
Right as you're done, sprinkle the almonds with a couple pinches of fleur de sel or other coarse salt.  Give it a quick toss and turn them out onto a baking sheet (no need to grease or line it) to cool.  If necessary, break up any clusters as they cool.  I didn't have any clusters.
These are crunchy, sweet, nutty, with a hint of salt that makes the flavors pop.  I think they are definitely great for a crowd...


Candied Almonds

- Makes approximately 3 cups -

2 cup whole raw almonds (unblanched and untoasted)*

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water

Generous sprinkle of coarse sea salt, preferably fleur de sel

* Substitute whole raw peanuts to make candied peanuts

In a large, heavy-duty skillet or pan (stainless steel and non-stick work but I understand it's best not to use a Le Crueset dutch oven since it could retain too much heat), mix the almonds, sugar and water together. 

Cook the mixture over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or sturdy silicon spatula/spoonula, until sugar dissolves and boils (4-5 minutes).  Continue cooking and stirring until sugar crystallizes and becomes sandy and dry (another 4-5 minutes).   Continue to stir the nuts and in a few minutes, the sugar at the bottom of the pan will begin to liquefy.  Stir the dark syrup at the bottom of the pan over the nuts to coat them.  

Continue to stir and scrape the syrup over the nuts.  Tilt the pan and take it off the heat if necessary to regulate the heat and give the nuts an even coating without burning them.  Continue until nuts lose most of their matte, sandy coating and turn a bit glossy and shiny (be patient since this process can take up to 10 minutes, in my experience).

Right before the nuts are done, add the salt, and give the nuts a few quick tosses before turning the nuts onto a baking sheet to cool.  Let nuts cool completely, breaking up any clusters as it cools. 

Store the candied almonds in an airtight container for up to a week.  If you like crunch in your ice cream, these would also be great chopped up and added to a batch of homemade ice cream (or sprinkled on top of storebought ice cream).


  1. Philippine pili nuts from the Bicol region in the Philippines is a great Filipino or Philippines food orsnack. Pili nuts are very healthy and nutritious indeed, being a source of energy, potassium and iron.They also have protein, dietary fiber / fibre, and calcium as well as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.  I know they have no cholesterol, no trans fat, and the unsalted ones have no sodium. What is great about the pili nut snack or treat is that they are so crisp, rich, and delicious.

  2. Wow! Looks good. I want to Buy Candied Almonds for an amazing & just perfect candy buffet gift packs. Thanks.



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