LEFT BRAIN: Sugared Almonds
This will likely become one of your signature hostess gifts. A candy thermometer produces perfect results every time, but I have given the less reliable non-thermometer method below too. The technique seems complicated however after making the sugared almonds once or twice, it’s a snap.
4 cups (600g) shelled natural almonds (skin on)
1 1/2 cups (300g) granulated sugar
6 tbsp (90 mL) water (1/4 cup plus two tablespoons)
- Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Place nuts in a single layer on a flat pan with sides. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, stirring once half-way through roasting time.
- Pour sugar into a large saucepan, drizzle with water and clip a candy thermometer to pan side. When nuts are almost ready to come out of the oven, and place saucepan over high heat. Boil without stirring until thermometer gets to 260ºF. Remove thermometer and add hot nuts. Stir briefly to coat nuts with sugar syrup; remove from heat.
- To quickly drop pan temperature, place pan on another cold stove unit or cool heatproof surface (I use the metal drain board of my sink). Stir once, then wait a few seconds, stir again, and again as needed until the mass to begin to foam slightly and a crackling sound to occur. Stir again. Turn out onto parchment paper or large cutting board. Separate immediately.
- Nuts naturally become crisp upon cooling. Discard any sugar left behind on parchment and store nuts in an airtight container where they will keep well at room temperature for a month.
- Follow above recipe.
- Turn heat to high under sugar mixture when nuts are toasty.
- As soon as the syrup boils almost all over the surface, about 3 minutes, a wooden spoon lifted from the syrup should have a gossamer thread wafting on the air. when this happens, remove from heat, stir in almonds as above.
The first time Marilyn came to our house on Christmas Day she donated a jar of sugared almonds to the party. I didn’t get to the buffet table in time to try a single nut! As the years have passed and my daughters got to know Marilyn they begged for the recipe. Now in the midst of the chaos of Christmas Eve, my daughter is claiming counter space to make these nuts for her friends – and my Christmas buffet table.
RIGHT BRAIN: Ginger Almonds
Over the years I have used nuts and sesame oil to flavour drab winter salads. The enticing aroma of sesame oil draws people to the kitchen every time. Of course any nut can be used or best yet mix all the little parcels of nuts leftover from other recipes that you have stashed in your freezer. If you can bear to part with them, a jar of any home-prepared nuts make a great gift at Christmas.
Makes a generous cup
1/4oz (100g) or 1” piece of ginger
1 large garlic clove
1 tbsp (15 ml) juice from a lime
1 tbsp (15 ml) sesame oil
1/2 to 3/4 tsp salt
6oz (170g) shelled natural almonds (skin on)
Preheat oven to 325F (160C)
- Using a kitchen rasp, grate the ginger (no need to peel) and garlic into a mid-sized bowl.
- Add lime juice, sesame oil and salt; mix well.
- Add the nuts, tossing to coat. Spread out in a single layer in a pan.
- Bake for approximately 20 minutes. Keep an eye on them and shake the pan periodically. Pull from the oven and into a colander to cool once the liquid has evaporated and nuts smell toasty.
Ever notice that a purchased can of mixed nuts mostly taste all the same, and slightly stale? Joanna’s nuts are in the “can’t eat just one” category with crisp texture and flavourful style.