I hope so! Mine was, it was fun spending time with family out of state. Now to get back to business.
There is a yearly arts festival here that is very popular in both in our city and our entire state, heck, even some surrounding ones. I have always enjoyed going to it ever since I was a little girl, there are so many wonderful artists, shows, and food there, its just an all-around good time. One thing sticks out in particular, and that is the cinnamon roasted nuts that they have there. Almonds or pecans were always the choices, and we have always chosen the pecans. Back then, I loved them, despite my near loathing of any pecans, walnuts, almonds, etc. However, in the past year or so, I have developed a pretty profound fondness of them (particularly pistachios, if those are in the room, there is a serious problem going to happen). Now, I am a new Southerner (basically, as I will live at least 80 weeks of the next three years in Savannah, Georgia), and that means that I love pecans. I have to, its a requirement. And I do, I LOVE them, i am infatuated. I love them when they are just kind of sweet when you eat them, but first I always hve them in the freezer. The way they thaw and then get sweet, ohmahgaw.
Before I pass out, I just wanted to tell you that I found a recipe for these Cinnamon Roasted Pecans that, um, pretty much beats the stuff from the arts festival. Waaaay out of the park. Not only that, but four ingredients! Pecans, sugar, vanilla, and water, could it get any easier?
The process is increasingly easy as well. Combining one cup of the sugar, water, and cinnamon (I added a pinch of sea salt to round out the flavors) and melting over a saucepan until they start boiling.
Then dumping in the vanilla and pecans. After that, it just takes stirring and patience! I think that the whole process is sort of therapeutic, but then again, candy is therapeutic. Chocolate, cake, cookies, candy…Oh would you look at that, everything starts with a C! Just like me.
I’m just a walking therapist.
When the water boils out, the solution will get increasingly syrup-y, and oh my goodness, it smells SOOOOO good. But don’t dive in yet, you’ll burn. I would know, my tongue is still healing. What? I didn’t wait.
When it gets really syrup-y, pour in the remaining sugar. Keep stirring, as it will start to dry and crystallize a bit, DON’T STOP STIRRING LEST YOU BURN THE PECANS. Burnt pecans make me want to be by myself for a long time.
If you keep stirring, it will dry out and get all clumpy, this is what we want. I took it pretty far, until some of the sugar separated as well. See, you keep that sugar and use it! I’m smart like that!
Pour it out on parchment and spread it out so it can cool. Let it cool for at least a couple minutes. Remember be this: burnt tongue.
Oh mah gaw.
You could always wrap them up in these little packages and give them away as Christmas presents (which actually is a pretty good idea! I’m compiling a list for Christmas presents already!)
Or you could just, you know, eat them.
Um, yeah. Yum.
Burnt Sugar Almonds (I Substituted Pecans)
⅓ cups Water, Plus 2 Tablespoons
1-⅓ cup Sugar, Divided
1 teaspoon Cinnamon, Ground
2 cups Raw Almonds
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
(I added a pinch of sea salt, about 1/8 tsp)
Use a heavy saucepan (NOT the nonstick kind) and a wooden spoon.
First add the water, 1 cup of sugar and the cinnamon and stir. Bring it to a boil over medium heat. Add the almonds to the mix, raise the temperature to high heat and stir CONSTANTLY until the water is boiled away.
The sugar will dry out a little but start to stick to the almonds. Keep stirring them around, so that the almonds don’t burn on the bottom of the pan.
Turn the heat under the pan to medium-low, to keep the sugar from browning too fast. Keep stirring until the almonds start having an even shiny coat.
Don’t be distracted by the heavenly aroma that is enveloping your kitchen—you need your full concentration on the task!
Now dump in the rest of your sugar. Keep stirring, and add your vanilla. At this point, I like to mention that if you have vanilla sugar or a powdered type of vanilla flavoring, do feel free to use that over the liquid kind. It tends to work better. If you do, mix it with the 1/3 of a cup of sugar you are using for the second lot of sugar.
At this point, there might be quite some noise ensuing from your pan. Some crackling and popping, but hopefully no snapping. It depends on how fresh your almonds were. Really fresh almonds will make a popping noise and the coat may start to crack. That’s the water in the almonds escaping. If the almonds are older, there won’t be as much of that!
Keep stirring until the almonds are fairly shiny, but still a bit lumpy. You don’t want them completely smooth. The best ones are the ones that are shiny in some areas with some delicious lumps of cinnamon sugar on other parts of the almond.
As soon as you see that happening, take them off the heat and transfer the almonds to a sheet of parchment paper. Spread them apart as much as you can, but don’t worry about some of them sticking together initially. BE CAREFUL, however. These are extremely hot, so only use a spoon. These babies can really burn you!
While they are cooling down, keep on breaking them apart with your spoon(s) until they are all separated. Fair warning: these are totally divine when they are still ever-so-slightly warm. There, you’ve been warned!
Once they are cooled, hide (ahem, I meant store) them in a dry, closed container. Theoretically, they keep for several weeks. I’ve never had an opportunity to test that theory.