Candied pecans (or walnuts, or almonds) are a great culinary trick to have up your sleeve. They are easy to make, very versatile and they’ll impress the socks off anyone you serve them to. I love to add them to salads or set them out in a bowl for nibbles. (And they are totally irresistible, so you may want to make extra!)
Make these when you are able to give your full attention to what you’re doing; the sugar melts very quickly–and quickly burns if you’re not paying attention! You’ve got to work very fast when you hit that magic moment. The times below are estimates because the precise times depend on the heat of your stove. Use your eyes–and your nose–as you make these nuts. First you smell the lovely fragrance of toasting nuts, then as the sugar melts you’ll smell a hint of caramel. (To give you a rough time estimate, it took me 7 minutes to make these on my gas stove from start to finish.)
Once you dump the nuts on the parchment you have about thirty seconds to pull them apart before the sugar hardens into glassy crystals. Be ready to work fast!
Any skillet will work, but you are making caramel, which is notoriously rough on nonstick pans. Stainless steel is preferable only for the sake of your pan.
- ½ cup white table sugar
- 2 cups pecans, slivered almonds, walnut halves, or other nuts, as desired
- pinch kosher salt
Consider one of the following, all optional:
- pinch cinnamon
- pinch cloves
- generous pinch cayenne
- Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or foil and set aside.
- Heat sugar, nuts, salt and optional spices in heavy medium skillet over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally with wooden spoon. Do not add water. After several minutes, the sugar will begin to look sticky. After several more minutes, the sugar will begin to melt. Stir continually, coating the nuts with the melted sugar.
- When sugar is completely melted and has reached a medium amber color, empty contents of skillet into thin layer onto prepared sheet. Use two forks to pull nuts apart. Let cool and break into pieces. Store in cookie tin or glass jar with tightly fitting lid.
(Note: if the sugar does not seem to be melting after about five minutes, your stove may not be hot enough. Increase the heat to medium and continue as directed. Monitor very carefully.)