Though I haven’t been doing much cooking while in London, I’ve managed to make these nuts three times and I think that calls for a celebration. Here’s a makeshift recipe so you can join in on the festivities:
Caramelised (Christmas) Nuts
- 200 grams mixed nuts (here I’ve used hazelnuts and almonds)
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon (don’t let the cinnamon scrolls below fool you – they’re just eye candy)
- A tiny bit of salt
- 1/2 star anise, ground or finely chopped (this one is the real deal – don’t resort to pre-ground stuff please)
- 1-1,5 dl. icing sugar (to be honest I’ve never measured it).
First of all: I really recommend that you use icing sugar and not granulated or caster sugar. Using icing sugar is what gives that shiny and thin crackling sugar shell, that sends out a wonderful music when you pour them into a jar. Very much like the sound of ocean water trickling through shells on a tropical beach.
Second: These nuts can be made with all sorts of spice combinations. I imagine sea salt and rosemary or maybe cocoa and orange peel could work but please let me know if you find a magic combo I shouldn’t live without.
Third: This recipe also works well for praline. Just follow the steps and chop into fine pieces that you can add to ice cream, mousses, nougat, marzipan etc.
Anyway, down to business:
Prepare a sheet of baking paper or silicone sheet on a cold baking tray. Crush the 1/2 star anise on a chopping board/in a mortar and mix with cinnamon and salt and set the spice mixture aside. Start toasting the hazelnuts first, just until they’re light brown and the skin peels off. I like to pour them onto some paper and rub the more stubborn specimens against each other until the skin comes off – but don’t do it in a tea towel unless you want brown stains on it. Then toast the almonds lightly (sometimes you can hear them cracking and that’s perfectly alright).
Throw the hazelnuts and the spice mix in with the almonds and shuffle them around a bit. Dust with some icing sugar and mix again. Then wait for the sugar to melt and distribute itself evenly on the nuts. You can repeat this several times until the sugar coating has the right thickness to your liking but make sure you stir and mix regularly – never on too high heat and always watching over it like a baby in its crib. It will look something like this shot below. Not my best photo I know, but I thought it might be helpful for you to see the condition of the nuts, pre-deliciousness:
If you find that some of the nuts stay white with unmelted sugar, you can always add a few drops (no more) of water to the single nuts to make the caramel cover more evenly. When all of the sugar has melted the nuts are ready. Pour them onto the baking paper/silicone sheet and try to separate them with a fork. Keep a glass of hot water handy in case you need to dip the fork to make it less sticky. Be careful not to touch the nuts with your bare hands until you’re sure they’re not too hot. When they’re lukewarm just pull the nuts apart before they turn into huge clusters – unless you’re using them for praline in which case it doesn’t matter. Leave to cool completely before pouring them into a jar. Crunch!