Home-spiced nuts have become one of my holiday favorites. Jars or packets make delicious gifts, and you can throw them together quickly for a party. My go-to combination has some sugar but enough spicy, nutty crunch to seem like a break from cookies and candies.
This week’s recipe is really about the technique. All the ingredients can be adjusted to taste. I usually grab a homemade nine-spice blend to flavor mixed nuts. Essentially a fusion of an Indian garam masala and a Chinese five spice, it’s a variation on a mixture shared years ago by a local friend. You’ll find the recipe for it in this week’s post at TwiceAsTasty.com. (The adventurous can also find my recipe for Home-Smoked Chili Paste on the blog.)
If your spice collection isn’t as extensive as mine, a premixed blend can be just as delicious. I enjoy home-spiced mixed nuts with Kashmiri Garam Masala from World Spice Merchants. To get your hands on the blend without waiting for shipping, place an order through their website, choose “Pickup at the World Spice Outpost in Columbia Falls” as the delivery method and then pop into the location off Highway 2 to grab your order when it’s ready.
If you prefer less sweetness, skip the recipe’s sugar and mixed spices and just use 2 teaspoons of an infused salt. With seasoned salts, I like a single nut type, like cashews or blanched almonds, so that the flavors shine. The black garlic infused salt available from Trovare in Whitefish has become one of my favorite savory enhancements.
A few prep notes: Blanched nuts often need less time in the oven than those with skins. Don’t be surprised if some sugar crystalizes to your baking sheet. A couple of minutes in hot water should dissolve it. While it’s tempting to bite into still-warm nuts, they become crunchier as they cool.
Makes about 3 cups
1 egg white
1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon chili paste or hot sauce
1 pound raw whole or halved nuts
1/3 cup ultrafine sugar
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon ground mixed spices
In a medium bowl, beat the egg white, water and chili paste until frothy. Add the nuts, tossing to coat. Transfer the bowl’s contents to a mesh sieve and let drain for 5 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine the sugar, salt and spices; add the drained nuts and toss to coat. Spread the nut mixture on an ungreased rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 300°F for 25 to 35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until the coating adheres to the nuts and is firm; watch the nuts closely during the last 10 minutes to avoid burning them. Remove the nuts from the oven, transfer them to another tray or foil and let them cool completely. When cool, break the nuts apart. Store the nuts in an airtight container for up to a week or freeze for up to three months.
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