Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Candied Spiced Hazelnuts

My mom's favorite candy is when I make these and use them to make rocky road (of course with homemade marshmallows and premium chocolate).

Stacey's Candied Spiced Hazelnuts Ingredients:
7.3 oz hazelnuts, peeled (instructions below)
1/2c sugar, organic (3.5oz)
1 tbsp (.5oz) butter, salted organic
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg (freshly ground)

I usually only find hazelnuts that are in the peel (if shelled - I've never tried to shell my own hazelnuts) so the best way to peel them is to toast them a bit, then rub them against each other in a towel.  I used my toaster oven.  I keep my nuts in the freezer to make sure they don't go rancid.  So, I put them into a baking tray straight from the freezer into my toaster oven at 350F for 15 minutes.  When they came out they looked like this, peels cracked.
I then dumped them into a towel (as many as could fit comfortably without falling out when I gathered the edges together).
Once the edges were gathered together, I rubbed the hazelnuts against each other inside the towel for a while, and then reopened the towel.

You can see the skins are starting to come off.  I moved the hazelnuts to the side and then placed them in another container (or the cooled baking tray, to save dish washing) and then shook out the skins that stuck to the towel into the sink (or the compost pile, if you do that sort of thing - my lemon tree loves it).  I returned the hazelnuts to the towel and repeated the rubbing and shaking out of the towel until there were no more skins left.

The next step was to put the peeled hazelnuts into a sauce pan and add the sugar, butter, and spices.  I prefer to use whole nutmeg and grate it myself with a spice microplane.  It's amazingly more fragrant.
I put pan on the stove over medium heat and stirred the mixture with a silicone spatula. This works best because it's heat resistant to 482F, so you can scrape the melting sugar from the corners without worry.  First the butter will melt and the spices will distribute.
Eventually all the sugar will melt and caramelize and it will start to smell more and more awesome.
Bet you didn't know awesome was a smell.  It is.  ;)  When it looks like this, you're pretty much done.
If you wait too long, the pan will start to smoke because the sugar is burning.  If there's still a few skin remnants that just didn't want to let go, those will blacken a bit.  Then I poured the hazelnuts out onto a silicone baking sheet (you can use a cookie sheet or a piece of parchment paper as well).  Be careful though - they are really hot.  If you've been using your temperature gun, it might be reading 325-350F by the time you're removing them from the heat. 

Let these cool to around 100F before you put them in storage.  If you leave them out too long, especially if it's humid, they may start to get sticky and not crunchy.  It's best to store these in an airtight container as soon as they've cooled enough (if you can touch them comfortably, it's probably cool enough to store).  Once they get to room temperature, you can use them to make your rocky road, if you're so inclined. :)  And for those of you who have trouble resisting the smell of awesome, you also might want to wait until these have cooled, otherwise the nuts won't be crunchy, and they'll just taste stale.  Stale nuts = sadness.  Having patience is definitely worth it.  And yes, your house smells like this for several hours afterward, so maybe you want to open a window... or close them all beforehand and relish it.

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