Flashback Friday – Sugar And Spice

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 12/4/08 at Exit 51

Sugar and Spice

Sugar and spice…quick, what’s the first thing you think of?  Cinnamon sugar, perhaps?  There’s nothing wrong with cinnamon sugar but sometimes I think it’s more interesting to pair up flavors that don’t usually get to hang out together.  Like cayenne pepper and brown sugar.  And cumin.  And paprika.  And chipotle.

Sugar and Spice Collage

My favorite application of this combination is usually as a pork rub.  I pile it on good and thick and get a smoky sweet crust.  So when I was in search of a recipe to make for the holidays, I started with the flavors I wanted and worked my way backwards to find the medium.  I mean the pork is good and everything, but  I’m pretty sure a spice rubbed pork loin is not what someone wants to find when they open their gift box.

My selection criteria included quick, easy, and ships well.  A search on FoodNetwork.com got me to Emeril’s Spiced Nut recipe.  The first batch, I made exactly as the recipe directed.  And they were pretty bad.  I don’t know why, but the recipe called for butter…4 tablespoons of it.  Butter certainly has its place in my cooking but when I’m thinking candied anything, butter doesn’t come into play.  Instead of nuts evenly coated with a spicy sugar shell, they were greasy and the sugar was clumpy.  So I got to thinking, what if I cut out the butter entirely?  It couldn’t be any worse than the first batch that ended up in the trash.

I was pleased to find that eliminating the butter did the trick.  The nuts were smoky and spicy with a sweet candy shell.  Learn from my mistake and don’t add too much water to the pan.  If you do, the candy coating gets too sticky.

Now all I need to do is package them up and get them shipped out.  If you see a box in your mail with my return address, I can promise you that it’s not a spice rubbed pork loin.  But I think you’ll like this anyway.

Spiced Nuts

Adapted from Emeril Lagasse, Food Network

Notes:  Use more cayenne (up to 1 teaspoon) if you like things really spicy. I also added 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika and 1/8 teaspoon chipotle powder.  Add 2 tablespoons of water at first and see how well your sugar melts.  If it’s still thick and clumped, add the third tablespoon.  Use your best nonstick frying pan and be sure to wash it out between batches.  Even a little bit of burned sugar will ruin an entire batch.  Store in an airtight container until ready to use.

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 cups unsalted mixed nuts, such as walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, and almonds
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 – 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Mix the spices, sugar, and salt in a small bowl.

In a large dry skillet, place the nuts and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until they begin to toast, about 4 minutes. Add the spices, sugar, water, and salt and cook, stirring, until the sugar melts, the sauce thickens, and the nuts are glazed, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the nuts to the prepared baking sheet, separating them with a spatula. Let the nuts stand until cooled and the sugar has hardened, about 10 minutes.

For another spin on the spiced nuts, check out this blog entry by Kim O’Donnel.

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5 Responses to Flashback Friday – Sugar And Spice

  1. JenniferA says:

    I do enjoy a spicy sweet nut! Have you tried all those flavored almonds they have out now? Some of them are great! I think it is Blue Diamond that makes the awesome butter toffee one.

  2. Wendi, this makes me sad for you…to have to remember the nuts. You can’t eat them now, right?

  3. jacki says:

    Love, love, love this idea. Will totally be trying it out.

  4. Yes on the cayenne pepper and brown sugar…love that combination! I make nuts like this every year as part of my holiday gifts packages..then have to remember to wrap them and actually give them away. Addictive little suckers aren’t they? 🙂

  5. I’ve made Emeril’s version before and they’re so awesome! I love bringing spiced nuts to parties or leaving them out when I have guests over. Always a crowd pleaser.

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