Yesterday, I was planning to use up some leftover chicken by making a large salad for dinner. I impulsively decided to make some candied walnuts to kick it up a notch. Now, I love to cook, but I’m historically not as comfortable (or skilled) when it comes to sweet and desserts. Still, I was feeling confident.
The first method I tried involved simply dumping a bunch of sugar and walnuts into a pan and stirring as the sugar melts. I went with this one because it was the simplest recipe I could find – and I’m all about simple in the kitchen.
Getting started, my pan looked like this:
This version of my candied walnuts didn’t go so well. First of all, I quickly realized I should have used a flat pan so that the sugar would melt evenly. Then, after what seemed like forever, my sugar didn’t truly melt but instead formed little clumps. A quick search revealed that this was likely because my heat was too low. So, naturally, I cranked it up. The clumps started to melt… this was more like it… and then, before I knew it, the sugar was dark brown. Too brown. Burnt.
I let it cool in the pan (thinking it would be ok since it was non-stick) and ended up with a rock hard mess that I had to reheat to scrape out of the pan. There was a rescue attempt, my last ditch effort to salvage a few, but it was really too late for the poor guys.
Not yet discouraged (and really wanting a yummy salad), I decided to try a different method. This time, I would toast the walnuts on their own, melt the sugar (in a FLAT PAN) and then dump in walnuts and stir. This worked much better. I did have some little sugar clumps form, but I just kept stirring and was able to melt all of the sugar without burning it. As soon as the walnuts were coated, I transferred them to a silicone baking mat, separated them as best I could with a fork and let them cool. Once they were cooled, it was pretty easy to break them apart.
The result was crunchy, candied walnuts for my salad. These were pretty darn sweet, so I only needed a sprinkling – especially in combination with some summer strawberries.
The recipe made enough for plenty of future salads.
(adapted from Simply Recipes)
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup sugar
Heat oven to 350° and toast walnuts for about 5 minutes (the best way to tell if nuts are burning is by smell). Set nuts aside. Melt sugar in a heavy bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Stir, a lot. It will melt. Just before your arm falls off from stirring. When sugar is completely melted, dump in walnuts and toss gently to coat. Transfer sticky mess to parchment paper (not wax paper, they are not the same thing – which I learned the hard way) or a silicone baking mat. Add a touch of salt. Separate using two forks or cool and break apart.