I can’t quite face the backed-up sink and the wet “squish” noise the garbage disposal button is making right now (though I suppose I’ve not been electrocuted, so THAT’S good news…). Thus, I’m going to share one of my favorite holiday treats instead.
These sugared walnuts made their annual appearance on Christmas Eve, which we spent at my aunt and uncle’s house. There was always a broad array of tempting sweets, from iced sugar cookies to delicately twisted kringla, fragrant with cardamom. I always partook of these other offerings, but I was really there for the walnuts.
I can’t quite express to you how good they are… the contrast between the meaty, slightly bitter walnuts and their creamy, sugary cloaks pretty much makes for the most addicting thing ever. Just thinking about them makes my eyes roll back in my head a little.
What’s more, they’re kind of unpreposessing to look at, so they’re easily missed on the dessert table. I made them for our holiday party and had to point them out to a few select people–who agreed with me on their superlative tastiness: “Oh my god, I’m so glad you didn’t tell me about these earlier. They’re SO GOOD.”
Also: yes, this has demon corn syrup in it; and yes, unless you want to mess around with little plates of half-congealed sugar, you need a candy thermometer. Blah blah blah, whatever. You really should have the latter, and you just need to get over the former. It’s not like we’re making IV drip bags of double-strength Kool-Aid for preschoolers. Ok, objections dealt with. Let’s get on to the deliciousness…
Yield: 3 cups
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
1/4 c white corn syrup
1/4 c water
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch sea salt
Line a baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.
In a 3 qt saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and water. Using a silicone spatula, stir the mixture over medium heat to dissolve the sugar, then increase heat to high and cook, continuing to stir, until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage (235-240°F). Remove pan from heat and stir in remaining ingredients.
Continue to stir the mixture until it goes all thick, white, and opaque. Turn onto the parchment-lined pan and break up any over-large chunks. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.
Notes & Variations
If you wanted to be extra-super fancy, I suppose you could pick over the walnuts and just use unbroken halves. If you’re that hardcore, well, I salute you; though the sugar mix tends to stick the little pieces together anyway. Probably of more use would be to sift the loose skin and schmutz from the walnuts and, eh, probably toast them for a few minutes in a 350°F oven until they’re nicely fragrant, about 5-8 minutes. Toasting really does make a huge difference.