The picture kind of says it all, leaving me rather speechless or that may be because my mouth is full of salty, caramel-coated, roasted nuts and really, can you blame me?!! These are totally amazing and totally addictive! A must-have in your party planning repertoire!!
I made these over a week ago for our New Year's Eve shindig--sorry to hold out on you but I was trying to be extra-healthy last week and these are not exactly low-cal. Didn't want to sabotage anyone. But they were such a hit and so simple to make that I didn't feel right about keeping this marvelous treat from you any longer. Especially with long football games to watch!!
Basically, all you do is make a caramel sauce that's infused with vanilla and salt and coat some roasted nuts with it. It's pretty simple and there's really only one rule you have to follow that I've harped on before: DO NOT WALK AWAY WHILE YOU ARE MAKING THE CARAMEL!!! Take it from me, burned caramel is so annoying to clean up and so unnecessary 'cause it won't happen if you watch it. So set the kids up, turn your phone off and pay attention to the sugar!!!
You'll be rewarded with an irresistible treat! Crunchy, salty, sweet, nutty--these are absolute perfection. And you can even make them up to a week ahead of time, although if you do, you'd better hide them because they would not last in my house!! Make them soon and you'll see what I mean!!
Perfect Party Nuts
Makes about 8 cups
This recipe is not difficult but you need to read it through before starting because you have to able to move quickly once the caramel is made.
Prep Time: Under 30 minutes
- 4 cups nuts (I used 1 cup whole roasted cashews, one cup whole pecan halves, 1 cup whole unsalted almonds and 1 cup walnut halves but you can use any nuts you have on hand or prefer)
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel (optional--it's nice but not necessary)
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Place the nuts on a rimmed baking sheet, mix them together and roast for about 7 minutes, until you can smell them cooking. Set aside to cool. Line another sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Place the sugar and water in a medium saucepan and mix with a fork until all the sugar is dissolved. Place the pan over medium-high heat and cook until the sugar melts. You are basically making a caramel syrup. Even if you are tempted to, don't stir the mixture any longer--just swirl the pan to keep the mixture together. At some point, it will look like the mixture is crystallizing and that's ok. Just keep cooking (the process can take up to 20 minutes, depending on how high a light you are using and your pan). When the mixture starts to get golden brown like caramel, make sure you swirl the pan to keep it from burning. When it gets to be a deep clear amber color, remove it from the heat and quickly add in the vanilla. Careful because it will bubble up--now swirl the pan to combine the vanilla and caramel. Quickly mix in the nuts and kosher salt, working fast because the caramel will begin to set up rapidly. It helps to toss it with 2 spoons.
3. When the nuts are completely coated, spread them and any extra caramel in the pan onto the prepared baking sheet. Use two forks to spread the nuts into one even layer, pulling them apart with the forks as they clump together. Sprinkle with the fleur de sel if using and set aside to cool.
4. When the nuts are completely cool, carefully break them into little clusters. You can serve them right away or keep them in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.
Note: Recipe adapted from Make It Ahead by Ina Garten.