Almond Heaven
The almonds

Almond Heaven

The almonds
The almonds

My friend and colleague David Lebovitz has given me many things over the years, most of them issued from his magic oven or stove.  This recipe for almonds, which I have adapted to a slight degree, is one of his gifts.  We made it together in my kitchen years ago and everyone swooned.  I put it  in my archives for reasons unknown, and recently brought it out to much acclaim. I make them for dinner parties, for gifts, and we make them in cooking classes.  They are always the hit of whatever meal they precede.

Yes, I serve these sweet nothings – which I have salted and peppered up – as an appetizer.  Lately, I’ve served them with rosé because until a couple of days ago, we had both heat and sun in the evenings. Now that autumn has descended, I will serve them with a light red, or even champagne.  To be honest, they’re good with a glass of water, or nothing at all.

Making them is simple but there is a caveat. You cannot do anything else while you make them. You must patiently stay focused stirring, folding, smelling, looking. These almonds are caramelized, and the fantastic alchemy that takes place to get them there must be well-supervised.

I love the combination of flavors here, but you may mix and match – try five spice or star anise powder, nutmeg, allspice.  The salt and some sort of hot pepper are vital.

Use a heavy bottomed pan, and turn out the almonds once they’re toasty and sticky, onto a marble surface, or an unlined baking sheet. Don’t turn these out onto soapstone – they like to marry it, and separating them is not a nice affair.

These keep well, in an air-tight jar or in the freezer, for several weeks, should there be any leftover, that is.

Almonds, sugar, and water heating
Almonds, sugar, and water heating
The water and sugar beginning to thicken and crystallize
The water and sugar beginning to thicken and crystallize
Water and sugar REALLY starting to crystallize
Water and sugar REALLY starting to crystallize
Water and sugar crystallizing on the almonds
Water and sugar crystallizing on the almonds
Water and sugar have, miraculously, turned to pinkish sand.  Almonds are starting to smell toasty
Water and sugar have, miraculously, turned to pinkish sand. Almonds are starting to smell toasty
The water and sugar "sand" is beginning to re-caramelized
The water and sugar “sand” is beginning to re-caramelized
The almonds
The almonds

Candied, Spiced Almonds

 

1/3 cup (80ml) water

1 cup (200g) sugar

2 cups (270g) raw almonds

1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel

1/2 teaspoon Piment d’Espelette

Generous 1/8th teaspoon ground cinnamon

 

  1. Mix the water, sugar and nuts in a large, heavy-duty skillet. Put the pan over medium-to-high heat and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the sugar dissolves and the liquid boils.

 

  1. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking and stirring until the liquid crystallizes and becomes sandy, which will take about 12 minutes. Soon after the “sand” has appeared, the sugar will begin to liquefy and caramelize. As you cook the nuts, remove the pan from the heat from time to time, to prevent the caramel from burning so that the nuts can cook. The nuts will begin to pop and you’ll begin to smell their toasty aroma, after about 12 minutes. Most, but not all, of the sugar will be melted.

 

  1. At this point, remove the pan from the heat, sprinkle the nuts with the spices, stir so they are mixed, and tip them onto a baking sheet to cool. When the nuts are cool, break up any that arestuck together. Serve when these are completely cool.

 

 

Makes about 3 cups.

 

This Post Has 18 Comments

    1. Susan

      Time for you to come for Heaven part II – with hazelnuts.

  1. Sheri K

    Oh my! Not sure I need yet another addiction. 🙂 Thank you for sharing.

    1. Susan

      But of course you need another addiction. Like any, this one too can be tamed!

  2. This sounds fantastic, thanks. For years I made a recipe from Martha Stewart, this lookes even better.
    Have a look at your first sentence, the rest of the message is totally clear.
    THANKS AGAIN for all of your information and courage to continue cooking in winter.

    1. Susan

      Geraldine! Many thanks!! Yes, winter is one of the best times to cook when the drizzle and the cold and the grey get to you.

  3. Kelly

    Just made these fantastic almonds! Thanks for a wonderful recipe Susan. I can imagine giving these a holiday gifts–what a beautiful and easy thing to do!

    1. Susan

      So glad you love them!!!!

  4. Lindsay Kinder

    Yum these are my absolute favorite!! Thanks for the photos detailing the process!

    1. Susan

      Lindsay – photos vital. Most people think that the sandy stage = failure. It’s just part of the process!

  5. Kat

    My Mother used to make these as Christmas presents for all the old Aunties. We made Jars and Jars of them to give away. 30 yrs ago when I moved out of home I started making them for Christmas presents for my friends. I will have to rekindle this delicious family tradition this Christmas season.

  6. Penny

    OK. I just made these Susan and I have to say that you were spot on in your directions! The photos really helped too. I even timed them and the 12 minutes was perfect. I am trying not to eat them until they are cooled. I will be adding some of them to a tossed red lettuce salad with apples, celery and feta with a balsamic vinaigrette and the rest will be saved for sharing with friends with glasses of wine.

    1. Susan

      So glad they worked and yes, I thought the pix would help. PUtting them in salad…what a great idea!!!

    1. Susan

      Why thank you! And your friends will thank you too!

  7. Tami Foxworthy

    They look divine, thanks for recipe. That is the most unusual plate I have ever seen, what brand is it and where did you get it?

    1. Susan

      Hello, the almonds ARE divine, and the dish is a bowl, one I bought in Sarajevo. They’re hand-painted in Bosnia, folk craft. They come in every color and are absolutely gorgeous! I don’t have any more information than that, but I’m sure you can find them somewhere.

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