Possibly the greatest black walnut recipe of all time, these candied walnuts, coated with a caramel of dark sugar caramel and sea salt are a trick I learned on the job. With a little practice, you can make them too-just don't expect them to last long.
I used to work with a pastry chef who made these delicious, crunchy, salty, sweet candied hazelnuts. I got scolded more than once for snatching the candied nuts out of their mise en place.
Eventually I just asked one of the pastry chefs for the recipe; she refused to give it to me. I didn't forget those nuts though!
It took a couple months of searching for recipes and comparing, but I finally found the method they had been using to make those stinking nuts. Afterwards, I played with the recipe and found I could use it to candy any nut in the same way.
After I started to use it on other nuts, I began to get bored with original recipe after eating them non stop for months on end. I started to add different things, spices, hot chilis, different sugars like agave or honey, combinations of sorghum, barley malt and molasses. I made piles of them, and gave the experiments out as presents and gifts.
I'm telling you, every single time people eat these things for the first time, they fall in love, just like I did. I'm using black walnuts here, but you can use any nut or seed you like, the proportions are always the same, although using black walnuts or hazelnuts which have been rubbed of their skin make a particularly delicious croquant.
Since there are only a scant few ingredients, it's really important to use very high quality stuff, get the largest nut meats you can afford, or care to buy. Essentially this is the same method that many candied nut sellers will use at state fairs, where they have huge rotating drums that constantly stir the nuts and sugar to promote even cooking.
All I have done is adapt it for the home kitchen Here's the recipe I recreated, with a couple fun variations to try after you have made the first one.
Black Walnut Croquant or Candied Black Walnuts
- 1 heavy 3 quart sauce pot
- 2 cups untoasted black walnuts Rubbed gently of their skins
- ½ cup white sugar
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
- Read the entire recipe before you begin, and make sure you have a cookie sheet lined with a silpat or another nonstick surface at the ready.
- In a 2 qt or similar saucepan, preferably heavy stainless or cast iron (no aluminum here unless you're experienced--it's too thin and uneven) heat the nuts and sugar on medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. The sugar will start to clump and crystalize a bit this is normal, it may take a bit depending on your pan.
- After roughly 5 minutes the sugar should start to melt and change color do a light amber. Continue stirring constantly with the wooden spoon to prevent burning, and to encourage even toasting of the nuts. If the sugar isn't melted yet, don't worry, just keep stirring.
- The sugar will liquify and get loose as it gets darker. Once the sugar is completely melted and dark amber colored, the nuts should smell nice and toasty, but not be burnt. Take it off the heat immediately.
- Quickly transfer the nuts to a silpat, cookie sheet, or other nonstick surface (in a pinch I've spread them out in a cast iron skillet).
- Spread the molted hot nut mixture into an even layer, season with the salt while it is still hot and sticky, you don't want to stir in the salt since it will destroy the individual flakes of salt, making them melt.
- Cool the nuts completely.
- After the nuts are cool, they will be brittle, and likely in one large, giant hunk. break off small bite size pieces of the croquant and store in an air tight container. The candied nuts will keep for a few weeks stored in a cool dark place.
I find black walnuts exceptionally strong tasting;, so I'd have thought to decrease portions of them in a recipe for another nut, or did I miss something when reading this blog post?
Sam Schaperow, M.S.
Hi Sam. Some people find black walnuts strong tasting, this is very true. I like them, and we use them in many different ways, like ice cream, vinaigrettes, sauces, etc. If you find their flavor too strong, use a different nut, or maybe cut them 50/50 with regular walnuts or another nut of your choice.
I can see mixing it w/another nut, or even reducing the quantities of nuts as options.
Also, I'm confused about what black walnuts do better with than walnuts or other nuts. I see them as substitutes for other nuts, but i don't recall seeing a recipe that showcases them in a way where they work better than other nuts (e.g., a recipe will ordinarily use walnuts, but one would sub these in). Maybe w/how people have different tastes, there's not a best nut for a recipe.
On the other hand, cashew nut cream, a staple at some vegan restaurants, seems to do a lot better w/this application than most other nuts. I find hazelnut mixed w/chocolate (e.g. Nutella) to work better than almonds or peanuts (a legume, btw) for that application, and at least popularly, hazelnuts are the best. So, what is the secret or other-culturally (perhaps native Americans who've used them for ages?) known way of doing w/black walnuts what few to no other nuts can compare to.
Going to try this today. I guess you either love or hate black walnuts. I love them and can’t believe I haven’t thought of sugar coating. Also, although I can easily afford to buy all I want I sit for days or weeks processing my black walnuts by hand. I’m sure they must be just a bit tastier than buying some. I have one walnut tree that has provided nearly 80 gallons of unprocessed nut. I’m guessing but I’ll probably have at least 12 quarts once they are processed. Can’t wait to try this recipe.
Let me know how it works for you.
took forever to get the sugar to first crystallize then melt. Perhaps my heat was a bit low however I was already above medium...in any case when it did start to come together and be syrup like it happened lightening fast and I had to not only get the saucepan off the heat but get the nuts on the Silpat ASAP
I think a bit of it was borderline burnt but it has just now cooled off and man is is freaking delicious....Kosher salt is crucial IMO
Wayne, thanks for commenting. I should take a look at the recipe directions and make sure they're clear. Yes, sugar work like this is tricky, that's why they usually do it with automated machines nowdays instead of elbow grease. It can take a few tries to dial in the color you want, but once you taste it done to your liking, I agree it's freaking delicious, and yeah the salt makes them extra addictive. Thanks for giving them a shot. A
going to try this again however this time I am going to add some dried cranberries, not too many but I think it was missing something like that.