“That long-drawn, wavering howl has, for all its fearful resonance, some inherent sadness in it, as if the beasts would love to be less beastly if only they knew how and never cease to mourn their own condition. There is a vast melancholy in the canticles of the wolves, melancholy infinite as the forest, endless as these long nights of Winter and yet that ghastly sadness, that mourning for their own irremediable appetites, can never move the heart for not one phrase in it hints at the possibility of redemption; grace could not come to the world from its own despair, only through some external mediator, so that sometimes, the beast will look as if he half welcomes the knife that despatches him.” - Angela Carter, from The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories.
This is just a quick post that I wanted to share before the holiday season hits full and final swing. I’ve been making these crystallized nuts for years. They’re reliable, never-fail, and ideal for a multitude of sweet purposes, best used to adorn cakes, tarts, as exuberant snacks or last-minute edible gifts. I even took a small batch with me on the plane a few days ago. I do love them best for winter though. Their ornate, gilded, and frosted sugared shells seems to convey the full breadth and opulence of the season. Now is a time for decadence and let’s have it.
- The basic method for crystallization is adapted from Paris Pastry Club by Fanny Zanotti, with my amendments. I use edible gold dust powder here. It isn’t too hard to find and unlike true gold leaf, it isn’t expensive either. You can easily source it online or in specialty stores, mostly stores that sell or specialize in cake decorating tools. Please ensure that the edible gold powder dust you are using is food-safe beforehand. The pigment of the gold will also likely depend on the brand you are using too. I’ve left the measurement here at 1-2 teaspoons, so adjust for strength accordingly.
- This isn’t a complicated recipe, but it does require attention to timing. We’re working with sugar which sometimes can be a little temperamental. You’ll want to have all your ingredients weighed and set out ready to go when needed.
- I like to use a mixture of walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans but this recipe can be altered to work with any combination you desire. I do recommend using walnuts or pecans in the mix. They remind me of little golden nuggets from the gold rush and their deep-roasted flavor really compliments all the sugary-spices within.
Gold Encrusted Crystallized Nuts
350 grams | 2 ½ cups mixed nuts (walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews etc)
200 grams | 1 cup granulated sugar
40 milliliters | 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons water
1-2 teaspoons edible gold powder dust
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon smoked fleur de sel or salt
Begin by roasting the nuts. Pre-heat the oven to 180 Celsius. Line a large baking sheet with non-stick parchment paper. Scatter the nuts over the top and into an even and flat layer. Roast for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through baking and stirring the nuts, until evenly golden brown and fragrant. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely at room temperature. Don’t discard the baking sheet and paper, you’ll need it later.
Next, place the sugar and water into a large saucepan set over medium-low heat. Heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat to medium. Continue to cook until you begin to notice the first signs of caramelization appearing in the syrup. It should be at a vigorous boil. Don’t allow the mixture to reach full caramelization. It’s done as soon as you begin to see light golden-brown color forming around the edges or middle of the saucepan. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Moving quickly, use a large wooden spoon to stir in the nuts, gold, cinnamon, and salt. Keep stirring fast and vigorously until the mixture is no longer a syrup but has hardened to form a solid sugar-coated crust around the nuts. The more air that is incorporated, the faster the syrup will reach crystallization and set.
Transfer from the saucepan and onto the baking sheet to cool completely before using or packaging. The nuts are best kept for up to three weeks stored at room temperature, in an airtight container and in a cool dark place.