Friday, June 15, 2012

Roast-Your-Own Gourmet Honey Sesame Cherry Almonds


Everywhere we turn, there is yet another nutrition story giving testimony to the health benefits of almonds.  It’s a “superfood” that could even help you lose weight!  It’s a “good fat” that gives you energy!  You should keep bags of almonds around as substitutes for unhealthy snacks!  Well it’s a good thing that they are so good for us, because they are also very tasty to boot and can be somewhat addictive.

So, everywhere we turn, there is yet another almond product that is being sold, another nut mix that is being advertised.  Will and I have consumed several of these products, and perhaps some of our favorite mixes are part of the Sahale Snacks line.  We find their Barbecue Almonds (Mild Chipotle + Ranch) almost too salty to let the other flavors through, but both Glazed Almonds (Cranberries, Honey + Sea Salt) and Pomegranate Pistachios (with Almonds, Cherries + Black Pepper) are excellent.  We look forward to trying out more varieties.  (Here's a link to their products if you are interested in seeing more varieties: http://sahalesnacks.com/products.aspx

In the meantime, I decided to try roasting my own nuts, and I’ve had a fair amount of success with these attempts.

Pictured below is Maple Rosemary Mixed Nut Roast, with walnuts, pecans, and almonds:


A simple Honey Smoked Almonds might actually be Will’s favorite:


Probably the most versatile mix—one that includes dried fruits, another good-food item—is Honey Sesame Cherry Almonds.  Although I originally intended to replicate Sahale’s Glazed Almonds, my mix turned out quite different—more sesame-y, less sweet, less glazed.  Not better, but different.  Here’s my recipe:

Honey Sesame Cherry Almonds

Ingredients:

3 cups almonds (unroasted)
½ cup dried cherries halved (or ½ cup dried cranberries)
¼ cup sesame seeds (untoasted)
¼ cup honey
2 T butter
(Optional dash of cayenne pepper or a small splash of vanilla extract)
Kosher salt, to taste
Turbinado sugar, to taste

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Mix almonds, cherries, and sesame seeds in a large bowl.


2.  Microwave honey and butter together in a measuring cup at 10-15 second intervals until the butter is melted and the mixture is combined (stirring between intervals).  Lightly salt (more of that later) and, if you are using cayenne or vanilla, add to the mixture in cup.  Combine well and then pour the liquid over the nut mix and stir well to coat almonds.


3.  Spread the mixture in a single layer on a half-sheet pan (large baking sheet with raised sides).  Roast for 25 minutes, making sure that you take the pan out of the oven to stir about halfway through the cooking time.  Stir again after the full roasting time.  Carefully (they will be hot!) taste one to see if the nut is roasted to your liking.  If you want it a bit more roasted—browner, crunchier—you can return the pan to the oven for another 3-5 minutes.  I do not recommend roasting for longer since nuts will get a little harder, and cook a bit more, as it cools on the sheet. 

4.  Once the nut mix is out of the oven, sprinkle some kosher salt and turbinado sugar evenly over the still slightly wet nuts.  You could start with ¼ teaspoon increments of salt and ½ teaspoon increments of sugar and then continue according to your taste.  Mix well, cool completely, and then take a fork to break apart nuts that stuck together.


Note: Adding the salt and sugar at this stage insures that they adhere to the nuts (providing that perfect combination of salty and sweet).  The addition also helps the mix become less sticky.  You will probably find yourself periodically taking a fork to break apart nuts that stick together, but hopefully you will eat them all before the process gets too tiresome.

Now you have your own gourmet nut mix that costs just a fraction of those you purchase!





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