Friday, October 07, 2011

Chai candied pecans

October 2, 2011
This week one of Melbourne's foodiest tweeters, eatnik, moved interstate. We bid her farewell and helped deplete her alcohol stocks on Sunday afternoon. Since the booze was taken care of she suggested we bring snacks to soak it all up. I started out with our ol' favourite cashew crack recipe, substituting macadamias as recommended by commenters Stephen & Michelle. They worked well but I didn't have enough lemon zest for a big batch.

Reluctant to shop, I returned to the recipe source 28 Cooks and our pantry for more inspiration. I was game for the chilli chai walnuts, although pecans were the best option in front of me. I was prepared for failure - eating the chai leaves directly seems a bit risky, right? - but actually they were great. My lesser failing was too light a hand with the cayenne. Ours is pretty potent and I erred on the side of completely undetectable. Whoops.

The persistent challenge with these candied nut recipes is working with the sugar. Cook it too little and it makes ugly white clumps on the nuts; cook it too long and it all burns to black. Burny-est of all is the stirring spoon, dripping with caramel that'll scorch your tongue when you want it most.

Chai candied pecans
(adapted slightly from a recipe on 28 Cooks)

1 chai tea bag, about 2 teaspoons ground leaves
1 cup pecans
1/4 cup castor sugar
cayenne pepper, to taste
pinch of salt

Line a baking tray with paper.

Cut open the tea bag and check out the leaves. You need them pretty well ground, so bash them through a mortar and pestle or spice grinder if they're too coarse. Set them aside.

In a saucepan, stir together the pecans and sugar over medium-high heat. Keep stirring them regularly to ensure they don't burn, for up to 10 minutes, as the sugar melts and coats the nuts. Add the chai, cayenne and salt, stirring them well through the pecans.

Tip the nuts out across the tray, spreading them out as best you can and leaving them to cool. Once they're cool break any stuck-together nuts apart, serve 'em up or store them in an airtight container for later.