Today, I’m going to let you peak behind the curtain. I don’t have photos for the hot mess that I’m about to share with you (my hands were covered in curry powder, so pardon me for not running to grab my Canon), but I have a description.

Picture this: a recipe for gingered, curried almonds, the perfect salty/ savory/ spicy snack to add to your gift baskets. A three-pound bag of almonds in your freezer that you bought so long ago, they feel free. You assemble the ingredients: almonds, butter, sugar, and spices, and get to work.

jarred spicy almonds

Guys, I followed the recipe exactly. I don’t know what happened. Or rather, I know what happened, but I don’t understand why it happened. See, the recipe said to add the sugar and spices to the butter and melt it all together for about 5 minutes on the stove, until the sugar dissolved. It was supposed to make a glaze.

Instead (and I’m trying to paint a word picture here, so bear with me), what happened was this: The mixture bubbled and separated. The sugar and spices all clung to one another, refusing to dissolve or emulsify. The butter swirled around, failing to incorporate the spices. Eventually, I took the “glaze” off the heat and poured it over the almonds, hoping that adding in the almonds would mean things would sort themselves out.

spicy almonds, close-up

They. Did. Not.

As I used my hands to toss the almonds with the glaze, the butter separated from the other ingredients even further. It was like the spices and sugar were seeking each other out, eager to huddle together for refuge from the butter and almonds. Eventually, I had buttery almonds and a huge, Play-Doh-like lump of spices in the middle of the pan.

Four years ago, I would have panicked. I would have thrown it all out, cried, and never made roasted almonds again. As it was, I still needed to call in reinforcements to know how to proceed, but I was pretty sure all was not lost. D is a lot better than I am at rescuing that which threatens to be lost, so he helped me redirect this project, suggested a spice mixture, and even suggested an explanation that made this strange paste failure not my fault. (Yes!)

Instead of the original recipe, I wound up with something radically different, but still complex and delicious. And now you all know that what happens on this blog isn’t magic, or even talent. It’s success, over and over again, snatched from the jaws of defeat.

spiced almonds

Sweet and Spicy Roasted Almonds
Makes 2 cups
Note: The chile and cayenne powder measurements are approximations– use more or less to your taste. Don’t be afraid to taste an almond to see what you think you need to do. Feel free to substitute another spicy mixture– curry powder, Thai spices, or pumpkin pie spices would also be great here, even with the cayenne.
Also, I wish I had cooked mine longer, as I really wanted them to be more crisp than they were, but I was afraid of burning them. Use the timing here as a guide, and don’t let the nuts burn, but err on the side of “more done.”

You will need:
2 cups raw almonds
4 tbsp. butter, melted
1/4 c. granulated sugar
2 tbsp. chile powder
1 tbsp. cayenne
Kosher salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350.

Spread almonds in one layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Roast almonds, dry, for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine sugar, chile powder, and cayenne in a small bowl and set aside.

Let the almonds cool until they are cool enough to touch. Pour the melted butter over the almonds and toss with a spoon or your hands to coat.

Using a spoon or your hands (I just got messy), sprinkle the almonds with the sugar-spice mixture and toss again. Shake the pan so that the almonds are again in one layer.

Roast another 15-20 minutes, until almonds are dry-ish. Sprinkle with kosher salt while still warm, then let cool completely. Store in an airtight container up to 1 month.

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