Honey Roasted Almond Clusters: Fail proof?

thumbnail_IMG_2273Like usual, I was in my kitchen thinking of something sweet to get my hands on. It was one of the chiller nights of the year and the thought of roasting came to mind. I definitely associated roasting with the winter and although it was not winter by any means (it was 65 out) it was a bit breezy and therefore I qualified it as a fally, slightly wintery evening.  All I could think about was my grandma’s roasted, candied pecans at thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. Sweet, crunchy and satisfying. Well maybe satisfying isn’t the right word, considering I tend to eat them until the container is empty, but definitely sweet and crunchy.  These particular pecans are awesome, but I knew I didn’t want all the added sugars that came with making them. I decided to take a more wholesome route without the brown sugar and corn syrup: Honey roasted almonds (almonds were the only nut I had handy).

Although this was my first time roasting almonds (or any kind of nut), I knew this wasn’t going to be just another honey roasted almond where the honey is the seventh or eighth ingredient on a label where sugar is the second or third. Honey was going to be the star of this show. Because roasting is a slower process, I set the oven temperature to 240. To make covering the almonds easier, I put about half a cup of pure, organic honey in a medium saucepan on medium heat and brought it to a boil. When the honey was bubbling, I added a splash of vanilla and a little bit of sea salt for taste. Then went in about two cups of whole almonds. I stirred the almonds in the thin honey until the almonds were completely coated in the golden substance. After greasing a baking sheet, I dispersed the almonds evenly throughout the sheet. I then proceeded to put a very good amount of effort into making sure I got every last drop of honey out of the saucepan. I sprinkled some cinnamon and gave the almonds a stir before throwing them in the oven.

thumbnail_IMG_2274  I kept in eye on the almonds, checking up on them every 30 minutes or so. To be completely honest, I wasn’t even sure what to look for. I saw that they were definitely getting darker in color, but I knew that that could be misleading because of the caramelization of the honey. At about an hour and a half I decided to get them out and let them begin cooling.   I would have left them in there longer had my roommate not insisted we watch a movie upstairs. I also figured that undercooked was better than overcooked aka burnt and playing it safe was the route to go. I sprinkled more cinnamon and waited for them to cool. It didn’t take long for the honey to start hardening around the almonds. After about 15 minutes the honey was still tacky, similar to the texture of caramel. When I was ready to go to bed, the almonds were still a bit malleable so I spooned them into an air tight container.

The next day I went to grab a couple and to my surprise they were rock solid; the almonds had hardened in the shape of the container! With a couple of breaks, the almonds were now in sweet, bite-size clusters.  The earthy taste that comes from roasting emphasized the almond flavor beautifully. The honey created a glossy, sweet coating with great crunch and the cinnamon was such an excellent addition because it took the flavor to a whole new level.  Then again, when is cinnamon ever a bad idea? I was hooked instantly; I could not stop eating them. Beginners luck maybe?

thumbnail_IMG_2270Beginners luck or not, the almonds were a complete success. I will be making this recipe again soon and will be trying it on different nuts throughout the holiday season. What better snack to bring to Thanksgiving dinner than some naturally sweetened almonds? I advise evenly distributing the roasted nuts when they are slightly cooled and still malleable into a cupcake tin for uniform, perfectly sweet (and easy to eat) nut clusters.

 

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