Christmas markets are an essential part of Christmas season here in Germany and when I woke up this morning and turned on the radio, the DJ mentioned that it was finally time for the first markets to open their doors today! What a nice thing to wake up to. Caramelized nuts, usually almonds, can be found at every other stand and I would always ask my parents to buy me a bag whenever we went to one of those Christmas markets. Unfortunately a lot of sellers will use butter to prepare the glaze, but it is incredibly easy to make them at home and I thought today would be a perfect day to show you how I prepare them. :)
RECIPE FOR CARAMELIZED ALMONDS
1 cup almonds
4 tbs brown sugar
2 tbs water
1) Put all ingredients into a microwave-safe bowl and mix well. The sugar does not need to be dissolved.
2) Grease a large plate with a thin layer of oil.
3) Place bowl in microwave and microwave on high (see notes) for 3-4 minutes. You only want to stir once, after 1-2 minutes, and ONLY if you're using a large bowl. Not stirring will give you an even and see through glaze that you might not archive when stirring the mixture.
4) Put on your oven mitts and remove the bowl from the microwave. Pour almonds onto the greased plate and let cool down to room temperature. You may need to use a spoon to get the almonds out, the faster you are the better as the sugar will harden quickly.
• Sugar Brown sugar here in Germany is different compared to what I've encountered abroad. In my experience brown sugar in other places of the world is often sold in tightly sealed plastic bags to keep the sugar slightly moist. Here in Germany brown sugar is granulated and dry, much like ordinary white sugar. I'm not sure if this will make a difference in the recipe, but I wanted to mention it in case anyone encounters problems. If your almonds come out funky, try using 2tbs of white sugar and 2 tbs of brown sugar instead. 1 tbs of white and 3 tbs of brown sugar could work well too.
• Microwaves Cooking time will vary from microwave to microwave. 3 minutes on 900 watt did the trick for me. The almonds started to make a few 'popping' sounds towards the end, you can probably take them out if you hear that sound.
• Try to be patient and let the almonds cool down completely before you try them. The almonds will taste a bit weird straight out of the microwave (and hot, don't burn yourselves :)), but they'll be nice and crunchy once they've cooled down.
You don't have to use almonds, of course. Other nuts, like hazelnuts or macademia nuts for example, would be just as good.
• Salted Caramel
Add 1/4 tsp of coarse sea salt for a sweet and salty combination. (before microwaving would be easiest. Though you could sprinkle it on the nuts after, but you'll have to be quick or else it won't stick!)
• Cinnamon Caramel
Add 1 tsp ground cinnamon before microwaving.
• Ginger Caramel
Add 1/2 tsp dried ground ginger before microwaving.
• Using extracts
You could use a couple of drops of extract, like vanilla, to add some extra flavour.
Add grated dried coconut, cocoa nibs or other sprinkles after you transfer the nuts from microwave to plate. Be quick or the sprinkles may not stick, because the sugar will harden quickly!