Suzi's Blog

Roasting Nut and Coconut

Baking, particularly cookies, often involves nuts or coconut. And there in that recipe you’ll see the suggestion that they be toasted.

My first reaction: ah, gee, do I have to? I revert to being a 6-year old told to clean up his room. The thing is, toasting these ingredients really is important to bring out their full flavor and give you the right “bite.” You’ve probably paid dearly for those nuts. Now, you don’t want to waste them.

Of course, if you are going to do it, you need to do it well and that means paying some attention to time and temperature. You can’t just put the oven on, toss things in, wait a few minutes and get the best results.

For nuts, use a 350⁰F oven and these very different times for the nuts:

Nut Type

Baking Time in Minutes

Almonds (sliced)

7-10

Almonds (whole)

10

Chestnuts

25

Hazelnuts

12-15

Macadamia nuts

12-15

Pecans

10-15

Pine Nuts

5

Walnuts

10-15

 

Yes, watch those tiny pine nuts. They need little time and an extra 30 seconds can give you some pretty disgusting black stones.

For coconut, pie expert Ken Haedrich suggests using a non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. You want the white coconut to adopt a golden hue, which should take no more than 3-4 minutes. Ah, distractions. Just one phone call, one kid question, one issue on the side and that coconut has been cooking for five minutes and you have black carbon.

So, as a slower, safer alternative, use a cooler 325⁰F oven and a cookie sheet. I line the sheet with foil. Bake for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The golden color and perfect aroma are your clues to doneness.

Sources: Ken Haedrick in Pie and BonAppetite.com

Candied Bacon Cashews

This recipe is for anyone who loves cashews, bacon, and sugar. Okay, it’s not a kosher recipe, but in that case you can see how to quickly modify this for use in Israel, Muslim lands, or places where bacon is not loved.

This is a brilliant way to serve up cashews in a different format. You keep the nut taste, but the augmentation of bacon and sweetness is very wonderful. You may not have ever had cashews cooked in sugar syrup before. It’s an experience and the flavor does intensity besides sweetening.

The recipe calls for a 4 cups of nuts, which seems like a lot, but really isn’t. This will be the top dog appetizer at a party, or for a small friends and family gathering watching a weekend ballgame. There are, believe it or not, alternatives to salsa and chips.

Candied Bacon Cashews

Yield: 5 cups

Ingredients: 

  • 1/4 pound slab bacon, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 cups raw cashews (about 1 1/4 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • Smoked sea salt (see Note)

Preparation:

In a small skillet, cook the bacon until browned, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon,transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Measure out 1 tablespoon of the rendered bacon fat and reserve.

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar with 1/2  cup of water and bring to a boil. Add the cashews and cook over high heat, stirring constantly, until golden, about 8 minutes. Stir in the butter and the reserved 1 tablespoon of bacon fat and cook over low heat, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in the diced bacon and season with smoked salt. Let cool completely, then serve.

NOTE: Smoked sea salt is available at specialty food stores  from surlatable.com.

Source: Food and Wine Cocktails 2012