Over the holidays Mike and I were given an amazing gift basket from Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, MI – famously portrayed as Jason Segal’s sandwich making domain in The Five Year Engagement. The basket had brownies, cheddar cheese, smoked sausage and a ton of other dangerously delicious goodies, but the unexpected gem of the basket was the small bag of Spiced Pecans.
Normally chocolate is my jam but these were addictive. Each pecan was generously encased in a sweet and surprisingly spicy mixture of ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and black pepper – all the better if you could find a cluster that had a little extra coating. We had to consciously ration them to keep from inhaling the entire contents. I mean, ridiculous. So, I resolved to figure out the recipe and recreate these amazing treats so we wouldn’t have to wait for next year’s basket.
I read a ton of recipes, including Zingerman’s, and taste-tested until I got just the right balance of sugar and spice – a hard job right? The heat is layered, the coating is crunchy, and the mellow nutty flavor of the pecans still comes through. I hope you’ll try these and let me know how you like them.
Sugar & Spice Candied Pecans (yield: 3 cups)
5 tablespoons room temperature butter
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 ¼ teaspoons ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large egg white
1 pound (3 cups) pecan halves
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the granulated sugar, salt, black pepper, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, cardamom, ginger and nutmeg. Mix until the spices are evenly distributed through the sugar.
Add the butter – very soft room temperature, but not melted – is key. Use a fork to mash together until the butter is totally combined with the sugar and spice mixture and resembles dark, wet sand.
In a small bowl separate the egg and beat the egg white until frothy. Add the egg white to the sugar and spice mixture and mix well until pale brown and opaque.
Stir the pecan halves into the sugar and spice mixture until well coated.
Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheets with aluminum foil (this is essential!) and spread the coated pecans out evenly. Bake for 18-20 minutes, checking and using a rubber spatula to gently move the nuts around at the 10, 7, and finally 3 minute mark until deep golden brown. Watch carefully especially during the final 3 minutes of baking to prevent the nuts from burning.
Slide the aluminum foil off the baking sheet and onto a wire rack. Allow the pecans to cool completely before serving.
Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes! I used a medium mixing bowl, two small bowls, one baking sheet, a wire rack, a rubber spatula, table fork, and measuring cups and spoons.
I put out some for our SuperBowl “Don’t Call it a Party” Hang-out last night and was pleased to see that these Sugar & Spice Candied Pecans were as popular as I hoped they’d be. Mike declared the flavor spot on, and since a bowl of these babies is in serious danger when I’m around they’re a good thing to make when we have guests! I could also see sprinkling a few on a salad, maybe along side some slices of pear or with a small wedge of gorgonzola?