Spiced Walnut Puffs: Ugly but Tasty
Spiced Nuts With a Twist
This recipe came about because I decided the usual spiced nut was OK, but not interesting enough. A basic spiced nut—whether made with the usual walnut or pecan or some other nut—is coated in a bath of slightly beaten egg white and dipped in sugar or some kind of mixture of sugar and spices. In other words, we have a little glaze over a very visible nut.
However, I have a thing for egg whites beaten into nice, soft peaks, and I wondered what kind of flavor I would get if I coated those walnuts with those highly beaten egg whites—particularly if I added a little vanilla. You can’t see really see the nuts, but the result was delicious. This is not a meringue, because the sugar mixture used is not beaten into the egg whites. The egg white, after encasing the nut, is coated with the sugar mixture.
Spiced walnut puffs, although not a thing of beauty, have a more interesting taste. As it bakes, the egg white expands around the nut as it cooks, resulting in a delicate, flavorful outer coating around the solid baked nut. The little puffs are fragile, crumbling easily if you manhandle them. But who cares? Ugly or not, crumbly or not, taste and texture (that fragile texture adds to the flavor) are far more important.
One note about ingredients: Since large eggs vary a little in size, how much egg white is available will vary a little, too. So you may use anything from three-quarters of a cup of English walnuts to one cup.
- 3/4 to 1 cup English walnuts
- 1 egg white, from a large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/16 teaspoon salt
- Pinch clove
- 2 small bowls
- Measuring spoons
- Measuring cups
- Egg beater
- 2 spoons or one pair of tongs and one spoon
- 2 cookie sheets
- Parchment paper in lieu of greasing the cookie sheet with butter or margarine
- Butter the cookie sheets or line them with parchment paper. Heat the oven to 300º Fahrenheit.
- Measure out the walnuts and set aside.
- In one bowl, mix together the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and clove.
- Crack the egg white into the second bowl and add the vanilla. Beat until the egg white has made soft peaks.
- A few nuts at a time, drop them into the egg white mixture, coat them, remove them with tongs or a spoon, and move them to the sugar mixture. Use a second spoon to coat the nuts (or gently shake the bowl); then, with the spoon, remove them and place them on the cookie sheet. Repeat the process until all the nuts are done.
- Optional step: You can very lightly sprinkle the nuts with salt.
- Place the cookie sheets in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes. You might go 1-2 minutes longer. At about 10 minutes, start watching for a golden brown appearance and a cohesiveness to the outer casing (see the picture at the beginning of the article).
- When done, remove the nuts from the oven and let cool for a few minutes.
- Next, use the spatula to move them to a plate to cool. When completely cooled, store them loosely in a box, tin, or jar. They can be kept on the counter for a few days. After that, they will keep nicely in the refrigerator for several weeks.
The adventuresome may wish to try other types of nuts and/or spice combinations. Unsalted cashews work nicely. But stick to a slow oven. Do not try to speed the baking process, as the egg white mixture may catch and burn on the bottom. Should you overcook your nuts, don’t throw them out. They will still taste pretty good. But they taste better if not left in the oven too long.
Do not try to turn the beaten egg whites into a meringue, that is do not beat the sugar/spice mixture into the egg whites. The result is terrible. Stick to coating the egg white/nut with the mixture.
© 2020 Teddi DiCanio