Cinnamon Sugar Spiced Nuts – A Comforting Snack

cinnamon spiced nuts

My son and I recently went to the BBC Good Food Show, and while we were there we bought some absolutely delicious cinnamon coated nuts. They were so scrumptious, and we were sad when they had all gone. I decided to have a go at making some myself.

I tried a few recipes with varying success. Some just made the nuts very sticky and then set so hard I couldn’t separate the nuts at all. The best ones used egg whites, so I knew that was the way I was going to go with mine. One thing they all lacked though was the cinnamon hit that I had loved so much at the Food Show. I love the taste of cinnamon. It is one of my all-time favourite flavours. My family share my love of the sweet spice too, so I knew I needed to add plenty to get the recipe perfect. Some recipes add vanilla to the mix. I personally preferred it without, but you can add some for even more sweetness if you want. Most recipes also add salt. That is an ingredient I very rarely use. I only add it to recipes where it is needed to cause certain reactions with other ingredients. If you fancy a sweet and salty kick though, by all means add a little bit.

cinnamon spiced nuts

I tried using different types of nut, and discovered that some work better than others. Hazelnuts and almonds are very hard, and I found they needed a lot longer in the oven at a lower temperature to get the right texture. Pecans, walnuts and cashews are not as naturally crunchy and these turned out to be our favourites for this recipe. The cinnamon coating is very crispy when the nuts have cooled, so the contrast in textures just adds even more pleasure to eating them. You can use just one type of nut or use a combination like I did. Pecans and walnuts hold more of the coating due to their bumpy surface, whereas the smoothness of cashews gives them a thin covering. All equally delicious. Don’t use ones that are already roasted or toasted though!

I have made these both with cinnamon as the only spice, and with speculaas spice mix instead. You don’t need as much speculaas spice as just cinnamon, as the other spices in speculaas add a lot more depth of flavour. I would definitely recommend trying them with speculaas spice mix though. Whether you use cinnamon or speculaas, your whole house will smell amazing while they are in the oven!

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CINNAMON SUGAR SPICED NUTS

1 large egg white

1 tbsp cold water

350g pecans, walnuts or cashews, or combination of all 3

200g granulated sugar

2 tbsp ground cinnamon, or 1 tbsp Speculaas spice mix (you can use more or less to taste)

 

  • Preheat your oven to 140c/130c fan. Line a shallow baking tray with foil and then lightly grease the foil with butter.
  • In a small bowl mix the sugar and cinnamon (or speculaas spice) together.
  • Pour the egg white and water into a large bowl and whisk until it is white and foamy, like the bubbles when you wash the dishes. Don’t whisk too much or it will be too dry. You don’t want to get it to a meringue stage!
  • Tip the nuts into the bowl and mix well until every nut is covered in the egg white.

  • Add the cinnamon sugar to the bowl and mix until the nuts are completely coated and there is no egg white foam showing. (Don’t forget, cashews won’t hold as much of the coating as pecans and walnuts so don’t worry if they don’t look as coated… they will hold more after some time in the oven).

  • Tip the nuts on to the baking tray and spread them out to make a single layer. Some might stick together, but that is normal).

  • Place in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes, stirring and spreading them back into one layer every 15 minutes to help them cook evenly. You’ll find the cashews take on more of the coating after the first stir too. When you take them out of the oven at the end of the 45 minutes, stir them up. They should look nice and dry. If they look slightly wet or sticky, just pop them back in the oven for another 10 minutes.

  • Leave to cool completely on the tray, then store in an airtight container.

When the nuts are cooled and you are transferring them to a container for storage, you’ll find lots of crunchy bits of the coating that are left on the tray.

Don’t throw these away! They taste soooooooo good. Put these into a little jar too as they make a heavenly sweet crispy topping to sprinkle over ice cream or other desserts. You can see my little jar on the left in the photo below.

candied nuts

If you want to try them with speculaas spices I would recommend the vandotsch speculaas mix, availableĀ HERE.

I can guarantee you will want to make these again and again as they are totally addictive. I asked for recommendations on Twitter for the best places to buy large packs of nuts, and after checking out each one I am happy to recommend you buy them from GRAPE TREE. Their 1kg packs are the cheapest I have seen and I know from experience that they only sell top quality ingredients.

I hope you love them as much as we do. Let me know if you try them šŸ™‚

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BakedIn Gin and Tonic Cupcake Kit – Sophisticated Cupcakes for Grown-Ups

The lovely people at BakedIn recently sent me their latest kit to try, as they knew how much I adored their Prosecco and Strawberry Cake kit ( CLICK HEREĀ to read what I thought of that one).

As with all of their amazing kits, you receive all the dry ingredients you need to make the cakes, as well as extra items to help make the baking experience more convenient. With this new range of alcoholic recipes, you also receive the bottles of alcohol!

In this Gin and Tonic Cupcake kit you receive the dry ingredients conveniently weighed out for you to save you the hassle, a miniature bottle of gin, a bottle of tonic water, the cupcake cases, a huge really good quality disposable piping bag, a 1M piping nozzle which is the best tip to make beautiful buttercream swirls, a skewer to test when the cupcakes are baked, and a butter measuring guide. And of course the recipe, which as always is by the world class Michel Roux.

All you need to add to this kit is unsalted butter, 2 large eggs, and 2 limes.

I was so excited to make these and see if they were as delicious as the Prosecco and Strawberry cake. The recipe was extremely easy to follow, and the quantities of the ingredients gave enough mixture for exactly 12 good-sized cupcakes. They rose perfectly to the tops of the cupcake cases, turning a gorgeous golden colour in the process.

You might be wondering where the gin and tonic fit in to the recipe. Well, the tonic water is mixed in the sponge part, which results in lovely light and fluffy cakes. The gin is drizzled on to the baked cakes, and is also added to the buttercream for an extra boozy hit!

After the cakes have cooled, you just need to pipe a buttercream swirl on to each one, and then decorate with lime zest and a lime wedge.

They taste absolutely divine. Gin is quite a bitter drink, but that bitterness is counteracted by the sweetness in the buttercream. You can still taste that it is gin, but it is much nicer with the sweetness of the cake. To be honest, when I first tried one of these cupcakes I thought it could probably have done with a bit more alcohol, as the taste was very subtle. After I had finished eating the cupcake though there was a definite gin aftertaste, which was really pleasant. The next day I discovered the amount of gin was spot on, as somehow the flavour gets stronger over time. You could really taste the gin immediately on biting into the cake the next day, and it was wonderful! So my advice to you would be… if you want to really taste the gin, make these the day before you need them and store them in an airtight tin or box. If you prefer a delicate taste of gin, eat them on the day of baking. Either way, I know you will love them!

This recipe kit is Ā£20, which is great value when you take into account all the things it includes. The piping nozzle can be washed and kept afterwards to use again and again.

These cupcakes would be perfect for any special occasion, or you could bake them as gifts. I’m sure that after putting up with a class of 30 children day after day, teachers would love one or two of these presented in a pretty box as a Christmas or thank you gift! Who wouldn’t!?

If you would like to buy this fantastic kit, CLICK HEREĀ to go to the BakedIn Bake Shop page. Happy baking!!!

 

DISCLAIMER: I received this kit at no cost in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinion of it. I would never recommend a product I didn’t like myself. All opinions are my own honest views.Ā 

 

French Macarons Inspired by Persian Love Cake

Macarons used to terrify me. Not eating them… that was easy enough. Making them though scared me so much that I very rarely attempted them. My very first attempt, shockingly, was a success. Others after that were a disaster, with nothing but cracked macarons, very unelegant!

There are 2 methods of making macarons, French or Italian. A lot of my friends advised me to try the Italian method as that seemed to make the shells more stable. That method involves boiling sugar and water and adding it to the egg whites. I can be a real stickler for detail though, which can be a real pain in the backside. The stickler in me decided that as macarons are a French treat, I wanted to be able to make them the French way. I found a wonderful book in a set of 3 published by Love Food. This book is called Macaroons and has lots of different recipes. I’ve tried a few now and each time they’ve come out perfectly. My Persian Love Cake Macaron recipe is based around the recipes I picked up from this book.

The story of the Persian Love Cake is a beautiful tale of love and romance, which really appeals to me. Depending on which version you follow, it shows that the way to a man’s heart really is through his stomach! A lady fell in love with a Persian prince and baked him a beautiful cake as a symbol of her love. In the version I like to believe, the prince fell in love with her and they lived happily ever after. In the other version, the prince was allergic to one of the ingredients and died. Boo hiss. I don’t like that version! There are nuts in these macarons though so make sure the person you give them to doesn’t have a nut allergy!!!

The macaron shells are flavoured with cardamom and rosewater. You can buy ground cardamom but the very best flavour and aroma comes from grinding them yourself. For baking purposes, you need green cardamom pods. Black ones are much more savoury and not suited for sweet bakes. The pods are quite hard, but break them open to reveal the cardamom seeds. It is these that you need. Grind them as finely as you can using a pestle and mortar. You can buy them in the spice section of supermarkets, or a great online seller for all your spice needs isĀ The Spiceworks. They also sell dried rose petals in various sized bags, which are used to decorate these macarons.

Another ingredient in Persian Love Cake is saffron, the most expensive spice in the world. It is derived from the stigmas of the crocus flower, and is handpicked as there is no machine capable of such a delicate job. I use saffron fromĀ The Persian Trader.Ā They only use the most superior grade of saffron from farms in North Iran, with the most intense colour, flavour and aroma. Cheaper versions can be bought but they are sometimes artificially dyed or mixed with less superior grades. As saffron is so expensive, you may as well make sure you’re getting the very best for your money. And believe me when I say you only need to use the tiniest amount, so a jar lasts forever!

Persian Love Cake is also flavoured with pistachio nuts. As macarons already have ground almonds I didn’t want to add extra nuts but wanted the flavour of the pistachio. As you know, I’m a huge fan of Monin syrups and had a bottle of pistachio syrup already. This was perfect to make a pistachio buttercream. The flavour was all there but the texture was beautifully smooth.

Enough waffling… here’s the recipe.

PERSIAN LOVE CAKE MACARONS

FOR THE MACARON SHELLS

115 g icing sugar

75 g ground almonds

Seeds from 5 green cardamom pods, ground very finely

2 large egg whites, must be at room temperature

50 g caster sugar

Half tsp rosewater

Pink food colouring, gel or paste but not liquid

FOR THE FILLING AND DECORATION

115 g icing sugar, sieved

55 g unsalted butter, softened

1.5 tbsp Monin pistachio syrup

dried rose petals and saffron to decorate

  • Using a food processor fitted with a sharp blade, blitz the icing sugar, ground almonds and cardamom until it is like powder, around 20-25 seconds. Sift this into a small bowl using a fine-meshed sieve. If there are any bits left in the sieve, throw them away.
  • In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. This means that when you lift the whisk, peaks will form but the tips of them will fold back over. I find it is best to use an electric handheld whisk for this, but you can use a stand mixer if you prefer. Add the caster sugar very gradually, whisking well each time you add any. The meringue mix will become glossy. Add the rosewater and enough food colouring to give the meringue a beautiful pink colour, and whisk until the mixture forms stiff peaks. This means that when you lift the whisk, peaks will form and will not fold over.
  • This next part is the stage that is most likely to cause problems if not done right, so be extra careful at this point. Tip a third of the almond mixture in with the meringue and use a flexible spatula to very gently fold the dry mixture in to the meringue. I scrape around the bowl, then lift the mixture from underneath and fold it over, occasionally cutting through the middle. When it is all combined, tip another third of the almond mixture in and repeat. At this point it will start to firm up a bit. Finally add the last third of the almonds, and fold as before until fully incorporated in to the mixture. It will be quite firm now. Keep folding gently until the batter loosens a bit. When it is ready to pipe, it will be glossy and smooth, and when you lift the spatula out of the mixture and let some fall off, it will lie in a trail on top of the batter for around 30 seconds without losing it’s shape. If you over-mix at this point allowing the batter to go too runny, your macarons will not hold their shape when piped.
  • Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper. (I have a fan oven, so to make sure the breeze from the fan doesn’t lift the paper, use a tiny bit of the meringue mixture left on your electric whisk to stick the corners of the paper to your baking sheets). Spoon the mixture in to a large piping bag fitted with a 1cm plain nozzle. Or if you are using disposable piping bags, just snip the end off to make a 1cm opening. Pipe 16 macarons on to each sheet, around 3 cm wide. To do this, just hold your piping bag vertically almost touching the paper, and squeeze until the mixture spreads to around 3 cm. Lift and repeat to pipe 4 rows of 4 shells on each sheet.
  • Hold the baking sheet with one hand and very firmly tap all along the underside with your other hand. Or gently tap the sheets on to your worktop. This helps to get rid of any air bubbles. The macarons will spread very slightly as the action flattens them a bit and gets rid of any peaks from the piping. If you do still have any peaks, lightly wet your finger and gently smooth them down. Carefully place a rose petal and a few strands of saffron on to 16 of the macaron shells. Saffron tastes very strong so don’t put too many on!
  • Leave the macarons on the side at room temperature to stand for around 30-40 minutes. They need to dry out a bit so that they bake evenly without cracking. They are ready to go in the oven when you can gently touch them without any mixture sticking to your finger. They will also lose their shine as they dry. While they are standing. preheat your oven to 140C fan, or 160C conventional oven.
  • Bake one sheet at a time for 10-15 minutes. (They take 10 minutes in my oven). Check them after 5 or 6 minutes and if they look like they are browning, turn your oven temperature down slightly.
  • To test if they are ready, gently nudge one of the macarons. If it wobbles on its base, it needs a little bit longer. If it has a crisp shell and doesn’t move, it is ready. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes. Cover a wire cooling rack with a piece of baking paper, gently peel the macarons off the baking sheet paper and place them on the wire rack to cool completely.
  • While they are all cooling, make the buttercream. Place the icing sugar, butter and pistachio syrup into a bowl and beat until light, fluffy and smooth.
  • Use a piping bag with a small nozzle or cut a small opening on a disposable piping bag, and pipe buttercream on to the macaron shells which don’t have the rose and saffron on them. Then place a decorated macaron shell on top and gently press together.

 

As these are based on a royal story, I wanted to make them extra indulgent, so brushed some gold lustre dust around the tops of them. You don’t have to though if you don’t want to.

Eagle eyed readers will notice I said pipe 32 shells but I only have 15 complete macarons in my photos. I couldn’t resist instantly sampling one before the photos were taken. My willpower is sadly lacking!!!!!

These would make beautiful gifts for loved ones, or wonderful wedding favours. What better way to celebrate a union of love than with these romantic treats. Whoever you make them for, I’m sure they’ll be very gratefully received.