Secret Homemade Sweet and Salty Chocolate Holiday Nuts Recipe
We’re rolling out the big guns! Our secret family recipe of sweet & salty chocolate holiday nuts just in time for the holidays. Hand-crafted every year in-tha-kitchen for a party-sized crowd or for holiday kitchen gifts. Starting with 3 pounds of fresh nuts (count ’em, that’s a good lot of nuts), we use only gorgeous local shelled walnuts, pecans and almonds. Then, we throw down 3 pounds of whole dried cranberries and whole fancy-dried blueberries into the mix. They’re all roasted up and sprinkled with sugar and salt. We even add a zing of orange to the lot and deepened the flavor with a splash of fine vanilla. THEN we melt them all together with chocolate bits. Oh yeah! So they come out lightly choc-li-fied, sugar-ized and Kosher-salter-ized for that vintage-country-urban salty sweetness that seems to be catching hold these days. Oh yeah!
I’ve decided that it’s all about the power of transformation! Turning something simple and gorgeous (like a nice selection of fresh local nuts) into something heavenly and rockin!
Kinda like this awesome new-plowed field all tended-to and ready to plant…
Just add some tender loving care and this is what you get…The field below, transformed into a heavenly vineyard — directly behind where I stood to take the above photo…
Preliminary Holiday Survey: Are you looking to create a lovely holiday gift direct from your own special kitchen? OR…Would you love to add some homemade elegance to your next buffet table? OR…Kick up the frosting a notch on your next vintage cake by dotting it with some crunch-roasted chocolate goodness? OR EVEN…Sprinkle some of these sweet & salty thangs on homemade vanilla ice cream with a drizzle of caramel sauce for a jazzy little fireside treat?
If the answer to any of these questions is, “Oh, yeah!” then read on. Even if your answer is, “Well, maybe…”, then READ ON because we’re about to make you a believer. 🙂
You can put out a dozen small festive bowls of these candied nuts at your next holiday gathering or prepare darling nutty gift jars (so nice and perty) for homemade holiday gifts. Actually, these candied nuts look elegant even in potluck carry containers cause just one glance at them and you KNOW that someone (like you) took the time to master up a nice hand-crafted treat. You can substitute various nuts and change-up the dried fruits at your discretion or according to what’s available from your local farmer’s or grocer’s stock. You can even leave out the salt and the dried fruits altogether if your daring foodie nerve is not showing this season. (The recipe works just as well with or without salt and dried fruits. Just come back at it for the next event and try out the whole shebang.)
Special instructions: If this recipe looks a slight bit complicated, it’s NOT. It’s just that we’ve been tinkering with this recipe for so many years (Should I say decades? Yes!) that it has evolved to near-science. And we’ve taken the liberty of laying it out quite specifically for you step-by-step. The only part left to the non-scientific realm is how you like your special sugar and salt flavorings to be finalized for the end result and what nutty and dried fruity combination you might come up with. It doesn’t take long to prep but it takes a few hours or overnight to cool and dry so plan on preparing it at least a day before serving.
I’m so hoping you’ll share your photos on our Facebook Page and leave us comments here (or there) about your nut roasting and candy-coating adventures. That would be awesome.
Okay then. Here’s to a homemade holiday recipe passed down in vintage style but updated a bit for the modern kitchen.
2 cookie sheet baking pans
Cooking spray (or not, since we never decided if it was necessary 🙂 )
2 cups or small bowls (for separating eggs)
Very large mixing bowl (for about 5 pounds of nuts and fruit)
Medium mixing bowl (for beating or whisking 2 egg whites)
Wooden spoon (wooden spoon is not necessary but is best to keep the nuts from breaking)
Electric mixer (optional, or substitute with whisk for beating egg whites)
Spatula (otherwise known as a flapjacks flipper)
Decorative jars for gift-giving (optional)
1 fresh medium orange (for 2 t fresh orange zest and 2 T fresh orange juice)
2 eggs (whites only)
2 t vanilla extract, fine quality
4 c (about 1 lb) shelled walnut halves
4 c (about 1 lb) shelled pecan halves
4 c (about 1 lb) whole shelled almonds (unbleached, with natural skins)
1-1/4 c (about 1/2 lb) fancy dried whole blueberries
1-3/4 c (about 3/4 lb) whole dried natural & unsulfered & unsweetened cranberries
1 c loosely packed dark brown sugar (light brown sugar is okay too)
1/2 c granulated sugar (plus 1 T sugar to taste at the end of baking)
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 T Kosher salt* (plus 1 T Kosher salt to taste at the end of baking)
2 c (12 oz) mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (mini chocolate chips incorporate easier but regular chocolate chips or chopped semi-sweet chocolate is fine too)
*Kosher note: We find the larger particles of Kosher salt (versus smaller-particle table salt) works best for this recipe.
Prepare 2 cookie baking sheets by spraying them with cooking spray.
Preheat oven to 350, setting 2 oven racks at least 4 inches apart and somewhat centered in the oven (or use a double oven with each rack at center position for each tray of nuts).
Tip: If you are using one oven and have time, bake each of the 2 pans of nuts separately, by setting aside one prepared tray of nuts until the first one cooks so that you can keep your eye on the baking to ensure the nuts are evenly browned.
Using a grater or zester, grate or zest the outer skin of a fresh medium orange to make (and set aside):
2 t loosely packed orange zest
Tip: If your “zests” are full and large, like in the photo below, then chop them finely into little bits.
Slice the orange in half and squeeze into a cup or small bowl and set aside:
2 t fresh orange juice (no seeds or pulp please 🙂 )
In 2 small cups, separate 2 eggs in order to use:
2 egg whites (refrigerating yolks for your morning eggs 🙂 )
Place the egg whites in a small mixing bowl and whip them on high-speed with an electric mixer until foamy (about 1 minute).
Note: This electric mixer step is optional but allows the egg whites to cover the mixed nuts nicely. If you are not using an electric mixer for this stage, you may whisk the egg whites with a whisk to get them somewhat foamy for easier application to the nuts.
Beat (or whisk) into the foamy egg whites:
2 t vanilla extract, fine quality
the prepared fresh orange juice
In a medium bowl, mix with a whisk until fully incorporated:
1 c loosely packed dark brown sugar
1/2 c granulated sugar
1 T Kosher salt
1/2 t ground cinnamon
In a large bowl, gently mix with a wooden spoon:
4 c. (about 1 lb.) shelled walnut halves
4 c. (about 1 lb.) shelled pecan halves
4 c. (about 1 lb.) whole shelled almonds (unbleached, with natural skins)
1-1/4 c (about 1/2 lb.) fancy dried whole blueberries
1-3/4 c (about 3/4 lb.) whole dried natural & unsulfered cranberries
Pour the egg whites-vanilla-orange mixture over the bowl of nuts and fruit and gently stir with a wooden spoon to fully incorporate.
Add into the bowl of nuts mixture and gently stir with a wooden spoon to fully incorporate:
the sugar-salt-cinnamon mixture
Divide the nuts mixture and spread evenly onto the 2 prepared baking pans.
Using your fingers (this is the only way to keep it from clumping), do your best to gather bits and somewhat evenly sprinkle over each pan of nuts and fruit:
2 t fresh orange zest
Tip: It doesn’t have to be perfect. 🙂
Here is a close-up of the nut mixture before it is placed in the oven…
Bake at 325 degrees for 15 mins.
Remove from oven and stir with a spatula.
Return to oven and bake at 325 degrees for an additional 15 minutes.
Tip: Since ovens seem to have a personality of their own, watch the nuts before the end of each baking cycle, especially the last one to be certain they’re not getting too dark. The goal is nicely browned roasted nuts. 🙂
Remove pans from oven and let cool down for 10 minutes in the pan.
Tip: The nut mixture should be warm but not piping hot.
Leaving the nuts and fruit in their pans, sprinkle:
2 c (12 oz) mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (divided evenly between the pans)
Use a spatula to scrape the bottom of the pans and flip the nut mixture to ensure full incorporation of the chocolate bits with the nuts and fruit.
Tip: It’s okay if the chocolate melts onto the spatula and is a little messy. That’s the fun part. 🙂
After 5 minutes, to allow for chocolate melting, sprinkle:
1 T granulated sugar (divided evenly between the pans)
1 T Kosher salt (divided evenly between the pans)
Tip: Chef tasting time now to adjust sugar and salt to your preference. The flavor you are seeking is sweet with a hint of saltiness.
Let candied nuts and fruit cool in their pans for another 10 minutes then flip-stir again using a spatula to ensure full incorporation of all ingredients.
Tip: Okay, you can taste again (and adjust salt and/or sugar again if you like. 🙂 )
Allow candied nuts and fruit to dry and cool in their pans for 1 to 2 hours before removing to serving dishes.
If you’ll be using these candied nuts for holiday jar gifts: Allow 4 hours additional (or up to one full day) for drying and cooling time before spooning them into your gift jars. Let the kids help decorate the jars with fabric bonnets and ribbons and you’ll have a holiday crafting party on your hands. 🙂
I do hope you have fun with this recipe — and with your own special spin!