I think pecans may be my favorite nut. Sure, cashews may be my favorite just to munch on, and pistachios are the best to eat while sitting around a campfire, but pecans can be transformed into so many wonderful goodies – pies, turtles, brittle. Not only are they the perfect baking nut – they are so addictive to eat raw. My mom used to hide the bags of bulk pecans she would buy for Christmas baking, because otherwise me, my brother and my father would eat them all before she got around to making them into treats. But now that I live down south where pecans are omnipresent, there’s no need for pecan hiding. And this abundance has led to many more opportunities to try different pecan recipes. The most recent is a recipe for spicy candied pecans, and it has been an unmitigated success.
Now a caveat – sometimes I have to hide the spicy candied pecans because C loves this recipe so much. If not hidden, the spicy pecans rarely last a few hours, let alone a day, so I’ve become adept at making these at the last minute. Since the recipe only takes a half an hour from start to finish this is not a hardship. In fact this recipe is by far the easiest recipe for candied pecans I’ve seen anywhere and I think it’s the tastiest.
While I used measuring implements for this recipe, if you’re good at eyeballing measurements you might want to try that to save on the sticky clean up. The recipe calls for corn syrup, which whenever I cook with it, manages to get all over my entire kitchen. You combine the corn syrup with sugar, salt, ground pepper and Tabasco sauce. I won’t tell you how much Tabasco sauce to put in because it all depends on how spicy you like your pecans – obviously the spicier you like your nuts the more shakes of Tabasco. I would warn you to taste the sugary mixture as you go – a few too many shakes of the Tabasco bottle and the the mixture could be fiery hot.
After the sugary mixture is the correct spicy temperature, you mix in the pecans. Don’t worry that the mixture won’t cover the pecans evenly, as the melting process will take care of that in the oven. I would urge you to cover a baking dish with foil and then spray it with Pam or some other baking spray - it will save your sanity by making clean-up easier. Once the pecans are in the baking pan, they go in the oven. You stir once or twice to make sure the pecans get all the sugary mixture, but you basically let them bake for 15 minutes.
Once that 15 minutes is up you have to work fast – use a fork to separate the pecans on another piece of foil sprayed with Pam. If you dilly-dally you’ll get a big hunk of candied pecans. Not the worst thing. I suppose you could treat it like peanut brittle and chop it up – but it’s better if you have individual candied nuts. Once cool you can store in any covered container - except the nuts probably won’t last that long if anyone hungry is around the house. Which is fine – this recipe is so easy you can always make more!
Spicy Candied Pecans
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
3 T. corn syrup
1 1/2 T. sugar
3/4 t. salt
1/4 t. (generous) freshly ground black pepper
Tabasco Sauce (to taste)
1 1/2 C. pecan pieces
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line with foil and spray baking sheet with nonstick spray. Combine corn syrup and next 4 ingredients in large bowl. Stir to blend. Add pecans; stir gently to coat. Transfer to baking sheet.
Place large piece of foil on work surface. Bake pecans 5 minutes. Using fork, stir pecans to coat with melted spice mixture. Continue baking until pecans are golden and coating bubbles, about 10 minutes. Transfer to foil. Working quickly, separate nuts with fork. Cool. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)
Makes 1 1/2 cups