Usher in the New Year With Candied Walnuts or Pecans

Every year I make a big batch of cookies to use for host/hostess gifts. And every year, they somehow disappear before the holidays actually arrive. I’m not sure how—I think the dogs are eating them. At any rate, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

What this means is that I’m often left short handed when party time rolls around, like the New Year’s Eve party I’ve been invited to. Fortunately I almost always have walnuts or pecans in my cupboard, and can whip up a batch of candied nuts in no time.

To be honest, people like them more than cookies. They’re not only delicious, but healthier (at least compared to cookies). The sugar and butter are balanced at least somewhat by the fiber and oils in the nuts.

This recipe is more forgiving than some candy recipes. If you cook the candy a little past the soft ball stage, it will still be fine.

Candied Walnuts or Pecans

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups walnuts or pecan halves, toasted *
  • Butter a large baking sheet with sides and set aside.

Combine the sugars, water, butter, salt and cinnamon in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cook to the soft-ball stage. (A candy thermometer registers 235 degrees F, or a small amount of the syrup dropped into cold water forms a soft, pliable ball.) Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Stir in the walnuts, making sure they are all coated with the candy.

Scrape candied nut mix onto the buttered baking sheet in a single layer. Use 2 forks to separate the candied walnuts. Let cool.

Store in an airtight tin or other container.

Makes 4 cups.

* To toast nuts, spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until they smell toasted. Pour into a bowl and let cool.