Crunch Time: Sweetly Spiced Chipotle Almonds

Tuesday, December 9, 2008 28 comments

Cooling down the spice

I have approximately 32 hours to finish my final research paper of the semester, for which I've written just two pages (for the curious, it's entitled "Taste and Class: Food and the Marking of Social Status"). At the same time, I'm studying for a final exam that I get to take a week earlier than the rest of my classmates. If I can just make it to noontime this Friday without losing my sanity, alienating my husband, and scaring the dog, the reward is two weeks of Christmas bliss in the Philippines. 

So much to write, so little time . . . 

Mr. Noodle and I have been planning this trip since March; it's my first trip back to the ancestral home in nearly 20 years and his first ever. We're both looking forward to leaving school, work and other worries behind in wintry Minnesota to enjoy a tropical, Filipino-style Christmas.

Until then, there's a lot left to do. During past Christmases, I've put up decorations, mailed dozens of greeting cards and gift packages, and made some goodies well in advance. This year, I find myself so short on time that I've managed to write just one card (to my 100 year old foster grandmother) and not a single garland or ornament adorns our home. But I am determined to accomplish at least one of my traditional Christmas tasks: making treats!

The adage "It's better to give than to receive" is so very true: I probably derive more enjoyment from making homemade gifts than the recipient may get from the end result. A column in last Sunday's Minneapolis Star-Tribune made a rather disparaging equation between stealing and crafting as last resorts for gift-giving, underscoring the fact that for some, homemade presents are not always the most desired and inferring a correlation between the monetary value of an item and the level of regard one has for the recipient. When I decide to create a gift, I try to keep in mind what would please the other person first and allow me to express my skills second. To that end, and given the limited time I have right now, I chose to make the following recipe as gifts for our neighbors. It's easy to make, incredibly versatile and, judging from past giftees' responses, irresistible!

Sweetly Spiced Chipotle Almonds
This recipe is adapted from one created by Chef Robin Schmitz of Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, NC. The original recipe called for pecans and cayenne pepper but the beauty of this treat is its versatility: in addition to cayenne and chipotle, I've also used Cajun seasoning and would like to try ground Ancho chile pepper. Try your own combo of spicy and sweet!


3 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1.5 - 2 tsps** ground chipotle pepper 
pinch of salt
2.5 lbs whole almonds (preferably unsalted)

**This gives a nice bite to the almonds, appropriate for children or heat-sensitive palates; increase as desired for added kick!

To prepare:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat.
2. In a large heavy sauté pan over medium heat, mix water, sugar, chipotle and salt together. Stir until mixture comes to a gentle simmer and sugar dissolves completely.
3. Add almonds and stir well so that all the nuts are covered with sugar mixture. Continue to stir constantly until water has completely evaporated and the nuts are well-coated.
4. Immediately transfer almonds to the baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes. Watch carefully as the nuts can easily burn. Stir the almonds around to ensure that they cook evenly.
5. Remove from oven and cool completely before serving.

Crunch time at its best!


  • Tangled Noodle said...

    5 Star Foodie - You're welcome! I think your family would enjoy this. If you try a different spice, please let me know how it turns out - I'd love to hear about any variations that others come up with!

  • Lori said...

    I love anything with a sweet and spicy combo. These sound great! Hope the end of the semester goes well and you have an awesome trip. I can't wait to see your food reports when you get back!

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Lori - Thanks! I hope to come back armed with photos, recipes and stories to share with everyone. It's my "Search for My Filipina-ness" journey!

    Matt - If you make them yourself, you get to sample as much as you want as you go along . . . !

  • Daily Spud said...

    Talk about being in sync - I made toasted spiced nuts just last night (almonds with some wonderful
    hot smoked paprika and cashews with rosemary, cayenne and sugar) and now I want to get some chipotle pepper and try your recipe!

    As far as present-giving goes, I know that some people do have a low opinion of homemade presents,
    which is unfortunate because of the genuine effort that's probably gone into their creation, so I guess I do try to restrict them to people who I hope will both like and appreciate what's been made!

    Other than that, good luck with your end of term work and hope you have a wonderful Christmas in the Philippines - like Lori, I'm looking forward to the food stories to follow :)

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Robert-Gilles: Merci et Joyeux Noël! My husband and I have a 3-hour layover in Narita on our way to Manila. Airport food may not be outstanding but it could be my best opportunity to say I've dined in Japan!

    Daily Spud: I hope you'll post your toasted nuts recipes! I've wanted to use cashews but wasn't sure about flavoring pairings and I hadn't even considered hot smoked paprika - please share!!

    I'm trying not to let the excitement of vacation distract me from my studies but it's hard - the anticipation is almost unbearable. I promise to post about it although I'll try to avoid the interminable "here's me in [insert tourist attraction here]" slideshow of pictures!

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Leigh: Thank you very much! I saw your comment and 'published' it but something seems to have seized up on this site because it didn't show up. I want to make sure you know that I appreciated your comment on this post.

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    CaptnRachel - Thanks! I actually have wasabi powder so I should try making something similar with it. The chipotle amount given in this recipe is really rather mild but feel free to dial it up - sounds like you can handle it!

    Yup, that's all snow and we've got the single-digit temps to go with it. Even the dog has to wear a coat to go outside!

  • Heather said...

    how gorgeous are those?!? and i love the pictures! you have so much snow!! i'm jealous. we've barely received a dusting... i love snow and want more!!

  • Chef E said...

    I read someones blog today that said 'I like the snow, but I hate the cold'...Tangle, what a great post and way to add some heat to the cold! I love these...and the spice! Good luck on the school...I went back myself a few years ago, and had the best GPA yet!

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Chef E - Thanks! I just finished my paper and only the final tomorrow remains. I agree with you: I'm a much better student now than 20 years ago (although I withhold comment until after tomorrow - who knows what kind of damage I could do to my GPA)!

  • Natashya said...

    I would love these as a present! I think they are a great idea. We have a friend who makes tamari almonds every year for Christmas and it is something we look forward to. The author of the column must have had a bad experience with hand made and stolen? gifts!
    They look so cute in the Christmas raffia ribbon. :)

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Natashya - Thanks! I love spiced and sugared nuts of all kinds and everyone has been sharing their favorites. Tamari almonds sound wonderful - I can understand why you look forward to it! As for the columnist - who knows what trauma she might have experienced from a homemade gift! 8-)

  • gastroanthropologist said...

    I've been swimming in walnuts so I tried your recipe with them and added them to a salad with beets and feta. It was a nice spicy change to usual candied (sweet) nuts that you typically find in a salad.

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Dirtykitchensecrets - Definitely give it a try! If you prefer a savory rather than spicy flavor, check out the rosemary cashew recipe from The Daily Spud (link is available on my list of 'Global Food Blogs').

  • Hungry Gal said...

    Tangled Noodle - these look delicious - I did something very similar just last night with pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and chili flakes and cinnamon.

    I think a "homemade" gift is a sentimental gift. I get requests (as I am sure you do) from friends for culinary delights from the ktichen. I'd be happy for you to send these delicious almonds over!!

  • Cris said...

    Love the recipe... but I think the photos added so much to your post, like the first one and the second one, gives a sense of peace with all the snow...

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Hungry Gal - Thanks! I'm trying to catch up on everyone's new blog entries that I've missed while I've been away. I love pepitas - have you posted this recipe yet? If not, please do - I'd love to try it.

    Cris - Thank you! I needed that sense of peace while I was trying to finish my paper before our vacation. Now, I only hope it will get as good of a reception as the spiced nuts . . . !

  • Dee said...

    Mmm, these look wonderful. I am glad these can warm you up in the cold winds of Minnesota. Stay Warm! Keep up the great blog posts in 2009.

  • Tangled Noodle said...

    Dee - Thank you! We just got back from 2 weeks in the Philippines where the daily temps were in the 80s so it was a shock to the system to return to single-digit temps. I need all the warmth I can get!


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