Crème brûlée is all about that crispy, sugary crust right?
Sure, the silken custard underneath is good too. But thin shards of golden, caramelized sugar that shatters upon the very first whack of a spoon is what draws you in for the win!
(We’d probably brûlée a lasagne if we could).
So, how about this instead?
Take that sugary, brittly-goodness and encase it around warm, cinnamon-spiced pecans.
It smells like Christmas.
And it’s one of the easiest holiday gifts you can make-ahead.
Spiced nuts are nothing new, in fact, there are plenty of great recipes you can peruse out there.
However, in order to achieve that classic brûléed crust this recipe focuses on a specific formula.
Sounds technical, but don’t worry- it’s easy.
Remember those cookies dough logs I made recently?
They are made with egg yolks only.
Not wanting to waste the egg whites, I froze them (individually) in little containers until ready to use. Even if you don’t cook with egg whites that often, and think saving them is useless, they are essential for making this recipe.
Egg whites are the secret ingredient.
When whisked properly with the right amount of air and sugar, the egg whites will puff up and create a crispy crust (sans the mini blow torch).
Here’s the magic formula:
- 1 large egg white: 3 cups pecan halves: 1/2 cup white sugar
Technique (in this order)
- Whisk egg white by hand until bubbly and frothy (no less than 20 seconds)
- Add nuts.
- Add sugar.
Do not stray.
- If you dump all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix it around, it won’t work. The egg whites must be aerated first. Plus, something magical happens when the sugar goes in last. Otherwise no puffy crust for you!
- If you ignore the ratio and add more than 3 cups of nuts to one only egg white, your puffy crust will be average (like Grade B).
- If you use brown sugar instead of white sugar, you’ll have pecans with a tan. It’s not the end of the world, but if you want them like the pictures…
It’s not hard. I promise.
And if you don’t eat all of these irresistable pecans yourself, package them in pretty treat bags with decorative ribbon.
Give as gifts to teachers, friends, stocking stuffers- or bring them to your next holiday party for the host.
They’re sweet, crispy, with just a touch a cinnamon and vanilla. Try them as an accompaniment to a nice cheese plate…
Make up to 1 week in advance.
- Egg whites can be frozen in small containers or ice cube trays, up to 3 months.
- To prevent sticking, it’s best to use a silicon mat instead of parchment paper to line your baking sheets. If this is not an option, generously coat the parchment paper with butter for easy removal. Otherwise, be prepared to pry the nuts from the pan…
- For more cinnamon flavor, add up to an additional 1/2 teaspoon. These pecans are cinnamon ‘kissed.’
- Pecans usually go on sale around the holidays. I bought a huge bag at Costco.
- You can find treat bags and decorative supplies at Michael’s or any craft store. This recipe make about 3 bags.
- If you want to double this recipe for more gifts, prepare each batch of nuts separately and use 2 rimmed baking sheets.
- 3 cups pecan halves
- 1 large egg white
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- pinch of coarse salt, plus more to taste
- ½ cup white sugar (I use Florida Crystals)
- 1 tsp cinnamon*
- Preheat your oven to 325 F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a silicon mat. *See note below.
- In a large bowl, whisk the egg white, vanilla, and salt until bubbly and frothy, about 20-25 seconds. Quick tip- aerating the egg whites will help to achieve a puffed sugar crust around the nuts.
- Add the pecans to the egg white mixture. Toss well to coat.
- In a separate small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Pour over the wet pecans. Toss 2-3 times to coat.
- Using a slotted spoon, spread the nuts evenly onto your baking sheet. Make sure the nuts are not piled on top of each other.
- Bake for about 15- 20 minutes. You'll know the pecans are ready when the crust is dry, puffed and light golden in color. The nuts will continue to harden once removed from the oven. Do not be tempted to over bake- they will become too dark.
- Remove the baking tray from the oven and cool for about 10-15 minutes.
- Once completely cool, transfer to an airtight container or package in treat bags.