11. Sugared Walnuts

One of my favorite recipes to make during the winter holidays is sugared walnuts.  I have featured this recipe on this blog before, but it seems like a perfect recipe to include in our Countdown to Christmas.  There is something magical that happens during the holidays when the smell of sugar and cinnamon fill the house!

The sugared nuts are delicious on their own.  They also can be made ahead of time and packaged in jars to give to friends.  

The nuts can also be added to other recipes like this chocolate cake!  The cinnamon crunch of the sugared walnuts on top of ganache followed by a spoonful of chocolate cake is extremely satisfying - just about any time of the year.  

Sugared Walnuts
3 cups toasted walnut halves
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place the walnuts on a cookie sheet and toast in a 350 degree oven for about 6 minutes.  They should be crunchy, but not brown.

In a pan mix together the sugar, water, cinnamon and salt.  Cook over medium heat without stirring until the temperature reaches 236 degrees (soft ball stage). Remove from the heat and add the toasted walnuts and vanilla.  Stir to coat. As you continue to stir, the mixture will cool and the sugar coating will thicken.

Spoon the sugared nuts onto parchment paper to finish cooling.  Separate the large pieces.  The nuts can be stored in a glass jar.  They are delicious on their own, or served with this chocolate cake.

Chocolate Cake
1 cup flour
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk

Melt the chocolate chips with the butter.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda.

Whisk sugar and vanilla into the melted butter and chocolate.  Stir in the eggs and milk.  Mix well.  Add dry ingredients.  Pour batter into a parchment lined 9-inch round cake pan.

Bake 350 degrees for about 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool.

NOTE:  If you do not have a 9-inch round cake pan, a smaller pan will work if the sides are high.  The batter in the pan should have room to expand.  The pan should be about 3/4 full of cake batter.  Anything more than that could create a messy overflow in the oven.

1/2 cup heavy cream (light can work as well)
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Heat cream in a saucepan over medium heat until boiling.  Pour the cream over the chocolate chips.  Allow to sit for a few minutes until the chocolate melts.  Stir well to combine.  Pour over the cake and spread onto the sides of the cake with a spatula. (It works well to place the cake on a cooling rack with a pan underneath to catch the excess ganache as it drips from the cake.)  Arrange a few of the sugared walnuts on top.  Place the cake in the refrigerator to set. Once set, transfer the cake to a large plate.

To serve.  Slice the cake and then top with additional sugared walnuts.  I like to crush the walnuts slightly and allow the excess to fall onto the plate.