Friday, October 19, 2012
SPICY HONEY-ROASTED PEANUTS
I had nearly a full package of peanuts left over after making the peanut-lime chicken-noodle salad, so I decided to cross honey-roasted peanuts off my cooking to-do list. (What, you don’t keep one of those?) I’d long had a cardamom version bookmarked, but at the last minute I spotted this one from Confections of a Foodie Bride and switched to it because the idea of a spicy version was irresistible.
This recipe could not be any easier. A little microwaving, some stirring, some baking, a bit more stirring, and you’re there: from zero to deliciousness in 25 minutes. It was only with great difficulty that I stopped myself from eating the entire batch while it was still warm and gooey on the baking sheet. It was like some amazing peanut salted toffee confection. I don’t think it even really needed the final coating of sugar. That definitely gave it the crunchy, sandy texture of storebought honey-roasted peanuts, but for me, the added sweetness was unnecessary and overshadowed the other flavors. The recipe called for adding 4 tablespoons of sugar after the peanuts were cooked; I sprinkled on the first two tablespoons, then near the end of the third tablespoon I started thinking, “Hmm, this looks like a lot of sugar,” so I quit. I think next time I’ll try just 2 post-cooking tablespoons, but really, I can attest that these were quite tasty without any extra sugar beyond what they were baked with. I’m also eager to try the cardamom recipe for contrast, because it uses hardly any sugar at all, only 1 tablespoon total.
Still, it’s going to be pretty hard to beat these. They really reminded me of the storebought kind, but a million times better, with roasty caramel undertones that nostalgically reminded me of the peanut brittle my mom used to make for Christmas when I was a kid. (I didn’t work too hard to separate them into individual peanuts for total verisimilitude; the big chewy clumps were actually my favorite part.) The honey flavor is excellent, they’re addictively crunchy, and there’s a good dose of salt to balance the sweetness, all of which makes them so compulsively edible that I’m not going to allow myself to make them on a regular basis, because otherwise I’ll be gobbling up a pound of peanuts a week. A and I made short work of them, and A loved them so much he wouldn’t have me change a thing (he reacted with dismay when I mentioned reducing the sugar, but really, I don’t think he’ll notice when I do it next time, because they’ll still be insanely good). I do think the red pepper flakes could be increased if you want a snack that could actually be described as “spicy,” however. The ½ teaspoon that the original recipe called for added a nice savory note and a gentle heat that I really only noticed as an aftertaste, which I liked just fine, but if tasting blindfolded, I don’t think most people would really know there was spice there. I’m going to take it up to ¾ teaspoon next time for a bigger punch.
1 pound cocktail peanuts (mine were salted)
⅓ cup honey
½–¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ cup sugar or to taste, divided
½ teaspoon salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.
2. Place peanuts in a large bowl.
3. Microwave honey and red pepper flakes in a small bowl for 30 seconds and pour over the peanuts. Add ¼ cup sugar and the salt, stirring well.
4. Spread peanut mixture onto the baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
5. Let cool for 2 to 3 minutes and then stir the peanuts, scraping the honey from the parchment/silicone to coat the peanuts. If desired, sprinkle with 1–2 tablespoons sugar and stir again, then sprinkle with 1–2 tablespoons more sugar.
6. Let cool completely, then break up the peanut clumps into smaller pieces and store in an airtight container.
Yields: About 3 cups
Time: 30 minutes
Leftover potential: Good; will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for at least five days.