FFWD – Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts

I’ve always loved baking, in an old-fashioned way. When I was a child, I started out as my mother’s helper in the kitchen and then slowly started to master the recipes in her cookbooks. At University, I became known for bringing brownies, cookies and cakes to parties and people would be disappointed if I didn’t. I’ve been doing it ever since.

It’s only been in the last ten years or so that I’ve encountered people who disdain dessert. In one particular circle, I’d bring a basket of cookies to a party and go home with them all untouched. I’d bring the cookies to work the next day and they wouldn’t last a half hour. I was baffled, until I asked the friend who’d introduced me to that crowd. She told me that no one wanted to indulge in unhealthy treats and that a party was no excuse for over-eating.

So, I began bringing cheese plates instead. Blocks of brie, camembert, blue cheese and aged cheddar disappeared, along with the savoury dips and spreads that lined the table. It’s enough to break a baker’s heart. Clearly, the injunction against indulgence really only applied to desserts and baked goods.

I’ve got another one of these gatherings coming up, but I have a solution that’s going to satisfy my baker’s urge and shouldn’t leave me with untouched offerings at the end of the night. Dorie Greenspan’s Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts.

These are a lot like a brittle, with a spicy bite of cayenne and chilli, instead of the usual caramel. I added a touch of smoked paprika to mine and am pleased with the result. The only thing I’d change is the sugar I used. Next time, I’ll pick up some granulated sugar – the slightly coarse cane sugar I had on hand produced a bubbly, brittle texture that isn’t as visually pleasing as I’d like.

I’m going to present them with a variety of salted nuts. I predict they’ll be popular.

We’re doing things a little differently again for the month of December. We’re still posting weekly, but people are free to post this month’s recipes in any order. You can find many other blogged descriptions of this month’s FFWD recipes here: LYL: December 3


27 thoughts on “FFWD – Sweet and Spicy Cocktail Nuts

  1. funny that cheese is deemed ok but baked goods not! in my book they are both dangerously delicious. i’ll be interested to hear how these nuts were received! they look amazing, by the way.

  2. Thanks – they taste really good. I really hope people like them at the party.

    I think the desserts = bad/savoury = okay bias comes from the way that women are socialized around food, unfortunately. The gatherings I mention are largely female.

  3. Oh, how sad. Good food is just good food – no matter what the genre… And cheese isnt’ exactly diet food 🙂 But that’s the great thing about food – there are so many ways to appeal to people’s pallets. If you were about 3,000 miles closer, I would eat one of your desserts!

  4. @Cher – I agree. Good food is good food. It’s great to be able to find things that appeal to people. And thanks for the vote of confidence! If we lived closer, we could do an exchange! 🙂
    @Anne Marie – my thoughts exactly. Moderation is key.

  5. I echo Anne Marie’s comment. I also doubt I’ll have many things in common with ladies who think desserts are unhealthy treats! I made the nuts too this week and they’re a terrific snack.

  6. @Ker-Yng – to be fair, they’ve got lots of great qualities, I just had to find other ways to contribute to potlucks! 🙂

    I really enjoyed these and so has everyone who has tasted them so far.

  7. Oh, you were the patient one that separated the nuts! Kudos to you!
    I had similar experiences when bringing sweets to potlucks. It broke my heart. N ow I bring my 10,000 calorie melted cheese loaf and everybody is happy. A bit hypocritical, but I am happier:)

  8. I have met people like that too – and I agree, it makes you wonder whether there is something wrong with what you have made. It’s a contradicition in many ways for them to chow down on cheese if their reason for not eating baked goods is that they are fattening – goodness, cheese is concentrated milk fat (but boy it tastes good!!). Your nuts look fab – I making these for my Christmas boxes.

  9. Thanks, Cakelaw! Concentrated milk fat – it’s true! I think these nuts will make fabulous Christmas presents. I’m planning on making a few more batches this month, for various get-togethers.

  10. I have disdain for those who have disdain for desserts! Actually, I work at a place that has much of that and yet I have taken delight in wearing them down little by little with my treats. One of my tricks is to make sure they are in small pieces. Or mini’s. People who would not eat one chocolate muffin would at least eat a mini… and then sneak back when nobody was looking for another. Thanks for showing me what would happen with the golden sugar. I have a huge bag of it left over from another ‘project’ and I was wondering if it would work on these as I too wish to dispose of it. I think I’ll relegate it to the coffee service…

    Now please email me and tell me how to add snow to my page! I LOVE THAT!
    Trevor Sis. Boom.

  11. I find that leaving plates of goodies in the lunchroom has much the same effect – people pick up a treat with their coffee or tea and it doesn’t take long for the treats to disappear.

    Don’t completely relegate the golden sugar to the coffee service, though. I’ve used it in baked goods in place of granulated sugar and it works really well. It’s just not suitable as a coating, at least for anything you want thinly covered.

    Here’s a link to WordPress’ blog post about the snow:


  12. Lovely job on the nuts! I think we are all anxious to hear about how they are recieved with your friends. What about the apple cake … would your friend enjoy something like that because it’s made with fresh apples???

  13. @napangel – Thanks! I’ve made two batches already! The snow is really fun.
    @frolickingnightowl – People loved the nuts. I had several people asking me for the recipe. 🙂 I’m not sure the apple cake would go over very well, even though it’s mostly apple.

  14. It’s great seeing all the different nuts that everyone used for this recipe. I like that you used just one kind and the addition of the smoked paprika sounds great. I am with you – I have been baffled by the swing of dietary restraints over the years, but this recipe is a perfect solution.

  15. @Elaine – I’m really enjoying seeing all the variations – so many ideas! The paprika was good. I made another batch with curry powder and that was good, too. I think this recipe is a great party food solution – it was a hit last night! And I’m so glad that WordPress is providing snow for December. We don’t get much real snow here. 🙂

  16. I can’t imagine giving up dessert! But these nuts look delicious. I am a little afraid to try this recipe because the last time I tried a recipe like this, the nuts were insanely spicy. Are these very spicy? The recipe has a lot of chili powder in it.

  17. @pragmaticattic – I am a spice wimp and I found these had only a mild bite. You could also use five spice powder or a mixture of herbs, instead. They were really delicious.

  18. As always, I enjoyed your post. I think desserts get a bad rap in some circles. But…I’ve watched lots of those non-dessert eating folks, and when you are not looking they are often the ones who eat the most! I have a couple of kids like that, always saying “no thanks” to sweets, but when I leave the room, somehow the dessert goes missing. They won’t take any home, but if I drop it off to them, they are excited and eat it with joy. It is mostly a mindset and an image they want to portray…I’m glad I don’t have that issue…I’ll eat all the dessert you want to share!

  19. Thanks, Krissy! I love your strategy and I agree, it’s mostly a mindset. I’m glad I don’t have that issue either! 🙂

  20. Teresa, you must have me in your RSS (thank you), because my pathetic link at FfwD LYL didn’t work and I had to re write the whole thing. Something to remember for the future, don’t use weird punctuation:). Needless to say, when I rewrote the entry your comment disappeared. I haven’t figured out comment recovery yet although it may be in my future. I really think I’ll make the nuts again, they were good. It’s funny how people can equate food with good for you/bad for you based upon whether or not it’s dessert. I wonder if the people attacking your cheese plates realize how many calories are in the cheese;)

  21. Elaine – I just clicked on your name and it took me to your blog. It’s too bad the link was giving you so much trouble. I also wonder about the dessert = bad/savoury = good dichotomy – I’m a fan of moderation over boycotts.

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