This recipe is for fried candied walnuts. I prefer the Chinese method of frying candied walnuts (as opposed to toasted) as it promises an evenly thin coating of crackly syrupy sweetness around each walnut that toasting cannot achieve. The ones in the picture above is a sweet, sour(yes!), salty and spicy version. You could choose to add other seasonings over the Candied Sesame Walnuts. Scroll down to the ingredient list for suggestions.

The walnuts pictured directly above are simply Candied Sesame Walnuts with no extra flavouring.This recipe came about after frying numerous batches of walnuts to get them to my liking. It is not an easy recipe. They could not be too sweet and they had to be crispy and not gummy.  The recipes with the least number of ingredients are usually the most difficult to get right as you cannot mask your mistakes under layers of seasonings. You pretty much have one shot at getting it right. This recipe works for me. There are 4 key points you have to pay attention to:

(1) Do not over blanch/boil the walnuts
(2) Do not let the syrup boil past the light yellow shade before adding the walnuts
(3) Do fry in hot oil (380F)(190C) and in multiple batches so the oil remains hot
(4) Do not fry the walnuts past the golden brown stage

Chinese Candied Sesame Walnuts

Prep:

5 minutes

Cook:

20 minutes 

Inactive:

Level:

A challenge

Makes:

2 cups

Oil Temperature:

380 F (190 C)

Can recipe be doubled?

To double, work on making 2 separate lots. 

Make ahead?

Keeps up to one week tightly bottled. They will keep better if you freeze them, tightly bottled.

Ingredients

3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 full cups (7.05oz)(200g) unsalted walnuts*
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
3 cups of oil (or enough to completely cover the walnuts)
1 teaspoon freshly toasted sesame seeds
Optional – Any or a combination of the following:
For a sour note: Citric acid, mango powder, passion fruit powder
For a spicy note: Chilli powder/flakes, cracked black/white pepper
Other flavours:  Cinnamon, cumin, fennel, pumpkin spice mix, smoked salt, sea salt flakes
I use USA ready to eat baked walnuts.

Method

You will be doing 3 steps simultaneously *, so you will need to be organised and be ready to work fairly quickly.
*
However, you could blanch the walnuts first, set it aside and then move on to work on the syrup and the frying.

Utensils to have ready:
(1) 3 cooking vessels: Depth ~3″ (7.5cm) Width ~ 7″-8″ (18–20cm). Set all 3 vessels on three separate burners. You are going to work with high temperatures. Walnuts will cause hot oil and syrup to bubble furiously. You need a deeper vessel to prevent oil and syrup from bubbling over the vessel.
(2) 
2 baking trays for draining walnuts
(3) 2 sheets of parchment papers/silicon mat/lightly oiled baking trays
(4) 2 slotted spoons, one for use when cooking the syrup and the other for deep frying
(5) 1 spoon for stirring the walnuts in water
(6) 1 colander for draining blanched walnuts
(7) Thermometer

Let’s start

Toasting the sesame seeds
1. Heat up any one of the cooking vessels on high heat. Once hot, add the sesame seeds and stir continuously or it will burn. The seeds should take only a minute or less to smell and turn golden.
2. Transfer toasted sesame seeds out of pan and set it aside.

Setting up all the 3 cooking vessel over the stove
1. In one of the vessel, bring the 3 cups of water to boil over high heat.
2. At the same time, in another vessel, heat up 3 cups of oil to 380F (190) over high heat. It is best to secure a thermometer to the vessel so that you can monitor the temperature. Visually, the oil will be shimmering and if you look from the side, you will see a slight haze above the hot oil.
3. In the last vessel, layer the sugar in one even layer. Pour in the 1/4 cup of water carefully to cover the sugar. Heat up on high heat. Don’t fiddle with the temperature or stir, as it might cause the sugar to crystallize instead of melt into a syrup and you would then have to start over with syrup making. Shake the vessel if you must for any reason.

Blanching walnuts
1. Once, the water boils, add salt and bring it back to a boil.
2. Once water comes back to a boil, add walnuts. Stir with a spoon and bring it back to a boil. The walnuts will turn a paler shade and the water will turn brown.
3. Once it comes back to a boil, give it a final stir and turn off the burner. Remove the pot.
4. Drain immediately into a colander and rinse under running water until water runs clear. Leave it to drain in the colander.

Making syrup and dipping walnuts in syrup
1. The sugar and water should be bubbling away at this time. Watch carefully. Once it turns a pale yellow (or starts to show a spot of yellow) and before it turns a golden colour, toss the walnuts into the sugar syrup and stir with a slotted spoon and coat the walnuts quickly.

2. At this point, take a quick look at the thermometer, there are 2 options.
3. Option 1: If you are a seasoned cook and the oil registers, 380F (190C), transfer the walnuts directly into the oil (work in batches). However, if you are making this for the first time, I suggest you choose Option 2 (below) and sit the syrupy walnuts on the parchment paper/silicon mat/lightly oiled baking tray to cool for a minute or so and to drain off excess syrup. Because if you are not adapt at draining off the excess syrup with your slotted spoon and directly transfer walnuts from syrup pan to oil pan, you will be throwing in a lot of syrup into hot oil. Not good.
4. Option 2: Using the slotted spoon, transfer the syrupy walnuts onto the parchment paper/silicon mat/lightly oiled baking tray.5. Once dipped in syrup, separate the nuts as well as you can to prevent excessive sticking.

Frying walnuts
1. When the temperature of the oil reaches 380F (190), it’s ready for the syrup coated walnuts to go in. Remember not to overcrowd the vessel. Fry in multiple batches if you have to. These walnuts need hot oil. Overcrowd the vessel and you will bring down the temperature. The walnuts will not fry up as crispy as they should.
2. With a clean slotted spoon, stir walnuts continuously in the hot oil to evenly cook it to a light golden brown colour.
3. At such high temperatures, you must stir and it should take ~45 seconds, give and take 15 seconds for all the walnuts in the vessel to turn a golden brown colour.
4. Bear in mind that the nuts will continue to brown even after you remove them from oil so don’t keep them in the hot oil too long. They are quick to burn.
5. Transfer to the parchment paper/silicon mat/lightly oiled baking tray and separate them as best as you can.
6. Whilst hot, sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds. These walnuts as is, with no other seasonings, will keep up to 1 week stored in an airtight container. They will keep better frozen, tightly bottled.

Tips

(1) If you want to season the walnuts further, I suggest you eat them up fairly soon as they will not retain their crisp texture for long. How long they stay crispy depends partly on the additional seasonings that you choose to add. To prolong their crisp texture, it might be a better idea to add your additional seasonings just before you are ready to serve the walnuts.

(2) Do toast the sesame seeds before adding to the fried walnuts. Toasting makes them ever so flavourful. Should you realise you have forgotten to toast the sesame seeds after frying the walnuts, do not bother adding the sesame seeds. The sesame seeds will be tasteless without toasting and will provide no flavour to the walnuts. It would be too late to toast them as by the time you scamper off to toast them, the syrup coating would have harden. Remember to toast them the next time.

(3) These can be bottled up into pretty jars and given away. They do not stay long in a jar as it invariably gets consumed pretty quickly. Goes especially well with drinks: wine, champagne, beer, moscato…. You really don’t need much of an excuse to eat them.

WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?

This is very likely my last post for the year. Like many of you, I need to get the year-end party meals planned, specialty food pre-ordered. I am so glad I already have the house all festively dressed. Would you believe I have all presents bought and wrapped?! I am 2 weeks ahead! That’s only because I am going on vacation and when I return just before Christmas, I am expected to go into baking mode. I have no idea how I am going to churn out Checkerboard Cookies, Buttery Butter Cookies, Chocolatey Chocolate Cookies and Crisp Lemon Cookies in such a short span of time! That on top of cooking for the upcoming dinner parties. I will certainly be relying on some of my meze dishes to see me through all the dinners. You might find my meze recipes useful as they are easy to prepare and most can be made in advance. The list of 10 meze recipes is filed under, Meze, A Selection of Wonderful Little Bites.


Happy Holidays!

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