We have been blessed, deeply blessed, by the presence of a number of mature walnut trees at our home. When we first came to France, the walnut trees were our primary place of residence, so to speak. The children were preschool age, the house just barely habitable, and the trees offered us a place in the shade with a breeze that seemed to never end. We played, read stories, took naps and ate our meals under the walnut trees day after day all summer long.
As international school teachers, we were never around when it was time to gather the walnuts. We flew to other countries at mid August every year to be with our students rather than with the crops in the fields. Still, we always had walnuts to crack, shell and eat thanks to our neighbors who share-cropped the apples and walnuts for us. They took all they wanted and left for us all we could handle when we would return in late spring. That pattern is changing quickly now. The kids are grown, I am retired and its time to collect walnuts again. A good thing it is, as this year’s crop is the most abundant that anyone in the area can remember.
Now, what about those candied walnuts mentioned at the top of this page? So as not to delay any longer, have a look at the video below. Explanation to follow.
- 1 kg walnuts (shelled; preferably halves)
- 350 g granulated sugar
- 50 g butter (salted would be fine; would enhance the flavors)
- 25 g ground cinnamon (I used sticks in the video but you can control your results more easily with ground cinnamon. The sticks may yield more cinnamon oil)
- 10 g vanilla extract
1. Place a large, heavy duty pot on the stove. Turn heat on medium high. Pour in the sugar and cinnamon. Allow the sugar to begin melting, then add the butter.
2. Closely monitor the melting sugar mixture. Allow it to attain a deep amber, caramel, then add all of the walnuts. Stir with a ladle or wooden spoon. You must work quickly because the mixture will want to harden. Work your mixture on and off of the heat folding the walnut mass over and over trying to avoid breaking the halves as much as possible. Work quickly to cover the surface of all the walnuts.
3. Pour the mixture out onto parchment paper or a silicon mat working quickly to flatten the mass into a single layer. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect. It probably won’t be.
4. When the candied walnut mass has cooled to room temperature, gently break the it apart into individual walnut halves or small groups of two or three but not more than that. Done.
Uses of your Noix pralinés.
1. Snack on a few with a cup of coffee or tea. A few! (They pack a caloric punch.
2. Crumble some up to put on top of (or mixed into) vanilla or mocha ice cream.
3. Crumble some up and sprinkle over a main-course salad.
4. Make Christmas gifts of small, ribboned bundles of this delicious nut candy. Guaranteed not to be returned!
Have fun making this with someone you love and have a sweet day.
(Today’s blog was written while zipping across France on the TGV headed home – back to those walnut trees and to my daughter. This batch of noix pralinés was left with my wife to lift her spirits as she is still working à l’étranger.