It all started about 7 years ago, while I was studying translation in Toronto. When E was visiting on weekends, we liked to go to Pusateri’s, one of Toronto’s most elegant grocery stores, to buy ready-made but delicious dishes that we could take out as a picnic or eat in my university residence room. On one of those visits, we were shopping for cheeses and discovered the store’s Maple-Glazed Pecans. Pecans are expensive to begin with, but doused in maple syrup and sold in a gourmet store – they become a true indulgence. And yet, after tasting them once, we couldn’t stop buying them every time we shopped at Pusateri’s. Let me just say that it became an expensive addiction.
A couple of years after coming back from Toronto, it finally dawned on me that I could make those posh pecans at home. It took me all of one try to make them perfect – and even better. I just followed my taste memory, drizzled and sprinkled a little of this and that, baked the pecans for 10 minutes and voilà, the most perfect and delicious snack came out of my oven.
I’m not lying; anyone who has ever tried those pecans has become an addict. Pecans and maple syrup is an obvious match, but I added cayenne pepper and smoked paprika to steer the nuts toward the savory side. They are deceptively simple to make, but deliver an impeccable balance of spicy and sweet. Just perfect with cocktails, as an accompaniment to wine & cheeses, or as a luxurious snack.
Spicy & Sweet Cocktail Pecans
3 cups [about 10 oz/300 g] raw pecan halves
2 tbsp [30 ml] extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp [30 ml] maple syrup
½ tsp [2.5 ml] cayenne pepper
½ tsp [2.5 ml] Spanish paprika (pimenton – hot or sweet)
1 tsp [5 ml] sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350°F [175°C]. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Put the pecan halves in a large bowl, and drizzle the olive oil and maple syrup all over. Use a spatula to mix the nut to make sure they are well coated with the oil & syrup mixture. Sprinkle the cayenne pepper slowly over the nuts, mixing continually to make sure the flavoring coats the nuts evenly. Repeat with the smoked paprika and salt. Mix well, then grind lots of black pepper over the nuts, mixing again to distribute the spices and flavorings evenly.
Spread the flavored pecans on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Scrape every last bit of the syrup mixture out of the mixing bowl and drizzle it over the nuts. Bake for 12 minutes.
Let cool at room temperature completely, at least 1 hour. The syrup mixture will harden around the nuts as they cool, creating that irresistible crunchiness. Once the nuts are cool and dry, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.