Chai Spice Roasted Almonds

For a few years now, I've been making large batches of cinnamon roasted pecans, wrapping them up in pretty packages, and then giving them to family and friends at Christmas. It's the perfect scheme. Roasted nuts are a decedent treat, so people are always thrilled to receive them. And when they're homemade and wrapped by hand, it adds a lovely personal touch. But the best part, by far, is that they're surprisingly easy to make, even though they look and taste like they require a ton of work.

This year I wanted to do something a little different. I've recently discovered how to make the perfect chai masala (spice mix), and I've been having a BLAST incorporating it into a bunch of different recipes. I thought it would be fun to swap out the usual cinnamon in my recipe for my new, spicier, obsession. As for the pecans, this year I opted for almonds, because well, they're a lot cheaper. I made these nuts for everybody on my gift giving list, which as it turns out, is a lot of people. Plus I had to make a bunch for Brandon and myself, obviously. In total, I roasted 4 pounds of almonds in one afternoon. The house smelled amazing!

These almonds were incredibly well received by everyone I gave them to and the combination of exotic spices makes them seem extra special. The spice from the black pepper is nicely tempered by the sugar, leaving a little heat on the back of the tongue without being overwhelmingly spicy, making the flavors appealing to a wide range of people.

I based my chai masala on this recipe, and adjusted the level of black pepper down quite a bit. It's still pretty damn spicy though, which is a good thing. If it wasn't spicy, it wouldn't be chai!

Roasting nuts is a little time consuming, but not any more so than baking a few batches of cookies. The following recipe is for 1 pound of nuts, and it is easily doubled. If you're going to multiply the recipe, like I did, I recommend doing 2 pounds at a time.

This happens during every shoot. Cats, man.

To Make The Chai Masala:

For best results, use a digital scale to get accurate weight measurements for each spice. (If you don't have a scale, one gram is *approximately* ¼ teaspoon.)

Grind all spices together, either with a (clean) coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle. This recipe will make about a third of a cup of masala. Store the masala in an airtight container and PUT IT IN EVERYTHINGGGGG (cookies, pie, tea, coffee, ice cream, cupcake batter, everything!!)

Ingredients

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 250 °F.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. If doubling the recipe, use 2 cookie sheets, 1 per pound.
  3. In a standing mixer or a large bowl, whisk together egg whites, vanilla, and water, until light and foamy.
  4. In a separate large bowl, combine sugar, masala, and salt.
  5. Toss nuts in egg white mixture until they are evenly coated.
  6. Transfer nuts to sugar mixture and toss until evenly coated.
  7. Spread nuts on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer.
  8. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
  9. Cool completely before serving and store in an airtight container.

For gift giving, you can go the trendy route and package them in mason jars, tied with a pretty ribbon. Or for a more whimsical, classic, NYC street cart effect, package them in paper cones!
Using square sheets of patterned paper, roll each sheet of paper into a cone, and tape down the edges. Fill the cones with your finished almonds and fold down the top corner. Seal with a decorative label.

These cones were made with 8" x 8" sheets of paper, and held about 1 cup of nuts each. (Please excuse my extremely messy handwriting.)