Gebrannte Mandeln: Roasted Nuts with a Crisp and a Crunch
As you roam around a fair, a sudden delectable aroma hits your nose. You look for its source, and there- you have found it! The stand selling toasted almonds and inviting all to taste them at least once! Once you have tried a mouthful, you get the urge to prepare them at home and surprise your friends and family. Here’s how!
All-time favorite snacks in Germany, Gebrannte Mandeln or garrapinyades (garrapiñada in Spanish) are caramelized nuts cooked in an exceptional way with coats of sugar. The nuts that are generally used are almonds, but you can also prepare this dish with macadamia, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, peanuts, or walnuts. If you want to tread the normal path, either Largueta almonds from Spain or California almonds would best be chosen. The nuts, along with sugar and water, are stirred continuously in a pot or a copper kettle until caramelized. Vanilla sugar and cinnamon can also be added to enhance the aroma.
Gebrannte Mandeln is commonly sold in open-air festivals and fairs in Germany, particularly in the Düsseldorfer Rheinkirmes (one of the biggest German fairs) and the Weinachtsmarkt (a Christmas market). You can come by this confection at the Munich Oktoberfest too.
The recipe for cooking Gebrannte Mandeln is simple, straightforward and easy. The time required for cooking can vary from only 6 or 10 minutes to 20 minutes, depending on the ingredients that you use. You can turn out servings for four if you follow the recipe below.
- Mandeln or nuts, unshelled (usually almonds): 200 grams or 1 ¾ cup
- Sugar (brown, if you cook in a microwave): 200 grams or 4 tablespoons or 1 cup, plus a separate 1/3 cup
- Water: 100 milliliters or 4 tablespoons
- Vanilla bean: ½; or Vanilla sugar: 1 packet
- Cinnamon: 1 teaspoon
- Butter (optional)
Before you start cooking the Gebrannte Mandeln, you need to scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add it to the 1/3 cup of sugar.
Now in a stainless steel pan or a medium-sized heavy pot, add water, cinnamon, and the 1 cup sugar, and mix them by stirring with a big wooden spoon. Boil the mixture over medium heat before you add the almonds to this mixture. Having added the Mandeln or almonds, turn up the heat under the pan and stir the almonds constantly for 5 or 7 minutes. Gradually, the water will evaporate, leaving behind the dry sugar with the almonds, now tinted grayish-brown. Keep on stirring, and turn the heat to a medium-low; you do not want the sugar and the almonds to get burnt at the bottom of the pot! At this point, you can see the sugar heating up and melting. Continue to stir until the almonds get a shiny, sugary layer.
It is time for you to add the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar, containing the vanilla bean, over the almonds in the pan. Go on whisking these till you can see the sugar melt and give the almonds a sandy-looking sugar coating over the former one. You can hear crackling and popping sounds out of the pot! Stir till you can see the shiny, but rough, sugared coat of the almonds. Now pour the toasted almonds onto a baking tray or greased baking paper, separate them from each other lest they might stick together, and leave them to cool so that they become harder. Refrain from stirring any longer, for if you do, the sugar clumps or coating will fall off the almonds, and all your work will amount to nothing. Also, you need to prepare this snack in portions or batches for larger orders.
If you want to use vanilla sugar in place of vanilla bean, add the vanilla sugar in a pan along with water, cinnamon and 200 grams of sugar. Boil this combination, and then stir after adding the almonds. Continue stirring until the water evaporates and the sugar is completely caramelized. Pour the almonds onto a baking sheet with butter, separate them and allow them to cool.
If you do not have vanilla sugar or vanilla beans, there’s no reason to fret! Vanilla and cinnamon are added only to improve the appetizing smell, so they are not really necessary. Just add and mix the water and the sugar in the pan over high heat, and then add the cinnamon, followed by the almonds. Stir for a few minutes, and add a pinch of cinnamon again. Keep stirring until the water evaporates, lower the heat, and carry on whisking. When you see the sugar become a kind of paste, cook the almonds again over high heat in order to caramelize them. Is the sugar sticking to the almonds and making them glisten? If yes, then spread the roasted almonds out onto a baking or cookie sheet and let them cool.
The microwave recipe for Gebrannte Mandeln is the simplest, for you do not require vanilla. Pour the almonds, brown sugar, water and cinnamon in a vessel suitable for microwave, and put the vessel in the microwave for 2 minutes without covering it. Stir the mixture for 2 minutes, and keep it in the microwave again for 2 minutes, and then stir for another 2 minutes, putting it in the microwave again. Once the almonds are ready, leave them to cool on a plate.
Within approximately 20 minutes, you can cook and serve deliciously crunchy Gebrannte Mandeln, tasting as if they have been bought fresh from a fair!
Remember: While cooking, do not use a non-stick pan, as the sugar gets too hot for the non-stick coating of the pan to bear through it. This coating may weaken and break down, releasing smoke that could be dangerous for your health.
Put your Gebrannte Mandeln in small cellophane bags. You can tie these little bags up with ribbons to make them look pretty, and send or take them to your family and friends as Christmas gifts. What a delightful surprise for them!