Caramel seems to be omnipresent…. be it chocolates, ice creams, milk shakes, macchiatos, puddings, cappuccinos, cakes, frostings and the list is endless. If not a weight watcher, I am certainly a health watcher. When craving (especially to indulge in sweets) takes a huge leap, I try to substitute with my favourite unrefined forms of sugar. My immediate choice is palm or sugarcane jaggery which involves dissolving and filtering from scratch. The next in line to make Urundai/Sweet Balls, I prefer raw unrefined palm or cane sugar for direct usage.
When we went to dine in this beautiful restaurant, the dessert served was vanilla ice cream with caramelized/candied walnuts. The hot, gooey, a touch of bittery sweetness in the caramel that coated crispy walnuts was truly awesome. After a while when the caramel coat hardened a bit, it was a wonderful crispy cracker. Though I relished the taste of it, the guilt of having something with white sugar hit me hard, as usual.
Hence came this recipe. I substituted jaggery with sugar. The kadalai mittai- peanut crackers, ellu mittai- sesame crackers, pori urundai- puffed rice crackers…. all native sweets of Tamilnadu, made with jaggery syrup caramelized to perfection – for the crunchy bite came to my mind. When we could make caramel popcorn with jaggery syrup, why not caramel walnuts? Yes we can. There is no butter or clarified butter to add extra calories.
Candied Walnuts (with jaggery syrup)
- walnuts – 2 cups
- vellam/jaggery – 1 cup grated
- water – 1/2 cup
- elakkai podi/cardamom powder – 1 tsp
- chukka podi/dry ginger powder – 1 tsp
Method of Preparation
- Dry roast walnuts until crisp –
- Preheat oven at 350°F. Place walnuts on butter paper/cookie sheet.
- Bake for appr. 10 minutes- couple of minutes more or less . Do keep checking frequently.
2. to caramelize jaggery
- On a stove, dissolve 1 cup jaggery in 1/2 cup water
- After jaggery has dissolved completely, strain for impurities
- Take a hard bottomed chatti/pan, pour the filtered jaggery water
- Add cardamom powder and dry ginger powder- cardamom for flavour and dry ginger for quick digestion
- Let it boil until syrup consistency is reached
- Once the liquid becomes syrupy, simmer the stove and wait for the required three string consistency or hard ball stage.
3. Hard Ball stage in syrup
- Have a small bowl of cold water
- Drop a little syrup into water. If should form a hard ball. If it is a soft ball, the syrup needs a bit more time.
- Here’s a simple explanation of syrup consistencies – single string/two strings or three strings for sweets.
4. Next step is a quick and swift one – otherwise the syrup consistency would turn disastrous.
5. When the syrup is perfect hard ball consistency, drop quickly the roasted walnuts and mix well until every walnut is coated perfectly.
6. Spread on a greased plate.
7. When the walnuts are cool, they would be crisp. Store in an air tight container. They taste awesome when hot too.
bird’s nest with caramelized jaggery