Pascale's Kitchen: A special nut

The wonders of pecans.

(photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
A huge basket, full of pecans, landed on my kitchen table one day, pecans of excellent quality, which were picked from the pecan tree in the garden. My first thought was: What I am supposed to do with this crazy amount of nuts?
The pecans were still soft, so I spread them out to dry.
Five days later, I decided that it was enough, and that it was time to turn them into a variety of treats.
In order to prepare the pecans for different recipes, I figured, I had to go through the annoying and tedious work of peeling, while accomplishing the difficult task of keeping the nuts as complete and beautiful as the ones we buy in supermarkets.
After quite a few failed attempts, I developed a technique that was reasonable and created satisfactory results. I used three tools to crack nuts: a hammer, a nut cracker and a knife with a pointed, narrow tip.
Cracking the nuts was done by placing each one on the chopping board, slightly opening it with the knife and then cracking open the shell with the help of the hammer or nutcracker.
In this way I continued to open nut after nut. After a few hours of hard work, I managed to produce a supply of halves and beautiful whole pecans. I chopped the broken nuts and placed them in a hermetically sealed glass jar, which I kept in the refrigerator so that I could use them to make cakes, cookies, and decorations.
Apart from their excellent taste, it is healthy and worthwhile to eat nuts. They are full of antioxidants, minerals and essential fatty acids. They contain little protein, relative to other nuts, and much more fat. However, they are high in fiber and zinc, which is important for the health of the immune system.
From the fresh pecans I chose to prepare candied pecans, which my children love. The broken nuts I roasted in the oven or microwave to make an excellent salty snack. From the scraps of broken nuts, I made carrot muffins with pecans, which were received with great cheer by the whole family.
Candied pecans are beloved by my whole family. They star in my carrot recipe with candied pecans, chopped chives and sour cream.
The pecans I usually buy are ready and they are quite expensive. Since I received a large amount of pecans, I decided to prepare them myself.
There are a number of different versions to make candied pecans, one of which includes frying them in oil, cooking the pecans, cooling them, and again partially frying and baking them. All of this requires a lot of time.
I chose to shorten the process, by cooking the nuts and then baking them in the oven. With this method I received crisp pecans which were bright brown. Try this version, and if you like your pecans darker, you are welcome to quickly fry them after cooking and before putting them in the oven.
For a medium jar of about 350-400 grams:
2 cups water
¾ cup sugar (you can use brown sugar)
1 cinnamon stick
2 Tbsp. maple syrup (optional – a matter of taste)
1 Tbsp. honey
¼ tsp. dry ground ginger
200 gr. pecans (preferably halves)
Heat the water to a medium heat. Add the sugar. Mix and bring to a boil. Add the maple syrup, honey and ginger mix and bring to a boil again. Add the pecans and simmer for about 20 minutes. From time to time, mix the nuts that float on top. Turn off the flame and cool a little.
Spread baking paper on an oven tray. Place the pecans on the baking paper and bake them in a preheated oven at 180° until a bright brown color is obtained for 8-10 minutes. Remember not to leave them unattended.
When done, move the pecans to another baking tray and let them cool. Separate pecans that stick together.
Transfer to a hermetically sealed glass jar and store in a refrigerator.
Preparing salted pecans for a snack is really simple and quick. They can be prepared in the usual way in the oven by roasting, or in the fast way presented here using the microwave. All you need is two ingredients, almost no work, and you get a wonderful taste!
For 1 jar of ½ liter:
500-600 gr. pecans
1-2 Tbsp. salt
Rinse the pecans thoroughly and strain them. Place them on a wooden work surface and crack them with a hammer but do not crush the nuts completely. Place in a bowl and mix well with the salt.
Transfer to a microwave-proof container and place in the microwave. Microwave for 6-7 minutes at the highest level, remove and cool. Transfer to a hermetically sealed dish and keep until serving.
What is the difference between muffins and cupcakes? Both are baked products presented in individual servings. However, cupcakes are dense and decorated with creams and coatings, while muffins are more airy and delicate and served without decorations but sometimes with indulgent additions.
There is usually no need for an electric mixer to make the muffins. It suffices to use a spoon for mixing. While baking, they rise and form the characteristic mushroom dome.
Makes about 12 medium-sized muffins
80 gr. coconut oil (or 100 gr. butter/softened butter)
½ cup sugar (or brown sugar)
3 eggs, separated
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cloves
1 bag vanilla sugar
¾ cup carrots, shredded thin
1 tsp. lemon peel or grated orange
½ cup sifted flour
½ tsp. baking soda
½ bag baking powder
Pinch of salt
½ cup chopped pecans
For whipping egg whites:
2 Tbsp. sugar
For decoration:
½ cup chopped pecans
Place the coconut oil (or butter) in a bowl. Add the sugar, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla sugar. Beat until lightly mixed. Add the carrots and lemon/orange peel and stir.
In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and nuts. Gradually add the flour mixture to the batter. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites, gradually adding 2 tablespoons of sugar, and continue to whisk until a stable foam is obtained. Fold the foam into the batter.
Place the dough in a piping bag and fill it into the lightly greased muffins pin until it reaches about ¾ of the height. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C for about 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean and dry. Remove and cool.
Translated by Juliane Helmhold.
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