Candy making has a long-standing tradition in Mexico. After the conquest and through to the XVIII century, candy making was in the hands of Catholic nuns in the many convents around the country. The nuns became specialists in the making of the regional sweets so famous in Mexico today. For these nuns, candy making, and the subsequent sale of these candies, provided them with additional income that helped house and feed the hundreds of women within the convent walls. The nuns had the tradition, knowledge and ingredients of the old world, but in the new world, they had a wealth of new ingredients to play with. This is where the real fusion happened, and what we know as Mexican candies today was created.
One of these traditional candies is Almendras Garapiñadas. A popular street snack in Mexico as well as in Spain, particularly during Christmas, it is traditional to find candied peanuts in the south, whereas in the north you would find pecans. I like to make mine with almonds.
Garapiñados, as these candied nuts are called, are traditionally made in the copper pots made in Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacán, but I find that a heavy Dutch oven works just as well. The process is very easy: melt down sugar, add nuts, stir constantly until the melted sugar crystallizes, and then continue stirring until the sugar melts once more to create beautiful shiny nuts. Because you have to stir for so long, I prefer to use almonds instead of the traditional peanuts, as they hold up much better during the cooking process. Peanuts tend to separate into two halves while you cook, and though this does not affect the flavour one bit, I prefer the look of a whole almond instead.
During the holiday season, these Almendras Garapiñadas make beautiful hostess gifts. But make sure you keep some for yourself, as they are deliciously addictive!
4 cups raw whole almonds
1 cup sugar
¼ cup water
1 Tbsp ground canela (or cinnamon)
1 tsp vanilla
In large, heavy pot, combine sugar, water, canela and vanilla. Bring to a boil over high heat and then add almonds. Lower heat to medium high and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the sugar coats the almonds and looks dry, about 10 minutes. Turn heat to medium low and continue stirring until the sugar begins to melt again and becomes glossy. This could take another 10-15 minutes.
Turn out almonds onto a parchment-lined baking tray or a silicone pastry mat, and toss and stir as they cool, otherwise, they will clump together.
Store in a tin and keep them dry.
Makes about 5 cups.