(Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on my personal blog, Eat with Pleasure, in 2013.)
Walnuts candied in honey are traditionally enjoyed on New Year’s Eve and throughout the holiday season in Georgia. (Most Georgians who celebrate Christmas do so on January 7, when it falls according to the Orthodox Church (Julian) calendar.) The crisp brittle keeps well and doesn’t require too much space in stomachs already stretched from days of feasting. When I make gozinaki, I like to mix the walnuts with hazelnuts, pecans, or almonds and use single-flower honey to lend each batch a distinctive character. As the honey caramelizes, it fills the house with its warm, sweet perfume, somewhere between orange blossoms and gingerbread. By the time I’ve turned the brittle onto my cutting board to cool, everyone is already waiting by the kitchen door, clambering for a piece.
Snack on a square of this to get you through the mid-afternoon slump at work, pair it with a shot of espresso for a sweet treat you won’t feel guilty about eating, or bring a bag of it along on your next hiking trip to keep you energized.
Honey Nut Brittle (Gozinaki)
Makes about 25 2-in. pieces
1 ½ cups walnut halves
1 ½ cups hazelnuts
1 cup good-quality honey
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. sea salt, divided
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil and bake for 8-10 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Allow to cool slightly, then coarsely chop the nuts. (It is best to roast nuts whole and chop them later, because pre-chopped pieces burn easily. Warm nuts are also easier to chop without shards flying everywhere.)
- Heat the honey and sugar in a heavy-bottomed skillet or saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture comes to a rolling boil. (It will look like soap suds.) Let it boil for 1 minute, stirring frequently. (The sugar is there to help the brittle set.)
- Add the chopped nuts and ¼ tsp. of sea salt to the boiling honey. Let the mixture come back up to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the nuts become very sticky and the honey thickens and turns a tawny brown color. Depending on the thickness of your pan and the heat of your stove, this should take about 7-10 minutes. Be careful not to let the nuts burn as they cook, nor the honey smoke.
- Turn the honey-nut mixture out onto a moistened cutting board. Spread the nuts into a ½ inch thick layer with a rubber spatula or the back of a wooden spoon. Sprinkle the remaining ¼ tsp. of sea salt on top. Allow to cool ten minutes, then chop into pieces of whatever size you desire. (Diamonds are traditional.) Transfer them to a plate or another hard surface, sticky sides up, and allow to cool completely—the brittle will harden as it cools. Store in an airtight container or in the freezer.