Readers often ask me why I write mysteries with food in them and I always answer honestly: I love eating. And I love spices. Writing a series set in a spice shop has given me even more reasons to play with flavors.
Some people say they don’t like “spicy” food, but they usually mean they’re put off by heat, not flavor. This recipe has a bit of both—but Pepper, my Spice Shop owner, always advises giving blends time for the edges to wear off, usually just a few hours.
Mr. Right and I made three batches of this at Christmas, mostly to share. Oh, alright, partly to share. If you’re serving these nuts at a party, as Pepper’s friend Laurel does in ASSAULT AND PEPPER, make extra and tuck them away to enjoy after your guests head home.
We ate them so fast the pictures are a tad blurry. Sorry!
Spiced Glazed Nuts and Pretzel Mix2 cups mixed raw nuts: any combination of cashews, whole almonds, Spanish peanuts, pecan halves, or hazelnuts
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1½ tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt, kosher salt, or other coarse salt
2 cups mini pretzel twists; if you can’t find mini twists, break up larger twists or sticks
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix the nuts in a large bowl. Spread on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10 minutes, stirring once. Leave the oven on after you remove the nuts.
Melt the butter, either on the stove top or in the microwave, and pour into the large bowl. Stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon, cayenne, and maple syrup.
Add the toasted nuts, still warm, to the bowl and stir until coated. Mix in the salt and pretzels, and stir until the nuts and pretzels are completely coated. (Adding the salt after the nuts and sugar mixture are stirred keeps the salt from dissolving.)
Spread the mixture on the baking sheet and toast in the oven for 15 to 18 minutes, stirring twice during cooking. Remove from the oven and cool completely. The mixture can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.
When the mixture first comes out of the oven, you may taste a sharpness and fear that you overdid the cayenne. Remember Pepper’s advice—these flavors mellow beautifully in just a few hours.
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Leslie Budewitz is the only author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction—the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, for Death al Dente (Berkley Prime Crime), and the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction, for Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books).
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