Savory Roasted Asian Almonds

Savory Roasted Asian Almonds
I've put off the thought for as long as possible, and now I can't avoid it any longer.  The holiday season is here.  Its never too early to start planning what your going to cook or bake for all of those holiday parties, host/ess gifts, office snack table, or, most importantly, something to sustain you as you shop and wrap and make yourself merry and bright.

In Finland, where Halloween has, for better or worse, become a thing so October is filled with colorful squashes, harvest decorations and a few scare faces. Thanksgiving, however is only celebrated by those of us Americans and Canadians who have somehow found our way, via one road or another, to this distant shore.  This means that in Finland, the beginning of November, after a brief respite to honor All Saints Day, finds the entire retail sector taking a deep dive into all things Christmas.  And "everyone knows" that Santa Claus comes from Finland ;), with visitors from around the world making a visit to Santa Claus land in Rovaniemi every year, you can bet that the Jolly Old Fellow makes his appearance on every corner as well.
Just out of the oven
And of course during holiday season people gather together for parties and dinners and general good times, which means there is will be a great need for good food.  Since I'm happy to be in the kitchen strumming up new ideas anyway, this time of year is perfect for me.  I can make a batch of something, taste it, and give the rest away with a "Happy Holidays!" or happy something, anyway. and not be stuck with more food than I/we can reasonably consume.  There is always a good excuse to show up on someone's doorstep this time of year with a plate, box, jar full of something.  It's a good problem.

So this weekend, someone is going to get a big jar of Savory Roasted Asian Almonds.  I was actually aiming for Wasabi almonds with the nasal clearing impact of Wasabi pea or a sushi roll topped with a good wad of Wasabi paste, but the amount of Wasabi required to pull that off was clearly beyond the limits of my pantry, so I opted instead to add soy sauce (Tamari), maple syrup and sesame seeds to the Wasabi mixture for a bold savory flavor and loud, satisfying crunch.

Don't be tempted to speed up the oven time by increasing the oven temperature.  These need to cook long and slow so the almonds crack between your teeth when you bite into one.

Savory Roasted Asian Almonds
Savory Roasted Asian Almonds

Preheat oven to 150°C / 300°F

500g / 1.25 lbs raw almonds, soaked 4 hours or overnight in water
4 teaspoons Wasabi powder (available at Asian food markets and in most large grocery stores)
3 teaspoons soy sauce (preferably Tamari)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons black or white sesame seeds

Drain the almonds.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients until smooth.  Add the almonds and stir well until all the almonds are coated.  Spread them out in a single layer on a parchment covered baking tray. Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven and stir the almond mixture really well so that any liquid pooled onto the pan will be redistributed to coat the almonds.  Return the pan to the oven and reduce the heat to 125°C / 250°F.  Bake for another 45 minutes, removing the pan every 15 minutes to stir the almonds and spread them back out into a single layer again.

After 60 minutes, remove the almonds from the oven and set them on the counter to cool completely.

Almonds will keep well in a tightly sealed container for 4 weeks.

Makes 4 cups / 1 liter / 500g

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