Or as Mike called it, “The New Best Thing Ever”, “Heaven in a Bowl”, and “OMGooooooood!!”
I know, it doesn’t look like much. It wasn’t planned, and then when it turned out so well I had to grab a bunch out of Mike’s fist in order to document it. I’m not sure how to convey how much better this tastes than it looks. The spur-of-the-moment red tissue may have been a mistake. I’ll take more photos next time – and there will be a next time. We ate the entire batch tonight while decorating the tree.
I was just playing, distracted by thoughts of the sugary top of that Skibo Castle Ginger Crunch I told you about. I wanted to make it maple: ditch the ginger, swap the golden syrup for pure maple. Which made me want to add toasted walnuts. I put a slab of butter into a small pot to melt, intending to add another layer to an existing batch, just to try. I left the empty pot on the stove a few minutes too long as I went for the butter – distracted by something – and when I dropped it in the heat turned it golden instantly.
Browned butter! Of course! what better way to improve on an already awesome butter-sugar-golden syrup combo? I swirled the pot until it melted and turned a nutty brown, then stirred in the icing sugar, maple syrup this time and a bit of vanilla and dropped it in globs over just toasted walnut halves. Not pretty, but not ugly either, and ridiculously delicious.
It sounds insanely sweet, this butter-icing sugar stuff, like hard icing. But it’s not. A cup of powdered sugar is equivalent to half a cup of regular sugar – which isn’t to say this is low in sugar, just less sweet than it sounds. It balances the toasted walnuts perfectly. Make sure you have nice fresh walnuts, which is easy at this time of year with the turnover most stores see. They should be crunchy and nutty and slightly sweet – not at all bitter.
I’m not saying these are authentic pralines – in fact I’m sure they’re not – but I can’t think of what else to call them, other than sweet brown buttery, walnutty goodness.
Browned Butter Maple Walnut Praline
1 1/2 cups California walnut halves or pieces
1/3 cup butter
1-2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup or Lyle’s or Roger’s Golden Syrup
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Toast the walnuts by spreading them on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and toasting in a 350F oven for 6-7 minutes, or until golden and fragrant. If you have a toaster oven, that works too.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and after it melts, continue cooking it, swirling the pan often, until it foams and turns a nutty brown. Whisk in the syrup, icing sugar and vanilla. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 seconds.
Spread the toasted walnuts out on the lined baking sheet and pour the butter mixture overtop, trying to cover as much of the nuts as possible. Stir a bit on the sheet with a spoon so that it clumps up and coats (or at least touches) as many of the walnuts as possible. Let cool, then break into chunks. Try to share. Makes about 8 servings.