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Help with Union Square Cafe's Bar Nuts!!

Does anyone have some hints / ideas how to get the fabulous savory sugar / spice mixture to stick to the NUTS better??!? I've made them several times with the results being the nuts are on top, & the sugar spices fall to the bottom. Thus when peeps grab some, they're likely to miss all the yummy flavor. (BTW, I tried upping the sugar, thinking more would help 'spread the love' around but it just clumps up & makes hard rosemary-flavored sugar balls to eat with the nuts! Not exactly what I was looking for...

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  1. What is your recipe's method? Oven or skillet? I have had good luck with combining one egg white with butter, sugar and spices, but I don't keep those very long.

      1. We've made some spicy-sweet seasoned nuts at home, and found that a tiny bit of liquid (water or soy sauce) helps everything dissolve and form a glaze that sticks. Try it!

        1. though the recipe directs you to mix the seasonings and butter in a large bowl, add the roasted nuts and then toss, I've had a bit more success in having the stuff adhere to the nuts by using a bit more butter, mixing the seasonings and butter in a small bowl and pouring it on top of the roasted nuts in a big bowl, then tossing really really well. Lots of tossing.

          2 Replies
          1. re: janniecooks

            I too tried upping the butter / oil which I mix w/ the spices before adding to hot nuts. No matter how much tossing, can't seem to get hardly ANY suar / spice mixture to adhere to some of the nuts. So was wondering if spaying w/ a bit of water might help...? But not sure how that will affect the oil... AAGGHH!!
            (BTW, I'm not shooting for ALL the nuts to be sugared -- only to get some of the mixture to stick...)

            1. re: tditty

              Are you putting the nuts on the topping immediately after removing from the oven? They must be hot. Are you using fresh rosemary? And what kind of nuts? I find the mixture sticks better to pecans and almonds with the skin on than to smooth nuts like skinned peanuts and cashews, and although I do get fairly good adherence, there always is some sugar/rosemary/salt that sinks to the bottom of the bowl. I also use a wide stainless steel bowl, which I think may hold the heat in a bit. Perhaps the bowl is too tall and narrow? I wouldn't add water either, for fear that it would make the nuts soggy. As another poster pointed out, there will always be some of the seasoning mixture that sinks to the bottom, I just give the nuts a good stir or shake when serving them.

          2. I haven't looked at the Union Square recipe, but I make a roasted nut mixture using maple syrup, olive oil and salt. The syrup makes everything stick and when baked, the nuts are crisp and fantastic. I think you could add all kinds of seasonings to the mixture and it would be good.

            My recipe: 4 cups mixed untoasted nuts (I use equal parts walnuts, pecans, almonds and hazelnuts), 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp. maple syrup and 1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt. Mix and bake on greased baking sheet at 350 for 35 minutes, stirring once or twice during the baking time. They will still be a bit wet when you take them out of the oven, but crisp up as they cool. I have to hide these from my husband or else he'll eat the entire batch in one sitting and then tell me how horrible he feels.

            1. I do them in the skillet and use a little more butter like Janniecooks. I make sure it good and hot before tossing the nuts into it. It's easy to get too much butter though and too-greasy nuts aren't so nice. Sometimes i mix a bit of olive oil with the butter. Next time I'm going to try ChristinaMason's method of a bit of liquid, getting the sugar and water really hot.

              3 Replies
              1. re: cinnamon girl

                I'm thinkin' a bit of water too, maight help. But beware: I've tried heating up the spices & oil w/ the sugar (thinking this would enhance the fresh choppped rosemary that I use) but alas! I succeeded in only in hardening the sugar so that it REALLY didn't stick to the nuts that time!

                1. re: tditty

                  At the risk of annoying redundancy - try the maple syrup suggestion in my post above. If you look at the recipe, you'll see that it only needs tweaking with spices to make it similar to the Union Square flavour profile, and the maple would, if anything, be a great addition to that. It also sticks.

                  1. re: Nyleve

                    That's a great idea and maple syrup won't turn into hard lumps as does sugar if you get carried away (as per Tditty's point). Tditty - I've done that a couple times. No, those lumps don't stick at all. But I've only done it a couple of times in the dozens of batches I've made over the years. I posted a similar maple syrup roasted nuts on another thread from the Tartine cookbook. It had occurred to me to chuck in some rosemary and tobasco but I've yet to do it. I did something with caramel corn - that rosemary-sweet-salty combo is irresistible.

              2. This is the actual recipe, as per Food Network, which has featured them multiple times:


                The key is roasting them dry, then mixing with butter and the seasonings. You also really need to use fresh rosemary. This is one place where dried simply doesn't substitute properly. If I recall correctly from the restaurant, they don't actually chop the rosemary there, but instead leave it in whole branches (though I could be remembering that wrong).

                4 Replies
                1. re: dmd_kc

                  The book does specify chopped rosemary. I wonder if the branch was there for decoration? How nice you got to sample them at the mother ship!

                  1. re: cinnamon girl

                    I used to go frequently and eat at the bar on purpose. (I love doing that -- eating solo at nice restaurants is one of my favorite things, because I can eat at my own pace.) But last time I was there, there was NO way I would have beaten through the crowd just to get the nuts. The hostess told me some show on Food Network had just talked about them, and they'd been slammed.

                  2. re: dmd_kc

                    Curious - This is Nigella's "version" - it calls for 18 ounces of nuts, whereas Union Square recipe calls for 2 lbs. - but both recipes use the same amount of topping. Does anyone who's made both have a preference?

                    1. re: jns7

                      The recipe I have calls for 1.5 pounds of nuts. I measure the nuts by weight, not by volume, and usually add a bit more cayenne. 2 pounds is too much for the quantity of topping, 18 ounces may be a bit too little IMO. Here are the recipe proportions, I probably cut this from Gourmet or Bon Appetit:

                      1 ½ pounds assorted unsalted nuts
                      2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
                      ½ teaspoon to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
                      2 teaspoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
                      2 teaspoons coarse (kosher) salt
                      1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

                  3. I make these all the time from the Union Square cookbook. I say lots of tossing--I roast the nuts in the oven & then dump them into the bowl of butter & spices (and yes--I agree about using the fresh rosemary) and toss them around like crazy. Some does settle to the bottom but I give them a little toss in the serving bowl too every once in a while. I love these nuts.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: sparkareno

                      I also make these all the time from the cookbook. Love them. Just keep tossing right out of the oven. As with all the comments, fresh rosemary is a must. And toss every 10 minutes or so to get the good stuff from the bottom. So good.

                      1. re: Tom P

                        Yes I used to the consult the book when making them but in recent years have done it from memory but just tossing the nuts in the skillet in which I've melted the butter. I agree that tossing them A LOT is key. They stay in the skillet and I keep tossing and stirring them till they're cooled. Also, I use tobasco sauce instead of cayenne; maybe that helps a tiny bit.

                    2. I've made my own changes to make this recipe work more to my liking. It's a lot easier to find salted nut mixes in my area, so I use that instead of unsalted nuts. I leave out the salt entirely, and mix the melted butter, cayenne and rosemary into the nuts after they've been toasted. After tossing the nuts with the butter mixture, I sprinkle regular granulated sugar onto the buttered nuts and toss. I'm thinking I may try pulverizing some brown sugar in my mini food processor next time to see if that might work as well. Every time I've made the original recipe as written, the butter/sugar mixture just slides right off the nuts, leaving buttered nuts sitting on top of the semi-hardened sugar/spice misture.

                      1. I know this is a little late in coming, but Cooks Illustrated thinks the best way to do spiced nuts is by using egg whites. I couldn't find their recipe online but here's one from smitten kitchen using an egg white (toss nuts in egg white, then spices, then toast). http://smittenkitchen.com/2008/12/sug... I've noticed these recipes tend not to use butter but maybe some could be tossed on after toasting? I think I'll give it a try - I have a big bunch of rosemary from a food swap :)

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Mmonster

                          Patricia Wells also uses egg whites in her spiced nut recipe and it works beautifully.

                        2. I haven't noticed anyone else suggesting this--molasses. Brown sugar is made from molasses, so I added just a small amount to my spice mixture. Nuts seemed to coat nicely. I will know for sure after they cool some.