I combined two recipes in the book: the standard and the hot peppered pecans, using a bit less pepper than Maida's husband seems to require. These pecans are quite sugary--kind of like a praline--but the spices and pepper counteract that really nicely so that you get a really complex and even somewhat surprising flavor.
As Maida suggests, these make a great nibble with drinks, and they also make a great nibble when you're just hanging out in the kitchen. So beware.
These pecans are a bit fussy, in that they require the use of a candy thermometer. I was worried about that, because I can never seem to get an accurate reading, but I stopped cooking just shy of the "soft ball" point, and it worked out just as Maida told me it would.
Still, if I want to make candied nuts again, I'll probably use Elise's recipe for sugared pecans, which is a lot simpler and a bit less sweet. But I'll add pepper.
Here's the recipe. Make it for guests or for gifts--or yourself.
Spiced (Hot Peppered) Pecans
2 c. (7 oz.) pecan halves
1 c. (7 oz.) sugar
Generous pinch coarse salt
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. ginger
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. ground red pepper (not cayenne! I used piment d'esplette. Ancho chile powder might also work)
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1/4 t. cream of tartar
1/4 c. water
1/2 t. vanilla
Heat the oven to 350. Put the pecan halves on a cookie sheet or shallow baking dish and let toast 5-7 minutes, watching carefully. Turn off the oven and crack it open, but let the pecans stay in the oven to stay warm.
Get out a small saucepan and a medium saucepan. Put the sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, peppers, cream of tartar, and water in the small saucepan. Stir over high heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Put in a candy thermometer and turn the heat down to medium. Let boil without stirring until the syrup reaches 238 F (soft ball stage).
When the syrup is almost at temperature, take the pecans out of the oven and put into the medium saucepan. When the syrup reaches the right temperature, take it off the heat and stir in the vanilla. Pour the syrup over the pecans and start stirring until the syrup turns into a dullish sugary coating--this could take about 2-3 minutes, but it didn't seem to take that long for me. Turn the nuts out onto a sheet of parchment paper to cool. Store airtight, preferably out of easy reach .