Just sweet enough but not over done. That’s how I describe these candied sunflower seeds.
When we were in Madrid last year I purchased such seeds from a market vendor. I’m not one for candied nuts but what possessed me was never having seen them. I went back five or six times before we left and smuggled some home on the plane.
These little guys add a depth of unexpected flavor to items. One of my favorites is sprinkling them on top of a salad that’s dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette. Most recently they’ve ended up on a fruit salad with mango, papaya and blueberries. They’d add a touch of sweetness to a hotter main dish. They’ll satiate a sweet tooth all by themselves without much damage too.
Here’s how it goes for a small batch that’ll work on four or so salads and leave you some to munch on. Put 1/4 cup of seeds in a small sauce pan. Add 2 tablespoons of each water and sugar. Put the pan on the stove and turn the heat to medium high. Don’t walk away! It’s easy to forget about them and then you’ll have a burnt mess.
When it just starts to bubble, turn the heat to low and simmer the mixture. You want to evaporate the moisture until it’s almost all gone and the sugar coats the seeds. This takes roughly 5 to 7 minutes. Keep watching- the sugar will start to just brown a bit, that’s when you take them off the heat. When you stir, they’ll be slightly goopy and sticky with minimal syrup. If you’re not quite sure, take them off the heat. The next step below will coax them.
The trick with these is to quickly spread them on a parchment lined baking sheet then pop them into a 350F oven. I didn’t do this the first time and they didn’t cooperate. The oven helps bake residual sugar and browns the seeds. I baked mine for 2 minutes, checked, then another 2 minutes and checked. Repeat this- you may want to decrease to 1 minute checks- until they are deep golden brown. Remove and cool.
You can leave several clusters bunched together or break them all up into individuals, depending on how you want to use them. Dangerously seductive little seeds they are!
I haven’t tried this with nuts but based on reading about making candied nuts, this method will work. Some people don’t use water (check out Suzie the Foodie, she convinced me) while others do. If you’ve made them differently, let us know!
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