There comes a point in every winter where I find myself joking about how many more of them I can stand before I drop everything and relocate. Last year, it was the day before my yearly trip to Florida to visit my mother. I was walking in to work. In fact, I had arrived at work. It was the start of the morning rush, at which point our coffee shop begins to flood with un-caffeinated, grumpy, groggy customers. Which means that, as I reached for the door and slipped on the ice, slamming down to the ground on my right side, a lot of people saw me. Like, a lot. I walked in, ignoring what was perhaps the least classiest of my arrivals, and announced that I would not be returning from my vacation.
That was obviously a lie. Almost a year has passed, and I have been here for a while. But as I lounged the next week, covered in bruises, on some of Southern Florida’s beautiful beaches, miles away from the terrible Minnesota winter, I genuinely could not believe how much better it felt to be away from it all. Existing in a place where the weather does not hurt day in and day out can be a pretty sweet thing.
But so, too, can bundling up, finding warmth in the presence of loved ones and friends when the world outside is unwelcoming and cold. And, on days when you need a little something extra, you can always turn to one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever chanced upon. Like, if these hazelnuts didn’t taste so grand, I wouldn’t even consider bragging about them, because they required little effort at all.
Nutty, speckled brown butter mingles with the rich amber of pure maple syrup, whose depth we play on with some cinnamon and warm cayenne. I chose hazelnuts in celebration of the many winters I’ve been privileged enough to encounter in southern Germany with my family, wandering the Weihnachtsmärkte with crepes, Glühwein, or spiced nuts in hand. But we’ve been over that part. Perhaps that’s the loveliest aspect of traditions, though—the repetition, the knowledge of what is coming, and the wonder of what might arrive in its wake.
Maple and Brown Butter Hazelnuts
Makes about 2 cups
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
2 cups whole hazelnuts
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a large saucepan, melt the butter on medium high heat until it starts to foam and crackle and brown. Once the butter has sufficiently browned, turn the heat down to low and add maple syrup, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Add the hazelnuts to this mixture, stirring to combine. Let the mixture bubble on the heat for another 2-3 minutes, then transfer to baking sheet, ensuring the mixture is evenly distributed. Let cool slightly (about 5 minutes), then transfer to a bowl and serve. Hazelnuts are best served warm, but will keep for up to three days.