Gebrannte Mandeln Is The German Snack Starring Decadent Caramelized Almonds

Once the holiday season rolls around, tasty delights come not only at mealtimes but in the form of the best holiday snacks, too. Whether it's a bowl filled with crispy bites for entertaining or simply a stash for personal enjoyment, there's always a place for the perfect nibble.

Candied nuts are an excellent go-to when it comes to the medley of taste and texture. Craft them with varying nut bases, and throw on sugar and spice. What could be better? To no one's surprise, there are several countries with a candied nut holiday tradition, including Austria and Germany.

In these central European countries, almonds are candied into delicious sugared bites and spiced with cinnamon and vanilla to create Gebrannte Mandeln. They're sold at Christmas markets and enjoyed while sipping on Gluhwein during nights full of holiday cheer. With an extra crunchy, complex character, they're an example of sweet snacks at their best. Let's dive into what these decadent almonds are all about.

The history of Gebrannte Mandeln

The practice of caramelizing nuts has been around in Europe for a while. Stories of coating almonds in caramel date back to the 17th century in France. In Germany, the food doesn't have abundant historical documentation, with only a single report from 1871. Nevertheless, the sweet and crunchy creation is now a popular snack in the European nation, especially associated with holidays. Bundles of Gebrannte Mandeln are enjoyed at Christmas markets, during Oktoberfest, and often gifted. The nuts are popular in Austria, too. In Austria, their alternate name is Wiener Mandeln or Viennese almonds.

The more widely utilized name Gebrannte Mandeln translates to burn nuts, although the almonds are perfectly caramelized. The process takes a deft balance with controlled stirring ensuring ideal sugar crystallization. As a result, the food is especially well predisposed to large batches, hence why it's crafted at markets. However, a larger batch can also be replicated within the home and then stored for gifts and later enjoyment.

What is Gebrannte Mandeln?

This tasty snack is the ideal holiday treat; almonds coated in sugar and spiced with cinnamon and vanilla. Their creation process differs from one deployed in a traditional candied nuts recipe because it features more extensive heating. The sugar is allowed to crystallize on the almond, then melted and reformed again, yielding a rougher, more chunky exterior. To ensure a perfectly crispy but not burnt texture, the heat is kept on a low simmer. Meanwhile, the almonds are vigorously stirred throughout the process.

The toasting of the spices in sugar creates a fragrant aroma in the air, an appealing quality in the market settings where the nuts are enjoyed. While they take some deft sugar heating, homespun creations also enable experimentation with other flavorings. Some up the holiday flavor by cooking the nuts in a Lebkuchen spice mix, which is a gingerbread-like aromatic medley composed of allspice, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, and more. Others experiment with varying sugar blends as the inclusion of brown sugar lends a different quality. Such is the wonder of Gebrannte Mandeln; each batch is slightly different but dependably delicious.