I was surprised the other day when discussing almonds with a friend. She said she prefers to eat them blanched, no skins, white as can be. I guess I just assumed that everyone else shares my taste for toasted nuts of any kind, yet there is a purist taste for the blanched almond that I can appreciate. But toasting lends such depth to the nut, and with almonds in particular toasting can be taken to a mahogany extreme. The flavor is out of this world.
When you toast nuts, use raw or roasted, unsalted or salted. Scatter them on a sheet pan and give them a little bit of breathing room. Place a rack smack in the middle of your oven, then preheat the oven to 350 degrees and don’t put the nuts in until you’ve got full-on heat. Nuts typically toast in 7-10 minutes, but there is a spectrum of golden brown from light to dark, and timing will depend on a host of factors like type of nut, how dark you want them, and calibration of the oven. So it’s good to spoon a nut out on the early side of that timeframe and cut it open to see how dark it is.
A real key to toasting nuts perfectly is paying attention. Use your timer and stay near, because if there’s one thing that gets burned the most and the easiest, it is the nut. My tendency to walk away from a toasting nut to multitask has on occasion sent a few batches down the drain and filled my kitchen with the unfortunate scent of mistake.
I like to keep little jars of toasted nuts in my refrigerator at all times, so I can grab a handful to top a salad (or a scoop of ice cream, but not right now. Not right now.). For the almonds we’re stuffing our dates with tomorrow, I like to get them so well toasted that their insides are the color of coffee with cream. Try it. You’ll like it.