Not often found in the US, "Gebrannte Mandeln" in German (literally translated "burnt almonds) are most often purchased at open air markets such as "Kirmes" "Schützenfeste" or "Weihnachtsmärkte". They are not really "burnt" at all, but rather roasted, with a delicious crunchy cinnamon-sugar crust, usually cooked fresh in copper kettles at the festival.
Special equipment you will need:
A heavy pot 4-6 quart size. NOT a non-stick pan.
A wooden spoon
12 oz. raw, whole almonds, about 1¾ cups
1/3 cup vanilla bean sugar (using 1/2 vanilla bean)
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
First, scrape the inside of the vanilla bean and add it to the 1/3 cup sugar. I put mine through a sieve with the sugar to break up the sticky seeds and mix it well. Set aside.
Add the 3/4 cup sugar, 1/3 cup water and 1 teaspoon cinnamon to the heavy saucepan and set it over medium heat. Stir to mix, then bring it to a boil before adding the almonds. Add the almonds to the pan after the sugar water comes to a boil. Stir over high heat, to boil the water away. (Photo 1)
The sugar will finally dry out. Keep stirring, so that the almonds do not burn on the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat under the pan to medium or medium-low, to keep the sugar from browning too fast and burning. (Photo 2)
At this stage, the sugar heats up and starts to melt. keep stirring so that the almonds become evenly browned and about half of the sugar is melted and gives the almonds a shiny coat.
A second coating of sugar is added at this point:
Pour the reserved 1/3 cup vanilla sugar over the almonds and stir. Keep stirring, watch for the sugar to melt and coat the almonds.
Note: Fresh almonds will start crackling or popping about now. Don't worry, this is residual water in the almonds expanding or escaping. If the almonds are older, there will not be as much crackling.
Keep stirring until the almonds are fairly shiny, but still a bit lumpy. They will stick together but you will separate them later. When they are shiny, but not burnt, remove from heat.
Spread the almonds on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. They are very hot, so only use a spoon to separate! While they are cooling, keep breaking them apart. When they are cool enough, continue breaking them apart with your fingers until they are all separated. (Photo 3)
The burnt sugar almonds can be eaten warm, but when they are fully cooled, the candy coating hardens to a nice crunch.
Store them in a dry, closed container. They keep for several weeks, if you can refrain from eating them, but almonds will eventually go rancid, so do not keep them too long. (Photo 4)