Wet walnuts, the sticky-sweet ice cream topping made from walnuts and maple syrup, often have a soggy appearance and cloying flavor. If the walnuts aren't sufficiently toasted, or if you use low-quality maple syrup, an otherwise delicious sundae can be spoiled. Instead of a crunchy, warm sauce redolent of crisp New England afternoons, your dessert will drown in artificially-sweetened goo.
Many times I have pondered adding wet walnuts to my ice cream scoop, only to opt for hot fudge in the end, because, let's face it—even bad warm chocolate is good warm chocolate. But what if you're really craving rich, nutty flavor, and nothing else will do? The answer is, of course, to make wet walnuts yourself. By preparing a homemade version, you control the quality, ingredients, and proportions.
This recipe is adapted from Sweet Stuff by Karen Barker, winner of the 2003 James Beard Award for Best Pastry Chef. Karen adds both ground and fresh ginger to her wet walnuts to really kick up the flavor. Use any nuts you have on hand—even macadamias or pecans—to replace of the walnuts. This sauce can be made up to two days in advance.
- 3/4 cup corn syrup
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 cup peeled, finely chopped fresh ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 1/4 cups walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
Combine the corn syrup, maple syrup, water, sugar, and ground and fresh ginger in a nonreactive saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring once or twice. Allow to cook for 2 to 3 minutes and remove from heat. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer pressing on the ginger to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the ginger. Add the lemon juice to the sauce. Stir in the walnuts.