1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
⅓ cup powdered sugar (or regular sugar)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla
In a large skillet combine the water, 1 cup of sugar and the cinnamon.
Bring it to a boil over medium heat stirring constantly.
Add the pecans and raise the temperature to high. This is what it looks like when you first add the pecans.
Keep stirring until the sugar mixture is thick and the consistency of cold maple syrup, like this. This should take about five minutes but keep an eye on the sugar, not the clock.
Here is where you have a decision to make. It's time to add the last 1/3 cup sugar to your pecans. Adding uncooked sugar to the cooked sugar will crystallize everything and give your pecans a nice, crunchy shell. If you didn't add in the sugar at the end they would have a caramel shell somewhere between a pull-out-a-filling and a break-your-teeth consistency.
If you add powdered sugar your shell will be a little less crunchy/crystallized than if you add regular sugar. Both will work. I personally like how they turn out with powdered sugar a little better. Adding regular sugar makes them more like the cinnamon sugar nuts you find at a fair.
Add the 1/3 cup sugar and vanilla. Keep stirring until the sugar is incorporated and the pecans are coated. If there is any gooey sugar left in the bottom of the pan, stir it for a minute or two more and it will completely coat the pecans.
Spread out your pecans on a large sheet of parchment paper and let them cool completely before sampling, serving or storing. Seriously. These babies will be HOT so resist the urge to pop them right in your mouth.
Take my word on this last step. Get out a little zip lock bag. Fill it with your cinnamon sugar pecans and hide it in the back of your pantry. In 15 minutes the rest of the pecans will have been consumed by everyone within sniffing distance of the kitchen. Later tonight you can bust out your secret stash and nosh in private.