Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Culinary IQ: Wednesday, December 7, 2011; Brittle

Sweet, Crunchy, Salty!

Who doesn't love the combination of sweet and salty with a lot of crunch? Nut brittles are the perfect confection to satisfy that taste. The cooking process to make nut brittle by nature involves the caramelization of sugar and roasting of nuts with the saltiness of the baking soda used to foam them and give you the trifecta!

Nut brittles are so popular in the United States and more prevalent than any where else that they are now believed by most to be of American origin, not true; however, we may have perfected them. History tells us the nut brittles may have been the first candy. While sugar coated nuts and fruits are some of the first recorded candies eaten by man and most likely for digestive reasons the modern nut brittle has little resemblance to it's ancient ancestor. Advances in technology including the refining of sugar and the common use of fire for cooking are two important developments that have allowed us to easily produce nut brittles.

Nut brittles usually contain one or more varieties of nuts, the most popular being peanut. In addition to nuts you will often see other ingredients such as coconut. The important thing to remember when adding ingredients is that if the ingredient is added in the beginning of the process is needs to be sturdy enough to hold up the the very high heat involved in making the candy. Other less stable ingredients can be stirred in at the end when the butter and vanilla are added. I like to add some candied ginger to my peanut brittle at this point.

Brittles make very good holiday gifts as they store easily in airtight containers and will last without refrigeration for several weeks. We all know how scarce refrigerator space can be during the holidays.
Here is my favorite recipe that was handed down to me by a friend several years ago. It is easy and makes a considerable amount of brittle:

Candy Lovers Brittle
3 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
3 cups raw spanish or virginia peanuts skins on
1 T. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
In a heavy 3-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, cook the sugar, corn syrup and water to 280°F. on a candy thermometer (soft crack stage). Gradually stir in peanuts so mixture continues to boil. Continue cooking without stirring to 300°F. (hard crack stage). Remove from heat, add butter and vanilla, at once stir in baking soda and salt. Pour onto two large buttered cookie sheets, allowing brittle to spread itself. Cool. Break into pieces. 
Yield 2 ½ pounds

Now you have two items to put in your holiday treat packages and by the end of the week you will have more, see you back here tomorrow.

No comments:

Post a Comment