Sunday, October 31, 2010

Almond and Pumpkin Seed Brittle

Happy Halloween! We're getting ready for a big night of trick-or-treating with the kids tonight. We've got our 5 year-old dressing up as Shaggy and our 23 month-old dressing as Scooby-Doo. Since both boys are huge fans of Scooby-Doo, this year's theme was a no-brainer. I hope to be able to get some picture of the boys in their costumes posted here in the next week or so. In the meantime, though, I offer you some lovely brittle!

Nothing screams Halloween more than candy and pumpkins. This Almond and Pumpkin Seed Brittle is a very tasty little treat that would make a great snack for the trick-or-treaters, or their parents. We served it at a Halloween party that we helped out with yesterday at my in-laws'. It's great finger food, and the guests seemed to enjoy it.

Now, I have to confess something. This is actually my second attempt at making this brittle. The first time I made it, I burned the candy and ended up with a very, very dark brittle. It was almost the color of a milk chocolate, but it sure didn't taste like chocolate! It had a salty, bitter taste (yes, I tried it, and yes, I actually ate way more of it than was rational, considering it was a flub!) and nobody else in my household would even touch the stuff.

I did use a candy thermometer, even though the recipe did not indicate that I had to. I read other brittle recipes online and was trying to go by what they were telling me to do, temperature-wise. I thought I needed to take the temp all the way up to 320-ish, although other recipes say to remove the candy from the heat at about 300. Plus, I think the thermometer was off, and I took the candy too far because I was relying on the temperature I was reading from it. Making this stuff is trickier than I thought it would be, mainly because there's such a fine line between perfect and burnt. Maybe in the future I should rely strictly on the recipe's instructions, and shouldn't depend on a thermometer to tell me what's right!

Though this second batch turned out much, much better, it's still pretty dark. Maybe I need to be removing the candy from the heat even sooner than the recipe says to? I dunno, but it really doesn't matter this time because this brittle is dee-licious! The pumpkin seeds I used were lightly salted, and then you add more salt to the candy before adding your nuts. This results in a delightfully sweet/salty combo, enhanced by a dash of cinnamon for extra spice. The cinnamon was something I threw in on a whim; it wasn't part of the original recipe. I'm glad I added it; I can never have enough cinnamon! I really think it works in the brittle.

Almond and Pumpkin Seed Brittle
adapted from The Craft of Baking
makes 1 1/2 pounds

Nonstick cooking spray
2 cups sugar
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. kosher salt (the recipe called for 1 1/2 Tbsp., but my pumpkin seeds were salted so I cut down on that)
4 oz. (about 1 cup) pumpkin seeds, salted and toasted
4 oz. (about 1 cup) raw almonds, left whole or halved, toasted

1. Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray; set it aside (Nonstick aluminum foil worked great, too!). Mix together the salt and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.

2. Combine the sugar, butter, water, and corn syrup in a large saucepan. Stir together so that all of the sugar is wet. Cook the mixture over high heat without stirring until it turns a dark amber color, about 10 minutes. (I used my candy thermometer to bring the mixture up to about 320 degrees. In the future I would probably aim for between 300 and 320, just so that the brittle is a little bit lighter in color.) Remove from the heat.

3. Carefully whisk in the baking soda, followed by the salt and cinnamon; the caramel will rise and bubble. Using a wooden or metal spoon, fold in the pumpkin seeds and almonds. Pour the brittle onto the prepared baking sheet, and using the back of the spoon, spread it out into a layer about 1/2-inch thick. Let it cool completely.

4. Break the brittle into bite-sized pieces, using a mallet or the back of a heavy knife. The brittle can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

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