When I was in first grade my class had a lesson on cooking. Since we were a room full of six-year olds the lesson was pretty basic. I don’t recall what, if anything, we actually made but I remember it inspiring me to go home and cook something all by myself and that dish I remember. I made peanut brittle. Or at least that was my intent. Nut brittle isn’t hard to make but somewhere along the line the six-year-old chef in me went wrong and I ended up with a gooey mess that stuck to my mom’s favorite baking pan.
I’ve had my share of cooking mistakes since that first failed candy making attempt but fortunately they haven’t involved making brittle. A simple sugar and butter syrup, when you use a candy thermometer making brittle is actually a pretty fool-proof endeavor. Classic peanut brittle is the standard but other nuts are nice too. For an unexpected twist you can stir in seeds or spices instead. I love this recipe from Fine Cooking magazine; the combination of black and white sesame seeds imparts a toasted flavor that contrasts nicely with the sweet base. It is sure to become a holiday tradition in my family.
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 cups toasted sesame seeds, black, white or a combination of the two
- Line a 10 x 15 inch rimmed baking tray with parchment paper and lightly coat with cooking spray. Set aside.
- Combine the sugar, corn syrup, butter and 2/3 cup of water in a large saucepan. Stir until all of the sugar is wet.
- Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and cook the mixture over medium-high heat without stirring until the thermometer registers 310 degrees and is tan around the edges. It should take between 12 and 16 minutes to reach this point.
- Remove the pan from the heat and quickly remove the candy thermometer. Stir in baking soda then the salt. (The mixture will foam).
- Quickly whisk in the seeds.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan, tilting the pan to evenly distribute the candy mixture before it cools.****
- Allow the candy to sit at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours or until it has completely set.
- Invert the brittle onto a cutting board and use a meat mallet to break the candy into medium to small-sized pieces.
- Store in an air tight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.
Yields: 6 cups
**** Cook’s tip: The remnants of the candy mixture will quickly adhere to the pan and the candy thermometer as the mixture cools. Simply add a cup or two of water to the empty pan, cover and bring to a boil. The heat and steam will loosen the mixture and make it easy to scrape down the sides and remove the stuck on candy. Once the mixture boils place the candy thermometer in the pan and the stuck on candy will slip right off.