Whilst growing up I remember my mom had particular habits she would follow whilst shopping. One of the many I came to also adopt as an adult is her love of buying peanut brittle at the checkout counter whilst waiting to pay for groceries. That nutty flavour with the sweet caramel crunch always brings back memories. Then I went and spoiled it all by becoming a chef and learning how it’s actually made. No more brittle at checkout aisles for me anymore. The same fate has befallen Mayonnaise, liver pate, burgers and all cakes (amongst so many other things I refuse to now buy from supermarkets).
As the title of this post says, this is my recipe for a more intricate version of the brittle I used to have a child. Originally based on the Arab sweetmeat called Guirlache (which is basically nuts set in a stiffened caramel) , over the ages it’s taken on many forms. You get some brittles that have flavours added to them to make them more interesting. With this one I’ve kept it simple and instead have played with the type of nuts I use. Try go for as many types of nuts as you can. Pistachio nuts are particularly effective as they add colour to the final product with their green tinge.
Be careful when working with hot sugar, its one of the most dangerous substances to work with once heated. Its consistency means that it can’t wash off quickly once it’s on your skin and it heats up to a high heat. The bicarbonate of soda will cause the sugar to boil and foam. Don’t worry, this is part of the whole process. As soon as the sugar sauce is mixed with the bicarbonate of soda work fast because it will begin to set soon and the slower you are when working with sugar the easier it is to mess up the final product’s look and texture. When working with sugar I always stop doing anything else and I make sure no one is near me.
On that dangerous note, onto the recipe itself…
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup golden syrup or glucose
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
340g mixed nuts and pistachios (you can mix and match as much as you like as long as the weight stays the same.)
– In a large pot on a hot stove bring the sugar, water, butter and golden syrup to a light simmer. Stir occasionally but not too often as this will cause crystallization of the sugar.
– Once the caramel starts to get a dark amber colour and begins smelling slightly like coffee or burnt add the bicarbonate of soda and stir gently. The caramel will bubble and foam. Stir slightly and gently
– Add the nuts and pour out the mixer onto wax paper or a greased oven tray. Place in a cool place. It should take 30mins to set. Once set you can break off pieces. It will be very brittle (hence the name).