I think I should say straight up, I've never been much of a candy maker. All those scenes in Little Women where they're pulling taffy or buttering plates for fudge does not compute for me. These were not childhood memories. For one thing I spent years with braces on my teeth. These were not the days of invisiline or whatever they're calling the transparent tooth straightener they're using now a days. No, I come from the days of metal mouths, metal "horse bridles" all hooked together with rubber bands that were apt to snap and come shooting off at inopportune times, in unfortunate directions. What did that look like exactly???? Sort of like this. No, really like this.
Wearing these devices on my teeth made a lot of candy eating impossible , no fudge, no taffy, nothing chewy, and of course one of the most impossible candy was any sort of brittle. Nothing makes the rubber bands go flying faster than a nice sharp piece of hardened caramel. So of course when it came to making a brittle to go on top of my Mango Panna Cotta I was more than a little concerned. I didn't know how to do this.
Brittle on the plate is a bit of a fad right now. After all, what's better on top of the smooth, creamy, and cold than something crunchy, or better yet, salty and crunchy. But as I recently found out, brittles can also be savory. Just recently we were served a sesame seed brittle on top of a roasted carrot in mole appetizer at the Glen Ellen Star Restaurant. It was amazing. But the brittle I was chasing was definitely a sweet one and as it turned out, those fancy schmancy little pieces of stained glass-looking sweets that I've found on my dessert plates lately are really easy to make, even for this candy amateur. All it involves is some sugar and a little patience.
Salted Pistachio Brittle
Here's What You Need:
1 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of chopped roasted unsalted pistachios
1 Tbs large flake sea salt
Here's What To Do:
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Set it aside.
Pan roast the pistachios until they're lightly toasted.
Let them cool, chop them and set them aside.
Add 1 cup of sugar to a skillet.
Turn the heat to medium and let the sugar start to lightly caramelize. Don't stir the sugar but allow it to melt and turn light amber in color. As you can see, I changed pans as the sugar needs a large pan so that it all fits in one smooth layer.
As the sugar starts to melt at the edges of the pan, take a heat-proof spatula and push it toward the center of the pan.
Keep pushing the sugar toward the center as it melts and watch the sugar, as you don't want it to burn.
When the caramel has liquified and burned amber, CAREFULLY pour it onto the parchment paper or silpat mats in long streaks.
Smear the sugar out moving quickly. This stuff hardens damn fast!
Scatter the pistachios on top of the hot caramel.
Add the sea salt flakes.
Let it cool and set. This does not take long!
If you're not using it right away, store it in a cool dry place....not the fridge.
Break off the pieces you plan on using and decorate the dessert as you wish.
There it is. Brittle! Don't just stop with pistachios either. You can of course make peanut brittle. You are only limited by imagination.
Making this brittle I was reminded by an episode of Julia Child that i saw as a teenager. In it Julia was flinging scalding hot caramel at a broomstick in order to make "moss" to decorate a Bouche De Noel. I was fascinated by the threads of sugar that magically turned into something that looked like it had been ripped from nature. Of course my mom was not that eager to have me try that.
"Are you nuts?!!" was her response, but I have always wanted to do that. Always. Yet, I've never tried since the words "scalding" and "caramel" and "nuts" were always enough to put me off. But when I'd finished making this brittle and looked at my spoon, look at what I found....
Little sugar threads. After all these years there I was, just one step away from flung caramel. My white whale, or rather my amber colored burning hot sugar. It's out there and one of these days I'm going to find it. Meanwhile, I'll settle for brittle. Coming up next a culinary tour of my hometown. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori.