Monday, December 27, 2010

Pine Nut Brittle

This is my invented recipe of the year.

This Pine Nut Brittle was a big hit at our Quaker Meeting Christmas Eve gathering.

Preliminary (heretical) thoughts about candy-making:

Ditch the thermometer. Any candy syrup goes through predictable stages: thread, soft ball (fudge), firm ball (caramel), hard ball (nougat), soft crack (taffy), hard crack (hard candies), and burnt. These stages are best evaluated by dripping a small amount of the syrup in ice water, gathering the syrup into a ball, and then testing/tasting the ball.

Start the testing process a little before you think the syrup is ready and continue at frequent intervals until the candy is just right. When it's just right, turn the heat off immediately (candy syrup seems to go through actual phase changes, and the next one can be lightning quick) and do the follow-up processing right then.

For this reason, it's good to have everything set for candy-making before you start. Get your ice water ready, have a set of clean spoons for testing, have the pan the candy will set up in prepared, and have any last minute ingredients measured and ready to pour in.

Once you get the hang of the syrup stages, candy-making is really really easy.

Pine Nut Brittle

1/4 cup honey
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

sprinkle of sea salt
1 1/3 cup pine nuts
2 teaspoons basil

Roast pine nuts and chop fine, until they're about the size of sesame seeds. When cool, toss with the basil and sea salt.

Line a jelly roll pan with foil and spray lightly with vegetable oil.

Fill a 2-cup pitcher with ice and add water to fill. Get out a small bowl and set next to the pitcher.

Combine first four ingredients in a saucepan. Heat to dissolve sugar and then bring to a boil. Cook 15-20 minutes until mixture is at hard crack stage. To test for doneness, pour ice water into the small bowl and drop in a small bit of the syrup. When done, syrup will crackle on hitting the water, and the candy will be crisp and crunchy, no longer chewy at all but not yet burnt.

Mix in pine nut mixture and spread immediately in jelly roll pan, smoothing to edges of pan.

Allow to cool slightly (very slightly) and score into small pieces (less than an inch on a side) with a greased knife or pizza cutter. Allow to cool completely and break pieces apart with your hands. Store in an airtight container.

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