Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Brittle. Like my soul.

Let's talk brittle. As in peanut, almond, hazelnut, and - my newest concoction - pretzel brittle (recipe to follow. I promise you're going to want it).

It's the holidays, right? The holiday season connotes three very specific things. Joy. Love. Food. Of course, it also connotes Money. The thing about being a chef (or just a generally resourceful person, as I often find that I am) is that you can give food as gifts, and those who receive it are just as happy as if you has bought them a PlayStation 3 and a helicopter.

My food gifts this year are several fold, including spiced nuts, chocolate/cherry biscotti, and, of course, pretzel brittle.

The purpose of brittle is to give the sweet tooth a fix with some dark, hard crack caramel candy while avoiding sweetness asphyxiation by the inclusion of a salty snack (usually nuts, but, as you will see, pretzels are an awesome alternative). Satisfaction on both ends.

I must admit, I have never made candy before, which what brittle is considered. The thought of heating something to the temperature required to achieve the hard, "brittle" state that sugar acquires when it is cooled (approximately 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit), and then pouring it onto a cool surface makes me incredibly nervous. But - it is the holidays - a time to risk third-degree burns by caramel.

I have four twenty-something male friends who live in one house in Tallahassee and drink an incredible amount of Yuengling beer. Pretzel brittle is the perfect accompaniment to a yeasty, amber beer like that. A perfect pairing. Mike, Chris, Gordon, and Dro: this is for you.

Heating a mixture of corn syrup, sugar, and salt in a saucepan to 300 degrees (or until it starts turning amber) takes about 10-15 minutes, and make sure you have a well-calibrated candy thermometer. And a really really good potholder.

Here's the recipe, as promised:


1.5 c sugar
1/4 c Karo light corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
2 c crushed pretzels

Heat sugar, corn syrup, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring until melted and incorporated. Bring to a boil. Use a paintbrush and cold water to melt any sugar crystals that form on the sides of the saucepan. Once boiling, insert candy thermometer and allow temperature to rise to 300 degrees F/148 degrees C. Mixture should be turning amber. Remove from heat and quickly stir in pretzels. Pour over oiled marble slab or cookie sheet covered in aluminum foil. Allow to cool. Break into pieces. Enjoy with medium/dark beers or frosty Coca-Cola - in the bottle, of course.

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