Yesterday I walked you through my adventure with making (and rescueing) pralines. Today, I want to tell you about another confectionery that really boosted my confidence. As long as you're armed with an accurate digital thermometer, toffee or brittle is one of the easiest candies you can make. In a nutshell, you cook sugar and butter until it reaches the hard crack stage of 300F, aerate it with baking soda, let it cool, and break off pieces of crunchy sweet success. Simple, isn't it?
Given this basic premise, there is so much room for creativity. You can pour the candy over a bed of roasted nuts. You can flavour it with anything from vanilla to spices to spirits. You can coat it with chocolate and top with even more nuts. It's hard to choose just one!
Indeed I did not choose one, but two for this year's holiday candies assortment. I made David Lebovitz's Chocolate Almond Buttercrunch Toffee and a spicy Macadamia Pumpkin Seed Brittle from food52. The toffee is a classic combination with roasted almonds, vanilla, and dark chocolate. It tastes fantastic and looks like you spent a whole day in the kitchen. My favourite part was spreading melted chocolate over the sheet of freshly made toffee. The chocolate was so glossy and everything smelled so sweet. I wanted a tiny taste so badly but of course I didn't. Cooked sugar is hot hot hot! Not to worry though, it cools down quickly enough into crunchy toffee. I love to sneakily break off tiny pieces around the edge. Something for the hardworking cook!
The Macadamia Pumpkin Seed Brittle is a much more grown up treat. The original recipe was called Wicked Brittle but it is so much more. The unusual mix of macadamia nuts, pumpkin seeds, and black sesame seeds is visually stunning. However, what I love most about this brittle is the use of Ras el Hanout, my latest favourite spice blend. I bought mine from Canadian spice purveyor Crousset. It instantly adds an exotic flair to a familiar taste. If you're thinking of learning more about confectionery, making toffee or brittle is a wonderful way to start. Your friends and family will thank you!
This is part of my holiday gift 2010 series. See what other goodies I came up with this year!