Thursday, December 11, 2014

Spicy pecan brittle

spicy pecan brittle

This is the season of giving, and one of my favorite things to give is candy. Texans have a long tradition of making and sharing candy at the holidays, and my family is no different. When I was young, a Christmas visit wasn’t complete until a tin of homemade candy had been passed around, and we’d enjoy everything from pralines to divinity.

One of my favorite candies, however, is nut brittle. Typically in the past, I’ve usually made it with peanuts. This, of course, is the traditional nut brittle and it’s no wonder as those nuts go very well with the crisp candy coating. That said, there are a couple of people on my list this year who can’t have peanuts because of allergies, and so I decided that my nut brittle this year would have to be made with something else instead.

spicy pecan brittle

Texas’s state nut is the pecan, so it didn’t take me long to decide to make pecan brittle. While you don’t see it quite as often as you do peanut brittle, pecan brittle definitely has its place in the pantheon of Texan confections. Matter of fact, when I was doing research I found a host of candy-store advertisements from the late 1800s and early 1900s, and whenever they mentioned pecan brittle, they showcased it as an especially rare treat.

Besides candy, one of my preferred ways to prepare pecans during the holidays is to toss them with warm, earthy spices such as cinnamon, smoked paprika, and cumin. This makes the nuts both savory and sweet, so I decided to add those same spices to my batch of brittle as well, which gave the candy an added depth. And to finish, I sprinkled my brittle with flaked sea salt, as I love the combination of salty and sweet.

If you’ve never made candy, it’s not that difficult and pecan brittle is especially easy. The most important thing is to have a candy thermometer as this makes the job pretty straightforward, as the thermometer will let you know when the candy is ready. Besides a thermometer, when you make the candy it should be a cool, dry day, otherwise the brittle may not set up properly.

spicy pecan brittle

This spicy pecan brittle has been very well received so far, and I’m looking forward to packing tins and sending it to those that I love. That said, if you’re like me, the only problem you’ll have with the brittle is making sure you have enough to share as its salty, spicy, sweet flavor is so good you might be tempted to eat the whole batch yourself! Just remember if that happens to you—it’s always better to give than receive!

Along with candy, books make a wonderful gift this time of year. If you’d like signed copies of my books personalized with an inscription, my local bookstore Posman Books can help you with this. Call 212-627-0304 to place your order and let them know what the inscription should be, then I'll walk over there, sign it and they'll ship it.

Spicy pecan brittle

1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Pinch ground cumin
Pinch cayenne
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 cup chopped raw pecans (don't use roasted as they will burn)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Flaked sea salt

Special equipment: candy thermometer

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease. Place in the oven at 250° F for 10 minutes.

In a bowl, whisk together the salt, cinnamon, smoked paprika, ground cumin, cayenne, and baking soda. Keep the bowl close by as you will need this mixture later in the candy-making process.

In a saucepot on medium heat, stir together the sugar, corn syrup, and water until well combined and let it come to a boil. Attach the candy thermometer, and while occasionally stirring, cook the sugars until it reaches 300°F, or the hard crack stage, about 10-15 minutes. When the temperature reaches 275°F, remove the baking sheet from the oven if you haven’t already, and be sure that it’s close by as you’ll need to act quickly when the candy is done.

(While I highly recommend using a thermometer, if you don’t have one, to test if the candy has reached the hard crack phase is to spoon a little into a glass of water. If the candy turns into threads and is hard and brittle when removed, it is at the hard-crack phase.)

As soon as the sugar reaches 300°F, remove from the heat and stir in the butter, the pecans, and the vanilla. Keep stirring. When the butter has melted, stir in the spices and baking soda. Continue stirring, and the candy should turn a lighter color and get a little puffy, after about 5 to 10 seconds. This means the candy is ready to be turned out to cool.

Working quickly, spoon the candy onto the prepared baking sheet, and spread it thin. Sprinkle over the candy the flaked sea salt, and allow to cool, about 1 hour. Once cool, break into pieces.

4 to 6 servings

If you have a silicone spatula, I recommend stirring and spreading with it as it will be easier to clean, but you can also use a wooden spoon, too. To clean your pot, thermometer, and spoon, fill the pot 2/3 of the way with water and a bit of dish soap, place the pot with the thermometer and spoon inside of it on the stove, and bring to a boil. When the water is hot, the hardened candy will clean off the pot, thermometer, and spoon.



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Rocky Mountain Woman said...

perfect! I'm making this on the weekend...

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Rocky Mountain Woman--Making candy is a wonderful weekend project. Enjoy!

JustKJ said...

This is next up at our house. But an important question. Raw pecans or roasted. We roast ours for most purposes, so we have both on hand. Will the heat of the sugar mixture be too high and burn already toasted pecans? My guess is yes, but wanted your thoughts.

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

JustKJ--Excellent question! Yes, you want to use raw pecans as roasted/toasted pecans will probably burn. I'll change the recipe to note that. Thank you!

mr waturi said...

I know you are just warming the cookie sheet, but what temp should the oven be?

Gregory Anderson said...

thanks from Balcones Hts, TX; home of former Crossroads Mall at 410 and Fredricksberg, nee San Antonio. Big Smile.

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Mr. Waturi--It should be 250°F. I'll update the recipe to reflect this. Thank you!

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Gregory--You're welcome!

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to try this! We order our pecans from a place near Bastrop TX. I may try to talk my husband in to driving over. It's actually sunny today on the upper Gulf coast. You mention tossing pecans in spices. Do you have a recipe for spicy pecans? Thanks, Colleen

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Colleen--My first book has a recipe for spicy pecans.

Jason B. said...

They also make a GREAT pecan, jalapeno brittle at the Dutchman's Hidden Valley outside of Hamilton, Texas!

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Jason--Good to know!

Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar said...

I just love the smoked paprika in here. This brittle looks lovely!

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Katrina--Thank you! I'm a big fan of smoked paprika, too.

Robert (Pyro Pigs) Frazier said...

Thanks.. love spicy sweets..... be interested in a recipe for a chipotle, apple cake?

Sisker said...

I made this with "homegrown" pecans yesterday. Great flavor and a wonderful riff on peanut brittle. Almost had a praline taste to it.

Also, Lisa, great mention in today's Wall Street Journal! said...

I'm sure they are serving this in Heaven, where my Texan father is eagerly awaiting his share! Thanks so much.

Kaye said...

LOVED these! So easy to make however mine were a bit greasy....could be the Colorado altitude so I might cut back on the butter by a bit next time. Thoughts?

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Robert--Do you have one to share?

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Sisker--Thank you and I'm so glad you liked it!

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Rock the wrinkle--You're welcome!

Lisa Fain (Homesick Texan) said...

Kaye--If you found it too greasy, I'd probably cut back on the butter.

Kristy Woodson Harvey said...

This looks so yummy! Can't wait to try this recipe! Glad to know that the pecan is Texas's state nut too! Happy holidays! xo Kristy

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