This weekend I made: pistachio brittle!
I actually made this for a “purpose,” more or less, where “purpose” is loosely defined. A friend of a friend who is huge into letterpress printing made a fabulous print of a relatively obscure quote from the unbelievably addictive/trashy MTV show Jersey Shore (see it here). Before it was on Etsy, I told her I needed to buy one from her, and she offered to barter. She asked for something “delicious,” but was currently several states away. What is delicious and can be shipped easily? Candy!
I love candy-making; while it’s precise enough that you can pretend you’re doing science (! safety goggles optional), it’s also not particularly challenging or taxing as long as you follow the instructions carefully.
So, step-by-step, here’s how I made my pistachio brittle.
Put 2 cups of sugar, 1 cup of light corn syrup, and a ½-cup of water in a big pot over low heat, stirring occasionally. It’ll be a pretty white-and-clear swirl like this.
Keep that up until it comes to a rolling boil. These persistent, all-over-the-place bubbles are a good sign.
Here comes the part where you have to relinquish any hopes for healthy eating and give into Our Milkfat Overlords. Here we have: TWO STICKS OF BUTTER. Not margarine. No “I-can’t-believe-it’s-not.” Pure, unadulterated butter. (Seriously, not only are substitutions discouraged, they actually won’t work, so give up and give in.)
Plunk that right in there. Mmm, butter.
When the butter’s in, you don’t have to do much for the next two minutes. Cover the pot and let it sit for two minutes. The butter will melt by itself, and the steam that’s created by covering the pot will melt down any of the sugar crystals that may have formed on the sides of the pot. After two minutes, when you remove the lid, it’ll be foamy. That’s normal, and when you remove the lid the foam should subside just a little. Clip your candy thermometer to the side of the pot so the bulb at the bottom is in the mixture, but isn’t touching the sides or bottom of the pot. (And yes, the candy thermometer is a MUST. It makes your life so much easier.)
Keep heating and stirring until you reach 280°F, or the “soft ball” stage. A good candy thermometer will have your stages marked. At the soft ball stage, you should be able to drizzle some of the mixture into some cold water and have it immediately solidify, but still be pliable like taffy.
(not quite there yet!)
Once the mixture reaches 280°F, pour in two cups of shelled, salted pistachios.
Now, more of the same! Keep stirring, keep waiting. The more you heat it, the more it will start to look like a thick syrup rather than a foamy sugar-cloud.
We’re looking for 305°F, or the “hard crack” stage. If you drizzle a bit of this into your cold water now, it’ll immediately form a rigid strand that’s, well, brittle. Rather than the pliable strand you had before, you’ll have something that’ll crack in half if you try to bend it.
When you get to this stage, immediately remove it from the heat and just as immediately stir in half a teaspoon of baking soda. (The baking soda helps to make it a little bit less rigid, so it won’t break your teeth when you try to eat it.) It’ll be golden-brown and beautiful like this:
Pour this mixture into two well-buttered cookie sheets (again! buttered! using vegetable oil spray will make your brittle taste weird), and spread out to ¼-inch thickness with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Because of the baking soda, which foams up the mixture from the inside, spreading it might make it look pockmarked and bubbly and gross at first, but don’t worry - it’ll settle.
Also, at first, I admit, it will look like puddles of vomit. Not so appetizing.
Let it cool completely, and then comes the fun part. BREAK IT. Whether you want to use your hands or the back of a spoon, crack it, splinter it, make it into manageable little chunks. And then you have your brittle!
I popped mine in an old cookie tin I covered with craft paper, and handstamped a little gift tag and tied it with ribbon to ship it.
But—I have to admit—I saved some for myself.