I Want Candy!

Back in 2006, around the time I was compulsively baking and cooking to fill holiday gift boxes with homemade gourmet treats, Brad and I came across this article by Mark Bittman in the New York Times, “Have No Fear, It’s Only Candy”. It contained a recipe for one very easy and very delicious peanut brittle. Peanuts and sugar, that’s all it takes, and I started making pounds of it. We gave it to friends and family, and when Christmas was fast approaching and I wished we had some left for ourselves to enjoy, I made more. Then I went to the dentist in January and had 3 new cavities.

Fillings aside, I still have no fear. In fact you could say I’ve got a sweet tooth for the crunchy brittle. The following year I decided to doctor the recipe adding cardamom, a pinch of cayenne, and mixing up the nuts to include almonds and pistachios. This is the way I’ve been making it ever since.

This holiday season as the we countdown to Christmas, I’ve been itching to make candy and cookies. In addition to some of my tried and true favorites, I am seriously drooling over the 12 Days of Cookies recipes over at Lottie + Doof. But I won’t be baking anything until we’re finished with what I’m now referring to as 12 Days of Renovation: My apartment is being painted from top to bottom, ceiling to trim and it’s taking forever. Just a few more days until Brad and I can start to put everything back in its place and decorate our Christmas tree.

Over the weekend while the painters took a day off, I rushed into the kitchen to tackle some nut brittle. Working batch-by-batch, I kept thinking I needed to improve on the process. The sugar caramelized so quickly that it was maybe too brown, there were a lot of lumps to melt, and I didn’t spread it evenly enough to cool. But as I carefully tweaked my technique I found it made no difference at all. The results, once broken into pieces, were more or less the same and all equally delicious. So really, have no fear. Just make the candy. What’s Christmas without some cavities?

Cardamom Spiced Nut Brittle

  • Butter for greasing pan
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 3/4 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 3/4 cup roasted, unsalted, (no shell) pistachios

Use a bit of butter to grease a baking sheet, preferably one with a low rim. Combine sugar, spices and 2 tablespoons of water in a heavy skillet and turn heat to medium. Stir until thoroughly combined, then cook, stirring occasionally until mixture turns golden brown and is eventually smooth – this happens slowly, and in parts suddenly. Be patient and don’t be worried. Turn the heat to low.

Stir in the nuts and toss to coat evenly. Pour mixture across a greased baking sheet and spread out (I find a butter knife is a helpful tool for scraping the mixture off the spoon and spreading it in the pan – DO NOT TOUCH the mixture with your fingers. It’s extremely hot). Cool for about a half-hour, then break into pieces. (You can score brittle with a knife when it has solidified slightly but not yet turned hard; that way, it will break into even squares.)

Store in a covered container for up to two weeks.
Yield: About 1 pound.

When you’ve got that sweet feeling, here’s a tune for your holiday kitchen soundtrack from the very soulful Candi Staton:

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