Saying that you don’t usually care for brittle because it is, well, awfully brittle is definitely grounds for mockery.
But it’s true! I can’t tell you how unappealing I find stained glass-like sheets of amber caramel that you’re supposed to willingly bite into. You either get alarmingly sharp shards that stab you like a serial killer on the loose in your mouth, or it gets so gunked into the scoop of your molars, it takes a chisel to extract it.
Right, so where were we? My grievances with brittle in no way mean it can’t be good, just that it’s usually not. And previously, I never liked the stuff enough to find The Recipe, the one that will be all you need. Fortunately, with such inspiration as Luisa and Karen Demasco, this was perfect on the first try: buttery with an awesome depth of flavor that came from some accidental slightly overcooking and sea salt. Taking a bite, the pepitas just crackle within the caramel, and not so hard that it shatters everywhere.
This stuff is seriously good, and do you want to know how, above all else, that I know this? Not even once did my husband suggest it could be improved with chocolate.
Want more pumpkin inspiration? Check out our archive of pumpkin and winter squash recipes.
One year ago: Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic
Two years ago: Ina Garten’s Cole Slaw
Adapted liberally from Karen Demasco of Craft and Craftbar via NYMag.com and Wednesday Chef
You can make this brittle with anything: peanuts, cashews or another nut, sesame instead of pumpkin seeds or perhaps even your leftover pumpkin seeds from your jack-o-lantern (not that I’ve tested that out, so do let us know if it works for you). But I love it with pepitas because they’re light and crisp, and with a tiny air pocket in the middle, they snap, crackle and pop delightfully when they hit the hot syrup.
The best part of this is that you don’t need to use a candy thermometer, you can simply eyeball it.
Vegetable-oil spray or 1 teaspoon butter, for lining the tray
2 cups sugar
4 ounces (1 stick) salted or unsalted butter
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons to 1 1/2 tablespoons coarse or flaky sea salt (use less if you’re using salted butter)
1 1/2 cups of raw, unroasted pepitas (they toast in the syrup) or 12 ounces (3/4 pound) roasted, salted nuts, not chopped
Line a 12x16x1/2-inch sheet baking pan with parchment paper and lightly coat it with vegetable spray or butter.
Put the sugar, butter, corn syrup, and 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water to a large saucepan, and stir together until all the sugar is wet. Cook over high medium-high, but watch it carefully as it will foam up quite a bit and you might need to dial back the heat to medium until it begins to thicken.
Once the mixture turns a medium golden (takes at least 10 minutes) immediately remove from the heat, and carefully whisk in the baking soda followed by the salt (taking care, as the caramel will rise in the pan and bubble some more). Switch to a wooden or metal spoon, and fold in the pepitas or nuts.
Quickly pour the mixture onto the sheet pan, and spread it out over the pan using the back of the spoon before it starts to harden. Alternately, you can slide the parchment paper out of the baking pan and onto a counter, cover it with another sheet, and use a rolling pin, pressing down hard, to roll it out as flat and thin as you would like.
At this point you can either let it cool completely (pulling off the top sheet of parchment, if you use the rolling pin technique) and break it into bite-size pieces with the back of a knife or other blunt object or, while it is still fairly hot and pliable, cut it into a shape of your choice (I went for long, thinnish strips) and let the pieces cool, separated on parchment paper.
The brittle can be stored at room temperature, in an airtight container, for up to two weeks. I like to separate the pieces between layers of parchment or waxed paper, as a little humidity can cause them to stick together.