Adjectival Extravaganza

Buttery. Crunchy. Sweet. Salty.

What am I talking about? Can you guess? Need some more clues?

Decadent. Nutty. Easy. A little bit expensive.

But, worth every penny, definitely.

Now do you know? Yes? That’s right! I’m talking about brittle. Cashew brittle, to be exact. And it’s very important to be exact here, because cashew brittle is different from peanut brittle is different from almond brittle is different from pecan brittle is different from macadamia brittle, and out of all those different brittles, cashew brittle is The Best. At least I think it is. I’ve never had pecan or almond or macadamia brittle, so I’m just spouting off here, but I’m pretty sure I’m right.

Is there even any such thing as pecan brittle?

I found the recipe on Luisa’s blog, and so I mixed up a batch last night before supper. The recipe called for one and a half pounds of cashews, but I was six ounces short. And she said to cook the syrup (no candy thermometer required) till golden brown, about ten minutes. Well, after eleven minutes of a rolling boil, the syrup was a yellow-golden so, even though I thought it seemed a bit more pale than I expected it to, I decided that it must be ready. I dumped it out on my parchment paper-covered cookie sheets (I had sprayed the paper with cooking spray), but I could tell, almost immediately, that I had a taffy on my hands—there was nothing brittle going on. Nothing whatsoever. I scooped up some of the flavorless goo (I do believe the flavor of the brittle comes from the caramelization of the sugars) and set it on a little plate so that the kids could have some tastes after supper, and then I discreetly threw the rest into the garbage. That’s right, I did not even give any to the chickens—they would’ve been cackling-thrilled over the nuts, but they would not have been able to eat more than one cashew a piece because after the first bite their beaks would’ve been glued shut. And a non-cackling chicken just ain’t a chicken, in my opinion.

Failing in the kitchen (usually) only serves to get me fired up, so when I realized that I had just experience a First Class Failure, my eyes took on a glinty gleam, my chin jutted out an extra one and three-quarter inches, and I scrubbed out the gooey pot with a little more elbow grease, soap, and water than was actually necessary.

Luisa had said it was a simple recipe. She said, and I quote, “… And so, so easy. I mean, do-it-in-you-sleep easy.” Oh, the insult! This was a failure of the worst sort, a Totally Uncalled For Screw-up. You can do better, I snapped at myself.

So that night, when Miss Becca Boo and I drove into town to stock up on library books, we swung by the grocery store and I picked up three bags of salted, roasted cashews—a total of one and a half pounds—and this morning, first thing (that is, after taking the sourdough out of the fridge and measuring the flour and starters for some new breads), I made another batch of brittle.

I did make a couple changes, the first being that I halved the recipe, just in case I was going to be an Extra Slow Learner. And I buttered my parchment paper this time. Actually, Luisa told me to butter the paper the first time around, but I had used spray instead because it seemed simpler, and while it wasn’t the spray’s fault that my brittle was not brittle, I have a feeling the brittle, had it been successful, would’ve tasted like . . . spray. So I used butter this time. And I cooked the syrup till it was a nice golden-brown color. It took close to twenty minutes, so I probably should’ve had the burner set higher than the called-for medium-high setting.

Folks, I am pleased to announce that I am not an Extra-Slow Learner. I made Cashew Brittle and it is knock-‘em-down, kick-butt good. I will be making it for the rest of my life.

Cashew Brittle
Slightly adapted from Luisa’s blog, The Wednesday Chef

1 stick butter
1/3 cup light corn syrup
½ cup, plus 2 tablespoons, water
2 cups sugar
12 ounces cashew, roasted and salted
1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking soda

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, not an enormous one but definitely a good-sized one, measure in the butter, corn syrup, water, and sugar. Turn the burner on medium-high (or high) heat and stir occasionally. Or, if you’re obsessing like I was, then stir it all the time—you won’t hurt it.

After the syrup is golden-brown (clue: it should be the same color as the finished brittle), remove it from the heat and stir in the baking soda and salt. (Yes, it really does say to use 1 ½ tablespoons of salt, and no, it does not taste too salty.) Stir in the cashews.

Pour the candy out on your buttered-parchment paper-covered cookie sheet and spread it as thin as you can. (Do NOT use wax paper!) Mine got a little too thick, but I still think it tastes just fine. After it’s hardened (about ten or fifteen minutes) break the candy up into pieces and store in an air-tight container.

It’s time to get the kids up from rest time, but before I do so, I’m going to go help myself to another piece of that buttery, salty, sweet, nutty, crunchy, easy, expensive-but-worth-every-penny, decadent cashew brittle. Mmm, so good. Maybe just one more piece…


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