Cooking School – Almond Brittle
One of my favourite treats at this time of year is nuts — almonds, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, so many. Given that fall is harvest time for many nuts, now is the time to buy a few bags. Purchase nuts in shell and store them in the fridge. Oh, I know, the thought of standing at the kitchen counter cracking nuts doesn’t exactly sound like a fun way to pass the time. But, it is! Play some music, watch tv, whatever … this is your time to kick back, enjoy … and crack nuts.
Ok, fine. Buy a pack of shelled nuts, if you must. There’s really nothing wrong with them (more expensive, perhaps?). Just make sure that they haven’t been sitting on that store shelf for half a year. The fresher the better everything will taste.
Now that you’ve got your supply of nuts, you’re ready to begin. The recipe below uses almonds; but, there’s no sane reason why you can’t use any kind of other nut. Choose your favourite, or mix them up. Oh, don’t use salted nuts. Roasted ones are fine. Salted ones will alter the flavour of the brittle in a not so nice way.
Practically every country I can think of calls a variation of this recipe its own. Some add a teaspoon or two of baking soda to give the brittle that light brown, bubbly look. Some use lets nuts and more sugar. Some brush the brittle with oil, others with lemon juice. All of these variations affect the final product. The recipe I’m posting here comes from my aunt. It’s a traditional type of brittle enjoyed primarily at Christmas time in the Abruzzi region of Italy. (Although, practically every Italian lays claim to it.)
Brittle is very quick and easy to make. But, there are some rules that absolutely must be followed.
First, the sugar must reach a particular temperature (see recipe). Otherwise, the colour of the brittle will be too light or dark, and the flavour will taste either underdone or burnt.
Second, the sugar will reach a very high temperature, and is, as a result, super hot. Do not, under any conditions, let it come into contact with your skin. You’ll regret it, maybe even cry. Move carefully when scraping the mixture out of the pan and everything will be fine.
Here it is. Give it a try and let me know how it works out.
Almond Brittle (Croccante, in Italian)
4 cups almonds, whole
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tsp lemon juice
Pre-heat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Spread shelled almonds onto a baking pan. Roast in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until toasted. Nuts cook very quickly, and can go from underdone to burnt in a minute or two: watch them carefully. Once roasted, almonds can be used whole or chopped into pieces according to your own preference.
Pour sugar, water and lemon juice into a large pan. Set over medium-low heat. Let the sugar melt slowly – do not stir. When the sugar has turned a light golden colour, or reached a temperature of 300°F. Remove from heat, add almonds, and stir until well blended.
Carefully scrape almond mixture into prepared baking sheet. Press mixture down with a greased spatula or half of a lemon. Set aside to cool.
When almond brittle has cooled completely, flip baking sheet upside down onto a cutting board. With a sharp knife, slice the brittle into 1-inch by 3-inch strips.