Our food cupboard is a shambles. There are little baggies of left over this and that’s lurking around in there from god knows when. Our cleaner is a lovely soul – but has no affinity for logical cupboard stacking – so the result is a chaos of things stacked any which where. Drives me scatty – but as it’s me that is hanging on to left-over smidgens, I guess I am the one to blame.
sofabrother made an insanely rich cake over Easter. It was richer than anything I’ve eaten in decades. Of course we polished it all off … with our neighbours enquiring hopefully if “maybe there is another little stukkie left, it was so lekkkerrrrr”. Essentially the cake is just chocolate, eggs and butter – but my brother had tested a version by Donna Hay a week earlier (delicious too) and felt that it needed a base, so he added a crust of blended peanut butter biscuits. And then he used Nutella instead of chocolate for the filling. It really is no wonder I have this pooch stomach.
And then, because he was making it for my mother, he added crumbled peanut butter brittle as a garnish instead of the pretzels. The crunch and crackle of it was a nice counterpoint to the soft fudging of the cake – but it didn’t help on the calorie front. “Mmmmm”, said Glennie, “I can’t remember the last time I had peanut brittle. One always forgets how good it is.”
I remembered that as I was clearing out the cupboards on Sunday – we had the remnants of all manner of nuts (macadamia, almond, cashew), some left-over salted pretzels (3 to be exact) and a small bag of white sugar. There were small plugs of golden syrup in a couple of plastic bottles, and a third of a bar of chocolate – too dark to eat at 80% purity.
Seemed to me that there was only one way to go – the creation of sugary crack. Apparently a snack of Celtic origins. nut brittle was introduced to the world by the Irish who took it with them to America. Where it was improved and re-imagined in a million different ways. This recipe is really simple but you do need a sugar thermometer. And make sure you have the baking soda/powder close to hand, you don’t want to be rushing around the kitchen looking for it and a teaspoon when the sugar is roiling in the pot. I know this first hand.
In truth, I wish I hadn’t made it. I’ve eaten a good third of it already. But as the Irish say: “Well, there you are then.”
2 cups/400g sugar
1⁄2 cup / 118ml water (you could use cooled coffee if you wanted a deeper flavour)
1⁄2 cup/114g unsalted butter (I used salted as I had 100g in the fridge and whacked in some butter spread for the rest)
1⁄3 cup/80ml light corn syrup (I used Lyles Golden Syrup)
1⁄2 teaspoon/2.5g baking powder
12 oz/340g dry roasted salted nuts – either one species or a mixed bad – I used all the leftovers in the cupboard then added the choc on top at the end)
fleur de sel or crushed maldon sea salt (I did use this as the kids hate salt on their sweets)
1. In large saucepan, combine sugar, water, butter and syrup and bring to boil. Cook over a moderately high heat, stirring occasionally until the caramel is light brown and registers 300°F (150C) on a candy thermometer, about 15 minutes.
2. Remove from heat and carefully stir in baking soda. The mixture will bubble.
3. Stir in nuts, then immediately scrape the brittle onto a large rimmed, nonstick baking sheet.
4. Using the back of a large spoon or baking spatula (oil lightly if sticks), spread the brittle into chunky layer.
5. Sprinkle with salt
6. Let cool completely, about 30 minutes.
7. Break brittle into large shards.
Keep between layers of baking paper in an air tight container. The brittle is great ground down and sprinkled over ice-cream, or in small chunks over a pudding. Even better crunched on late at night with an espresso. But I warn you, it’s addictive.