Thursday, December 01, 2005


Ancho Cashew & Black Sesame Brittle

In the hierarchy of culinary skills, those who work with sugar and candy are way, way towards the top (perhaps tied with wedding cake decorators for the top spot). What they do is the perfect meeting of art and science. With precision they create beautiful confections that are edible. It's all mystery to me indeed.

I learn a lot every time I try to make candy. Mostly through totally dangerous and freaky mistakes. For instance, yesterday, as black smoke billowed up towards my once white ceiling, and I frantically poured the boiling sugar-syrup down the drain, I learned (well, more like it hit me in a-second-too-late flash) that when hot sugar gets cold, it also gets hard. My drain was closed with a rock solid layer of glass-like sugar. 45 minutes of pouring boiling water down the drain, and then a last resort usage of drain cleaner, it flowed again.

The candy had me beat.

This morning, remembering I had another bottle of corn syrup stashed in the pantry, I decided to go for it again. How could I fail at this? I had to make it work. I got out and measured all of my ingredients. I watched the temperatures like a hawk, stirring like a mad woman, and in the end, I am proud to report I have made the ultimate candy. It has a deep smokey spiciness, while also being sweet, sticky and crunchy, it is a dream come true. If you don't have to worry about your teeth being pulled out, and have a well calibrated thermometer, well, you'd best get into the kitchen.

1 pound cashew nuts
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons adobo sauce (from chipotle chiles)
Cayenne pepper
3 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 cups light corn syrup
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon black sesame seeds

Preheat your oven to 200F

On a large, lined sheet pan, toss the cashews with vegetable oil and then adobo sauce. Dry in the oven for about 2 hours. Salt heavily when done. You can use these in the brittle or just regular peanuts.

Line two cookie sheets with buttered parchment or a silicon mat sprinkle lightly with some salt and cayenne.

Combine the first four ingredients in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Why? Because as I learned, if you don't do this first, the whole thing will go up in some gnarly smoke. Increase heat to high and boil without stirring until candy thermometer registers 260°F., about 6 minutes. (Depending on how high your flame goes I guess) Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the cashews, butter and cook for another minute. Add the baking soda and vanilla and stir briskly (mixture will foam up), then immediately pour out onto prepared baking sheets, dividing evenly. Sprinkle with additional salt. Spread out brittle as thinly as possible. Let stand until hard, about 20 minutes. Break up and store in a container for up to a week.


Cashews grow below the cashew apple, instead of inside of it

Today is National Eat A Red Apple Day

In the late 16th Century, a teaspoon of sugar cost the equivalent of five dollars in London

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Oh, candy is so much fun to make (when it works) I went to buy a large christmas card yesterday and came out of the shop with the card AND a lovely book called Godis, that´s candy in Swedish. I have another book by the same author called Kladdkakor, that´s - uhmm - well, sort of brownie-like cakes. So now I will try poppy seed truffle and other exciting things. Glad you survived the sugar-in-the-drain debâcle! Keep on candy-ing!
I never make candy exactly because it's so precise, difficult and something always goes wrong. Hats off for not only trying but producing something edible!
That sounds pretty tasty! I have a microwave peanut brittle recipe that has always been rather foolproof for me. It's archived at

Once the basic form is mastered, it's quite adaptable. I've successfully substituted other nuts (like pecans) and added powdered chiles. Note that the times in that recipe were perfected on a microwave purchased in 1988. We've just purchased a new one and everything cooks much faster, so I suspect those times will be too long for a 'modern' or high-wattage microwave.
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