Monday, June 14, 2010

Pistachio Brittle

I got it into my head somehow that I had some mad macaron-making skills. I had made them about 5 times, and all 5 times, they turned out wonderfully. Was this just beginners luck? Perhaps, because as soon as I suggested I make about 100 pistachio macs for the wedding dessert table, they turned on me. Three entire batches, in the garbage. I had a tight schedule in the two and a half weeks leading up to this wedding, with every minute planned and prepped for. This was not going to work, and boy was I um...crabby (this is a expletive-less way of saying how I felt the night that I threw 6 pans of exploded/runny/cracked/flat/hollow/feetless macarons into the garbage). I had to come up with a new game plan, and fast. I didn't have the time to make 100 macarons even if every other pan worked beautifully, it would be a waste of ingredients and a waste of the very little time I had.

Since I had two 3 pound bags of shelled pistachios already purchased for the wedding, I wanted to use them in whatever dessert I made in place of the macarons. It needed to be something easy, fairly quick, but incredibly delicious. I mean, it had to fill the shoes of french macarons, and thats a lot to live up to. My thoughts turned to a cake that I had made last summer that had a crushed pistachio brittle coating around the outside, and how tasty the brittle was on its own.

After a quick food site search, I made a decision. The fourth dessert would be thick squares of dark, rich, nutty pistachio brittle. It was fast, fairly foolproof, and filled a hole in the table that I hadn't realized was there before. I was missing a option for the candy lovers. Not anymore. These were a much bigger hit than I was anticipating, and maybe even a close second to the cake pops. The photographer at the wedding was nice enough to stick around until the dessert table came out to snap some pics for me (my big camera just didn't go with my little champagne colored dress).

Photo by Glen Abog of Glen Abog Photography

I think there are many versions of this brittle in my future. Different nuts, possible dipped coatings, multiple layers...mmm I am getting a sweet tooth just thinking about it.

Pistachio Brittle
adapted from Food & Wine

2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick, preferably room temperature)
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
8-10 ounces shelled roasted pistachios

Line a 9.5 X 11 baking dish with either parchment paper or a silpat, letting the paper or silpat go up and over the sides of the pan. Basically you need to be able to get the brittle out of the pan and if you have some excess paper or silpat on all sides, it will be very easy to just pull it up and out, and peel the paper or silicone off the brittle. Spread about 3/4 of the pistachios evenly across the bottom of the lined pan.

In a medium saucepan with a candy/deep fry thermometer inserted, combine the sugar, butter, corn syrup, and water and set over medium high heat. Bring to a gentle boil, and keep over medium high heat until the temperature reaches about 300 degrees F, stirring occasionally. This will take anywhere from 10-20 minutes depending on the intensity of your heat source. I typically err on the lower heat side, raising the temp a bit slower so I can hopefully decrease my chances of blowing way past the 300 degree mark and ending up with a brick of burnt sugar.

When your caramel mixture reaches 300 degrees and it has turned a dark amber color, remove from heat and remove the candy thermometer. Working quickly, stir in the baking soda (it will bubble and foam up) then pour over the pistachios in the lined baking dish. Immeadiately spread the mixture evenly across the pan with a silicone spatula and sprinkle the remaining pistachios over the top, using the spatula to press the nuts into the caramel a bit.

If you are wanting to cut the brittle into nice, neat squares or rectangles you will want to score it before it sets up completely. After a minute or two, when the brittle has firmed up a bit, but is still warm you can score it with a pastry cutter or knife, pressing your implement of choice firmly into the brittle. You may want to do this more than once during the cooling process. The deeper your scoring, the easier it will be to get clean cut pieces once it hardens.

When the brittle is completely cool, pull it out of the pan, and peel off the parchment paper or silpat. With a very sharp knife, and using a firm and quick chopping motion, cut the brittle into squares along your score lines. You will have some casualties, but those can just go into the reject bowl for you to snack on while reveling in your newly acquired candy making skills. Brittle will keep for 1 month stored in an air-tight container at room temperature.

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