More Pecan than Brittle Pecan Brittle
Brittle was not something I grew up eating; in our house it was more poached pears with poaching liquid reduction, or fresh berries macerated and served over vanilla bean ice cream. My mother felt that if we were going to eat something sweet, it should be fulfilling as well as satiate a sweet tooth. When I was of age to make my sweet selections all on my own, I leaned toward chewy sticky confections. A small lollipop or a Jolly Rancher was enough hard crack stage sugar for me at a time. I just never fully understood the “ouch I almost broke my tooth on that brittle” concept of brittle (and toffee). So I pretty much stayed clear of these treats most of my adulthood. Then I had a REALLY good toffee by B Toffee, made locally in Orange County. This toffee is crunchy but topped with chocolate and nuts so divine and buttery that I started thinking, “I’ve just had bad toffees and brittles this whole time!” It was time to make my own.
My husband is from Texas and we all know that Texas has a great Pecan crop (as well as man crop). Recently, my father in law sent me about three pounds of Texas pecans; one pound in particular from their family property in Mertzon. This was my chance; to make good brittle using quality ingredients that were close to my heart. In going through this process (I made about a lot of brittle) I learned that I enjoy brittle that has a higher nut to sugar ratio, and includes another seasoning element. I ended up with More Pecan than Brittle Pecan Brittle that also has a bit of chili powder added to make it interesting. I sent this brittle to Texas and gifted it to people around me for Christmas. It makes a great, easy, last minute gift for the holidays, or just as a treat to have around the house.
Caramel is an easily aggravated process and much care is required during its process. I will do my best to explain it, but please feel free to contact me if you have any additional questions. Once you have reached your dark amber caramel stage, the rest goes very fast so BE PREPARED with all the ingredients and tools needed.
Makes 1 pound
1 ¾ cups pecan halves
1 1/3 cups sugar
¼ light corn syrup
2 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon plus a pinch baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons chili powder (more if you like it spicy)
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spread the nuts out in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake them for 5 minutes. Remove the sheet from the oven and move the nuts around. Bake for another 3-5 minutes, or until they have a little color, but are not burned. Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cool, roughly chop the pecans. (You want bigger chunks of nuts.)
Butter a baking sheet or line it with a nonstick liner (ie. Silpat). Grease a spatula and set it on the lined sheet, along with a whisk and small greased offset spatula. Put the baking soda, salt, and chili powder in a small bowl at the ready. Cut the butter into smaller pieces and keep at the ready.
In a large heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, ½ cup water, and the corn syrup. (Trick: Spray a measuring cup with nonstick cooking spray before pouring the corn syrup in. Makes it easier to remove it from said measuring cup.) Cook over medium heat until the mixture is light caramel in color, about 12 minutes, swirling occasionally to evenly distribute the heat going to the pot. Watch carefully until the caramel becomes a nice deep amber color, then remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the baking soda, salt, and chili mixture. Set the whisk aside and pick up that greased up spatula! Add the nuts to the caramel and mix quickly using the spatula to cover the nuts completely in the caramel. Quickly dump the mixture onto the lined baking sheet and working even faster, spread the mixture out evenly using the offset spatula. Let cool completely, break into about four large pieces and place into a Ziploc bag, then break into pieces (so you don’t getfingerprints all over that pretty glossy sugar) and enjoy!
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