Wednesday, December 19, 2007

For Good Crack, You Must Have Patience

So about that brittle. It didn't work out so well. I let it sit for a half hour, but it wasn't quite hard... so I let it sit another half hour. And then an hour. And another hour. And the brittle remained, well, not brittle at all. I slid a small metal spatula underneath the nuts and sugar, and was able to flick up bits of it, bits that were quite tasty--after all, what's not to like about nuts, sugar and butter? But it was kind of soft, and a far cry from that break-your-teeth confection known as nut brittle.

I gave it a second go last night, and am happy to report: success! It was a mere case of impatience that kept me from cracking the brittle. When you're making nut brittle, you need to heat the caramel (made of sugar, corn syrup and butter) to 300 degrees. On my first go-round, the temperature hovered around 230 degrees (according to my thermometer, the correct temp for a "soft ball"), and after 10 or so minutes, I figured my thermometer was broken and mixed in the nuts. Soft ball is what I wound up with. So last night, I took the advice of The Wednesday Chef and resigned myself to sit tight, and what do you know? The thermometer hovered at 230 for awhile, but then it began inching up, and up, and up--until it reached 300 ("hard crack," says my thermometer).

Fork stepped in to help, and we quickly mixed in baking soda and nuts, and then poured it onto a baking sheet. They should call this stage of caramel "fast hard crack," because within 30 seconds the stuff was solid. I snapped a wooden spoon in half trying to spread it around the baking sheet. But no matter, we spread it enough--and, ta da! Real, snappy brittle! Give me patience, indeed.--S

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