By Sarah Chaminade — Pastry Chef Instructor
Sometimes it’s okay to reinvent the classics, as long as it tastes as good or better than the original. This brittle recipe is just as delicious as your classic brittle, but with a tasty, seasonal addition: pumpkin seeds. Before I share the recipe, here’s an overview of this sweet, crunchy treat.
Where does brittle come from?
Brittle is a Southern treat that is enjoyed mostly around the holiday season. Though it’s not exactly clear when the first brittle was created, one legend says that a Southern woman created peanut brittle by mistake around 1890. (Which is oftentimes how the most delicious things are created — by happy accidents!) Apparently she was making taffy when she added baking soda instead of cream of tartar.
There’s also a Southern folk story that attributes the creation of peanut brittle to a lumberjack named Tony Beaver. The story goes that he created peanut brittle while stopping a flood using peanuts and molasses — a fun, but slightly less believable version of history.
How is brittle made?
Peanut brittle made with corn syrup and nuts began appearing in cookbooks in the 19th century. In 1903, botanist George Washington Carver created a list of more than 300 uses for peanuts, including peanut brittle. After that, the popularity of the peanut grew in the southern parts of the United States.
The fascinating part about the brittle recipe is the effect of adding baking soda. When the chemical leavening agent reacts with molten hot sugar syrup, the otherwise hard crack candy is given a light and airy texture. The next step, allowing the candy to cool and stretching it into thin sheets, makes the crispy brittle even more delicate to eat.
A seasonal twist
With the arrival of fall, pumpkin seed brittle is a great way to incorporate seasonal ingredients into a sweet, crunchy snack. Originally, I created this recipe as a garnish to a pumpkin cheesecake. Once people got a taste of the toasted seeds and crunchy caramel, we were making and jarring it for orders in no time.
Pumpkin Seed Brittle
(servings: makes about 4 cups)
½ cup (120 ml) water
½ cup (120 ml) light corn syrup
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1 ½ cup (225 grams) raw pumpkin seeds
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon (14 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
- Do ahead: Apply a thin layer of cooking spray to a marble surface. (Alternatively, you can use a non-stick baking mat.)
- In a medium sized saucepan over medium-high heat, bring the water, corn syrup and sugar to a boil, stirring well to dissolve the sugar.
- Place candy thermometer inside pot and cook until sugar syrup reaches soft crack stage (285 degrees Fahrenheit or 140 degrees Celsius).
- Stir in pumpkin seeds and continue cooking, stirring often to make sure pumpkin seeds don’t stick to the bottom. Cook until mixtures reaches hard crack (300 degrees Fahrenheit or 149 degrees Celsius).
- Remove from heat and stir in baking soda, vanilla and butter — be careful: the mixture will bubble up. Wait for mixture to settle and immediately pour as thin as possible onto oiled marble surface.
- Allow mixture to cool slightly and begin stretching sugar from the center to form thin sheets (as shown in video). If you’re worried about handling the cooked sugar mixture, latex gloves can be worn.
- Let brittle cool completely and store in sealed jars to keep crispy for up to 2 weeks or as long as it lasts.
Want to learn with Chef Sarah? Click here to explore ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts career program.