‘Tis the season for all things sweet. It’s definitely one of my favorite times of the year, although admittedly, I have been cooking and baking less than one would think. I won’t lament being busy with work, but one consequence of “handling business” is having less time to do some of the things I enjoy. Playing around in the kitchen is one of them. Luckily, a few catering jobs have given me the opportunity to be creative or just have fun with food in my own way. This brittle is an example of that. Hardened sugar and buttered, toasted nuts dusted with floral, dried herbs and salt. It’s a dream treat for the holidays.
This weekend, I was hired to create a huge charcuterie display for 35 people. A five foot table served as my canvas, and sliced, cured meats, a variety of cheeses, nuts, olives, fruits, breads and crackers and a number of sweet and savory condiments would be the paint. At the last minute, I was asked to add desserts for the adults, in addition to homemade hot cocoa for children. I had already made a few elements for the charcuterie board (pickled onions, tomato jam, candied pecans and ras el hanout sunflower seeds, etc.), so I figured a couple of homemade sweet treats would be nice as well.
With a freezer full of nuts on hand, I decided to combine two of my favorites under a blanket of caramelized sugar. Herbes de Provence is typically a blend of herbs from that southeastern region of France, although many store-bought mixtures will vary. You could end up with a blend of anything from thyme, rosemary, tarragon, bay leaf, sage, oregano, savory, or marjoram. If you’re lucky, there will be some lavender as well. With a bit of flakey, crunchy salt, I figured this combination would be right on.
Maybe this is your first time making candy, specifically brittle. Well, rejoice! Not only is this an easy recipe, but there’s also no need for special equipment like a candy thermometer. Take note that this brittle recipe makes enough to almost fill at quarter sheet tray, which is only 9″x13″. If it’s the only dessert on deck, make a couple batches. Or more. This brittle would be a great gift for friends and family during the holidays or simply part of your dessert table at an upcoming gathering.
- Non-stick cooking spray
- 1/2 cup flaked almonds
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon herbes de Provence
- Flakey sea salt, for garnish
- Line a quarter sheet (9″x13″) tray, or a small baking sheet, with parchment paper. Lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
- Toast the almonds and pine nuts in a dry, medium saute pan over medium low heat. As they become fragrant and begin to brown, stir often to prevent burning. Once most of the nuts are golden brown, approximately 3-5 minutes, remove from heat, and stir in the butter. Toss to coat, then set aside.
- Pour the sugar into a medium saucepan, and set over a medium high flame. Cook until melted and light amber, stirring occasionally, approximately 7-10 minutes.
- Add the nuts to the cooked sugar, stirring to combine. Reduce the heat to medium low, and cook for another couple of minutes. Remove from heat, and pour the mixture onto the lined sheet tray, allowing it to naturally spread over about 3/4 of the surface. Sprinkle the herbes de Provence over the brittle followed by flakes of salt, lightly pressing them into the sugar with the back of a heat-resistant spoon.
- When the sheet tray has cooled to the touch, chill the brittle in the fridge for about an hour before breaking into pieces. Store in an airtight container, either on the countertop or in the fridge.