In Our Kitchen: Recipe for Spiced Pepita Brittle
Ileana Morales Valentine | Special to the Times
Savor the salty-sweet taste of Spiced Pepita Brittle by itself or try it in a bowl of ice cream.
I'm still rolling my eyes at all the things that are bizarrely pumpkin spiced this time of year, but the flavor gave me an idea for another kind of seasonal treat: Spiced Pepita Brittle.
I've been wanting to try my hand at brittle for some time, and though a peanut or almond brittle is a more obvious place to start, pepitas were calling to me. Pepitas are pumpkin seeds, just not from the same kind of pumpkin you carved for Halloween. I love pepitas for their earthy green color and texture. I also think they're much tastier than the pumpkin seeds I usually end up picking out of pumpkin guts.
These pepitas are not getting the pumpkin spice treatment, but I did want to add some warm spices. A bit of cinnamon, cardamom and chipotle complement the nuttiness of the pepitas and feel right for the season. Freshly ground nutmeg rounds things out, and I do mean freshly ground. Grinding whole spices is always preferred, but the difference with nutmeg between the fresh spice and the preground spice is astounding. The resulting brittle is not spicy in terms of heat; it's just spiced.
Breaking brittle is the most fun part of this process. Make sure to let the sheet of shiny brittle cool completely before using your hands to break it into shards. A two- or three-bite piece is what we're going for here.
And then, share the brittle wealth. This recipe makes much more than two people can eat in a week. Brittle is a salty-sweet and crunchy snack that is excellent with beer, and your friends will be so grateful if you show up with it at the next happy hour. Or pack a few pieces in small bags and hand out pepita brittle as gifts for the upcoming holidays. Fold it into ice cream. We haven't found a wrong way to brittle yet.
Ileana Morales Valentine lives in St. Petersburg with her husband. For more of their kitchen stories, visit her blog, ALittleSaffron.com. Say hello at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Spiced Pepita Brittle
Using a candy thermometer here would be a pain. And sticky. I've made caramel several times without it, and you can, too. Just don't leave your saucepan's side, and watch for changes in color and texture. It's worth seeking out the green pepitas for this brittle.
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash of chipotle chili pepper
1 ¾ cups raw pepitas
2 cups sugar
⅓ cup light corn syrup
½ cup water
1 ¼ teaspoons sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease lightly with butter or a nonstick oil spray. In a medium bowl, mix ground spices and chili pepper to combine and stir in pepitas.
Place sugar, corn syrup and water in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, and stir to moisten the sugar. Set to medium heat and bring to a boil. Tilt pan carefully occasionally to help dissolve sugar, and cook until the mixture just starts to turn golden, about 8 minutes. (If using a candy thermometer, you'd be looking for it to hit 290 degrees right now.)
Moving quickly, stir in pepitas and spice mixture, salt and butter to incorporate. Stir frequently for about another 2 or 3 minutes, allowing the pepitas to cook slightly. You may hear one or two pop. The mixture should be golden brown.
Remove from heat and quickly stir in baking soda (mixture may bubble up); immediately pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet. Use a heat-proof spatula to spread out the mixture evenly. Quickly sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Let cool completely, at least 20 minutes. Break sheet of brittle into smaller pieces and serve. Brittle will keep in an airtight container for about 1 week; separate brittle pieces with pieces of parchment paper to keep them from sticking.
This recipe makes enough for a crowd.
Source: Ileana Morales Valentine