A sweet and salty confection — Nut Brittle is the quintessential candy for fall and Christmas munching. In fact, they very well may be the first All-American confection ever made.
There are many legends associated with brittles. One such story is that of a mistaken ingredient (baking soda instead of cream of tartar), another attributes the sweet confection to a Celtic origin and believes the Irish brought it to America, and yet still another says Tony Beaver, a Paul Bunyon type folk hero, actually used molasses and peanuts to control a flood, thus saving lives, and discovering a wonderful new dessert in the process. (See below for story source).
But no matter the legends and associations, what I know is that the confection has a long family tradition in my home. It’s something I usually make at the start of fall, it’s always on a candy tray at Halloween, the dessert buffet at Thanksgiving and the goodie table at Christmas. Typically, I make a couple of batches and freeze — and they freeze quite well!
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
Stir with wooden spoon to dissolve sugar water
1 cup light corn syrup
Cook to hard ball stage, 250 degrees with candy thermometer
Add 2 cups raw, unsalted nuts (I use a combination of peanuts, pecans and almonds)
1 teaspoon salt
Continue to cook until the candy thermometer registers 250 degrees.
Remove from heat and add:
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
Very quickly pour hot brittle onto a butter baking sheet span, spreading with wooden spoon as thinly as possible. When cool, break into small pieces. Brittle is best after setting up for 24 hours or more.