Sweet-tooth Saturday: How Pecan Brittle Became Salted Pecan Caramels

My mom, Celine and her friend Kathryn made pecan brittle over the holidays using a recipe they both SWEAR doesn’t require using a candy thermometer.  “Delicious!”  they say.  “Easy!”  they crow.  “Doesn’t get the scorched flavor some brittles get!”  This week the recipe, in Kathryn’s handwriting, arrives in the mail.  I’m thinking, just the thing for Sweet-tooth Saturday!

With all the confidence bestowed upon me by the ladies from Deming, (Delicious!  Easy!) I gathered my ingredients, photographed them and commenced to make…….caramel.  Meh.  What to do?  First, call my mom–my fall-back solution to cooking issues.  She was her usual, “Oh, it’ll be alright.  Just let it cool some more.”  I put the pan in the freezer.  When I removed it, I had….caramel.  Crap.  Mr16 and I wrenched it from the pan, placed it on the parchment paper I wished it had been on to begin with and sampled.  Well whaddya know?!  Yummy!  Maybe add the espresso chocolate ganache and sea salt from the salted caramel bars I make?  Oh. Yeah.  Baby.

Here are the ingredients for Pecan Brittle, oh brave reader.  You may get brittle, you may get caramel.  Either way, it’s yummy–I really wouldn’t know for sure about the brittle…..my mom says so….

NOTE:  Measure everything out first.  You can’t stop and measure once you start cooking!

  • 3 cups sugar   (I use organic sugar–it’s kind of a golden color–something that led to my downfall today)
  • 1 cup light corn syrup  (I measure sticky stuff in a measuring thingie that pushes stuff out.  I spray the bottom with cooking spray before adding the sticky stuff.)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 1/2 cup pecans
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 TBSP butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp baking soda

Spray oil on a 11×13 cookie sheet.  Place a sheet of parchment over that, with enough parchement hanging over the sides to be able to use as handles to remove brittle/caramel.  Spray the parchment with oil as well.

Place a 5-6 qt pot over high heat and add sugar, corn syrup and water.

Heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil.  Continue to cook for two more minutes.

Reduce heat to medium.  Stir in pecans and salt.  Stir continually until syrup looks golden honey-colored. 

(This was my problem–my sugar made it look golden already.  I cooked it for 2 or 3 minutes more, was afraid of scorching it and continued on with the recipe instructions.  In retrospect, I’d use a candy thermometer here and cook to hard crack stage.  But if caramel is what you’re after, just cook the 2-3 minutes I did!)

After cooking until “honey-gold” add butter, vanilla and baking soda all at once.

Stir thoroughly until well combined.  Mixture will bubble up from the soda.

Pour into the prepared 11×13 pan.  (Notice mine doesn’t have parchment, but if you want to be a happier camper, yours will!)

Cool on a rack until completely cold.  If you have brittle, place it between a couple of kitchen towels and break it with a wooden mallet or rolling pin into the size pieces that you want.

If you have caramel and want to top it with a yummy chocolate espresso ganache and salt, continue on!

You’ll need:

  • 12 ounce bag of semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 3/4 tsp espresso powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Place chips and cream in a microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave for one minute, stir.  Continue nuking in 30-second intervals until cream and chocolate become smooth.  Stir in espresso powder.

Pour ganache over caramels and sprinkle with sea salt while chocolate is still liquid.

Let chocolate set.  (I put mine in the freezer.)  Cut into pieces and enjoy!  Mine are very sticky on the bottom, so will need to be wrapped individually with waxed paper or parchment OR at the very least, kept separate from each other on parchment in air-tight containers in the fridge. 

TA-DA!  DH thinks this was the best mistake ever!

They ARE yummy.  I can’t possibly eat all of these….who wants some?!

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