Cashew brittle is good at any time of year but particularly at Christmas. Broken into shards and popped into little bags tied with ribbon, it makes lovely presents to pop under the tree, ready to give to friends.
I quite like to use the same amount of nuts to sugar so that the end result is more nut than brittle, but if you prefer more brittle feel free to halve the amount of nuts. The combination of salt and caramel is quite delicious, but if you prefer you can use plain cashews instead.–Julia Parsons
LC Golden Rules of Caramel Note
How fortunate that just a little (okay, maybe a lot of) sugar, cashews, and patience can bring such shards of loveliness into one’s life. To that end, making caramel can be tricky business the first go-round, admits author Julia Parsons. She’s learned that by following a few (forgive us) golden rules, you’ll have very little trouble. Here, in her words, is what she’s found to be true:
Golden Rule 1: Be diligent. Once you’ve poured the sugar into the pan, shake the pan so that the sugar forms an even layer and, hence, heats evenly. While it’s heating, shake the pan every now and then, otherwise you may end up with sugar in some parts cooking more quickly and burning.
Golden Rule 2: Be patient. Nothing will appear to happen for quite some time, but wait and watch. It’ll get there.
Golden Rule 3: Be careful. Resist the temptation to touch or taste the caramel, as caramelization occurs when sugar reaches around 338˚F (170˚C)—much higher than boiling water. Not only is caramel scalding hot, but it sticks to everything, making the potential for burns quite high.
Golden Rule 4: Be attentive. To create the special taste of caramel, you need the flavor of the molasses in the sugar to come out. And for that to happen, you need to be confident enough to let the sugar reach a deep, golden amber color. You don’t want to take it off the heat too soon—if you do the caramel will be too sweet. Conversely, caramel can quickly overcook and take on a bitter taste. If you’re uncertain, take the pan off the heat, check the color, and, if necessary, return it to the burner. Your nose, as well as your eyes, will tell you when it’s reached that long-anticipated caramel stage.
Golden Rule 5: Be fast. Once you take the caramel off the heat, it will quickly start to cool and harden, so you need to have the other ingredients on hand and ready to go. Oh, and one final thing. To clean a pan with stuck-on caramel, simply fill it with water, bring it to a boil, and watch the caramel melt away.
Cashew Brittle Recipe
Hands-On Time: 30 minutes | Total Time: 30 minutes, not including cooling | Makes never quite enough
- 1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) superfine sugar (or substitute granulated sugar that you’ve blitzed in a food processor or blender until finely ground but not powdery; measure the sugar after blitzing it)
- 2 1/4 cups (10 1/2 ounces) roasted cashews, preferably salted
- 1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
- 2. Heat a large, flat-bottomed, heavy saucepan over low heat. Add the sugar and evenly distribute it. After awhile the sugar will start to dissolve and turn golden. Shake the pan every now and then so that it dissolves evenly. Be patient—don’t stir the sugar and don’t, for the love of all things good, turn up the heat. Just wait until the sugar has dissolved. This may take awhile.
- 3. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, turn the heat up to medium and wait until the sugar goo turns a deeper golden, caramel color. Immediately add the cashews to the pan and tilt the pan to swirl the cashews into the caramel. You may need to use a wooden spoon to help coat the cashews in the caramel. Quickly and carefully turn the caramel-covered cashews onto the parchment, spread it as best you can, and let it cool. The brittle will set quite quickly but will take about an hour to cool completely. Once the nut brittle is cool you can break it up—a small, clean hammer will help with this.
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Cashew Brittle Recipe © 2010 Julia Parsons. Photo © 2010 Cristian Barnett. All rights reserved.