With Purim just a week away, you might be running out of time to prepare homemade goodies for your mishloach manos. Baking babkas, decorating cookies or making challah and kugel for everyone is just not going to fit into your busy schedule. But here’s an idea for tasty treats that are anything but ordinary.
Brittles and toffee take only minutes to prepare but make a big statement. They are made by caramelizing sugar and adding salty/crunchy/nutty tidbits to give it different flavors. The only special equipment you need is an inexpensive candy thermometer. The add-ins are endless so have fun!
Caramelizing sugar isn’t especially tricky. Just remember, melted sugar forms a hot and sticky syrup, stir it carefully so it doesn’t spatter. Here’s how:
Sprinkle the sugar evenly on the bottom of the saucepan. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan, making sure it doesn’t touch the bottom of the pot. Heat it slowly over low to medium heat until it first begins to melt, then gradually becomes a syrup. As it gets hotter, about 320 degrees, it changes to a pale, amber color. Then it becomes a rich, deep caramel and is at a temperature of about 338-340 degrees. Remove the pan from the heat, as it will continue to cook slightly. If you let it get darker, or heated to 350 degrees, it quickly develops a bitter or burnt flavor.
At this point you can add nuts or almonds to make your own brittle. Once the nuts are coated with syrup, transfer them to the cookie sheet. Pull apart any large clusters once they’re cool enough to handle or let them cool completely and chop into pieces.
¾ pound slivered almonds
2 sticks butter or margarine (1 cup)
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a sheet pan spread almonds in one layer and roast until pale and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Let nuts cool and finely chop ½ cup. Set aside the remaining nuts.
Line a sheet pan with a silicone mat. Cut butter or margarine into 16 pieces. Place in a 3 quart heavy saucepan with the sugar, corn syrup and 2 tablespoons water. Bring mixture to a boil over moderately high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Continue to boil, stirring occasionally, until mixture registers 290 degrees, about 7 minutes. Quickly, stir in slivered almonds and immediately pour mixture into baking pan. With an offset spatula, quickly spread toffee in an even layer as close to the edges as possible.
Let mixture stand 1 minute and sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips. Let chips melt and spread chocolate evenly over toffee. Sprinkle chopped nuts over chocolate, pressing gently to adhere. Chill until toffee is firm. Break toffee into bite-size pieces and keep chilled to prevent chocolate from melting. Wrap pieces and share with your family and friends.
1 ½ cups sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
¾ cup cold water
2 ½ cups unsalted peanuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Line a 9”x13” pan with parchment paper.
In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, water and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved. Dip a pastry brush in water and brush down the sides of the pan to prevent crystallization. Clip a candy thermometer onto the saucepan, making sure the bulb of the thermometer is not touching the bottom of the saucepan. Cook, without stirring, until mixture reaches 238 degrees. Pour in nuts and continue to cook stirring often to prevent the nuts from burning until the sugar is amber in color and it reaches 240 degrees F, about 15 minutes.
Remove from heat and carefully add vanilla and baking soda. The mixture will foam up. Pour mixture into prepared pan and spread quickly with a well-greased, offset (angled) spatula. Set aside to cool. Break into pieces and wrap in cellophane or pretty bags and store in an airtight container up to 1 month.