You already know Lucy Baker from her weekly Mixed Review column here—she'll be chiming in with ideas for arts-and-craftsy food gifts in her column Edible DIY. Give them out as edible party favors, or as a thank-you to the host. Either way, the recipient(s) will be quite pleased. Take it away, Lucy! —The Mgmt.
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I made twelve pounds of a nut brittle similar to this one to give as favors at my own engagement party. My mother thought I was insane. "It's a party for you. Other people are going to give you things. You don't have to make gifts for all the guests!" But the truth is, I love making presents for people—especially ones that are edible. What could be a more thoughtful, personal, or delicious token of affection?
This brittle is a snap to make (the only special tool you need is a decent candy thermometer) and the flavors are pure fall: crackly pumpkin seeds, crunchy pecans, and warm cinnamon. The cayenne adds the subtlest hint of heat, and the fleur de sel makes it dangerously addictive. For more of a kick, increase the cayenne to 1/2 teaspoon. Or for a pie-inspired version, omit the cayenne and cinnamon and add 3/4 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice along with the baking soda.
There are many ways to make nut brittle. I find this one the easiest. I also think it yields the best, most consistent results. Basically, you boil sugar, butter, corn syrup, and water until it reaches the hard ball stage (300°F).
Then you stir in the spices, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, and the nuts. Scrape everything onto a parchment lined baking sheet, spread it as thinly as you can, and sprinkle it with whatever "fancy" salt (fleur de sel, Maldon sea salt, etc.) you have on hand. That's it, you're done!
Provided you don't devour the entire batch (trust me, it's happened), this recipe yields enough brittle for two large gifts or six small favors. You can make it ahead, too. It will keep for at least three weeks stored in an airtight container at room temperature.