Anjuli, poor girl, has, of all things, pneumonia. She and Matt have been staying in Connecticut while they get ready for their travels. They’re going to be outside of the US for a while, so their planning and packing involves millions of little details. The last thing Anjuli needed was to come down with pneumonia. I wanted to make something that would lift her spirits in this never-ending winter. It was Valentine’s Day, so I thought she would love it if I made some nut brittle and backed it with chocolate.
It was early morning and I was still lying in bed imagining this brittle. I wanted to sneak into the kitchen and make my candy before anyone else was stirring. I did not want to go shopping. I had just received a shipment from one of my favorite online stores that imports products from Spain called La Tienda. The shipment included olive oils, smoky sweet paprika and a bottle of capers packed in sea salt, but also a good supply of Marcona almonds that would go so elegantly with dark chocolate. I knew I had plenty of sesame seeds. Anjuli and I both adore their rich, warm nutty flavor. Pecans are a natural with chocolate and I had a bag in the freezer. Chocolate, what about the chocolate? I remembered those artisanal Mexican chocolate disks from Taza Chocolate that Anjuli had given me for Christmas. Each one was laced with cinnamon or almond or something as exotic as guajillo chiles. I had been waiting for an occasion such as this to use them. I hopped out of bed feeling peaceful and excited, knowing that I had what I needed.
Just as everyone was stirring and sniffing and wondering what delicious things were happening in the kitchen I was pouring the thick, sweet candy layer onto my nuts and chocolate. Then I snuck the whole cookie sheet in the freezer until the chocolate was hard and I could easily break it up into pieces. I carried up a box to Anjuli and we all had some. This brittle has all the crunch and butteriness of the candy backed by rich, creamy chocolate and studded with salty nuts. It has a good snap but it also gives way when you bite in and doesn’t break your teeth. Spirits were lifted and we all felt a little snappy. I hope you do too…
Nut brittle with bittersweet chocolate (all ingredients were organic) Makes about 24 1″x2″ squares
1 pound bittersweet chocolate of your choice (I used Taza Chocolate)
1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds
2 cups toasted pecans
1 cup toasted Marcona almonds
6 tablespoons maple syrup
1 1/2 cups raw sugar
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 tablespoons water
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Note: The nuts and seeds I toasted in a dry frying pan set to medium low until they started to change color. I toasted the seeds separately from the nuts.
Make the chocolate and nuts. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper letting it hang over the ends a bit. Melt the chocolate completely in a double boiler or in a bowl set in a frying pan of simmering water. Remove from the heat and stir to make sure it is all melted. Spread the chocolate on the parchment paper covering the entire surface of the cookie sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Sprinkle with the seeds and the nuts.
Make the candy. Combine the maple syrup, sugar, butter, vinegar and water in a 3–quart heavy pot over medium low, stirring occasionally as it melts and comes to a boil. Once it is boiling, cover it and let it boil for 2 – 3 minutes. Then uncover the pan and wash down the sides of the pan with a brush dipped in cold water. Let it continue to boil slowly over moderate heat without stirring for 20 to 30 minutes until it reaches the hard crack stage (290°F). If it threatens to smoke then stir it without touching the sides of the pan. Pour and spread the candy over the nuts as thin as you can.
Cool, freeze and break. Let it cool on a wire rack. Once it was cool I stuck the whole cookie sheet in the freezer for about 15 minutes until the chocolate got good and hard. Then I broke it in pieces and stored it in an airtight container.