The Brit­tle In­va­sion

With an end­lessly adapt­able for­mula (that starts with sim­ply melt­ing sugar), the di­verse brit­tles of the world show us that this crisp, crackly candy is the sea­son’s most ver­sa­tile treat


nearly ev­ery cui­sine has at least one brit­tle to boast about. Crunchy, sweet, and quick to throw to­gether, the candy comes in an end­less ar­ray of tex­tures and fla­vors. In Mex­ico, bricks of un­re­fined sug­ar­cane give palan­que­tas a deep am­ber color and a chewy con­sis­tency. In In­dia, peanut-stud­ded chikkis are made with rich, caramel­col­ored jag­gery. And in Peru,

chan­caca, a cane syrup of­ten scented with cit­rus and cin­na­mon, brings that aroma to tur­rón packed with nuts or quinoa.

At its sim­plest, a batch of brit­tle re­quires lit­tle more than melt­ing sugar to a spec­i­fied tem­per­a­ture and let­ting it set. The re­sult is a glossy treat that shat­ters be­tween your teeth be­fore melt­ing in your mouth. In China, cooks swirl the plain golden candy into in­tri­cate de­signs, like drag­ons and phoenixes, be­fore set­ting it onto sticks.

But nuts and seeds are of­ten thrown into the mix, too. Peanuts rule through­out the Amer­i­cas, Asia, West Africa, and the Caribbean. Pis­ta­chios show up in the Mid­dle East, and craggy wal­nuts are the base of hon­eyed Ge­or­gian

goz­i­naqi. French cro­quant are stud­ded with hazel­nuts or al­monds, while sesame seeds are used nearly ev­ery­where. Some cooks aer­ate the caramel with bak­ing soda, giv­ing the candy a crisp­ness that’s eas­ier on the teeth. An ex­tra dose goes into Aus­tralian hon­ey­comb, which ex­pands dra­mat­i­cally to dis­play deep, airy pock­ets.

There are as many va­ri­eties of brit­tle as there are ways to serve and share them. Wrap a big batch as a host­ess gift, crum­ble it over ice cream, sprin­kle it onto frosted cakes, or bake it into cook­ies. If you’ve got a heavy-bot­tomed pot and a candy ther­mome­ter, you’ve al­ready cracked the code.

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