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.