Pumpkin Seed Brittle
Tradition takes a holiday with this seasonal candy recipe.
Brittle is among the earliest forms of prepared candies. Cook sugar to a temperature of 300 degrees F and it reaches what is called “hard crack” stage. Once cooled, its glassy texture and breakability makes it easy to understand where it got its name. Eventually, the addition of baking soda made it easy to fill the tooth-breaking shrapnel of hardened sugar with a delightfully airy texture that is now associated with the popular candy. Peanut brittle is the best known variation on basic brittle, but any number of nuts or seeds can be used to bring nutty flavor and texture to a centuries-old favorite.
Sometimes called pepitas (from the Mexican name for the seed), pumpkin seeds are a year-round favorite in many Latin American countries and as far away as Russia and Ukraine. Here in the U.S., though, the nutritional little seeds are largely considered a seasonal treat as jack-o’-lanterns are skillfully carved and the seeds carefully extracted from the pulp to be tossed with butter, salt and spices for roasting. The flat, white hull is a little tough for brittle, but inside that fibrous exterior lies a tender, nutty kernel perfect for a seasonal spin on the classic candy.
To shell pumpkin seeds, roast fresh seeds for 10 minutes at 275 degrees F and cool. Place them between two sheets of parchment paper and use a meat tenderizer to crack the shells. Transfer to a large bowl of water. Loose shells will float to the surface and can be discarded. Kernels that remain in shells can be picked through by hand to extract. Removing pumpkin kernels from their shells can be time consuming—shelled pumpkin seeds can be purchased in many grocery stores.
Salty, sweet and seasonal, pumpkin seed brittle is fun to make and has a warm, nutty cinnamon flavor that screams fall. If you move quickly, brittle can be cut into long strips that are pretty to look at, but that part is optional. Once cooled, brittle breaks easily into bite-size pieces. They don’t call it brittle for nothing.
Pumpkin Seed Brittle
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1 cup water
- 2 cups hulled pumpkin seeds
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
Toast pumpkin seeds in a heavy skillet over medium heat until lightly browned (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and set aside.
Combine sugar, corn syrup and water in a heavy pot over high heat.
When temperature reaches 280 degrees F (use a candy thermometer), stir in pumpkin seeds.
When “hard crack” stage is reached (300 degrees F), remove from heat and stir in butter, vanilla, salt, cinnamon and baking soda.
Spread a thin layer of the mixture onto on a greased baking pan.
After a minute or two on the baking sheet, brittle can be carefully cut into strips by applying even pressure with a large knife sprayed with cooking spray. Otherwise, break into pieces once completely cooled.
Store in an airtight container separated with wax paper for up to 2 weeks.