Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Filbert Brittle

Though plates of fudge and cookies make me go back in my mind to my mom's family home, there are a few things that make me leap, mentally, to Dad's mom's house. Ribbon candy. Scotch and soda. Dill pickles. Brittle. And nuts.

Grandma always had a wooden bowl filled with nuts in their shells, sitting out on the coffee table. There were nut picks and a nut cracker (which looks surprisingly like what I've seen folks out here use for cracking crab). We would crack and eat nuts all visit long. My favorites were always the filberts.

Mmmm, filberts. For, lo, it was Oregon, and it was the 70s, and they were filberts. The rest of the world might call 'em "hazelnuts," but we knew better. Filbert orchards everywhere, and tasty, tasty filberts, too.

Imagine my surprise when I went to an Oregon wine tasting here in DC, and met the heads of the Oregon HAZELNUT Growers Association. They begged me to not call them filberts anymore. Seems that properly named filberts don't command the same price on the international marked as identical-except-in-name hazelnuts. A bit of me died that night.

Back to Grandma, and memories. The Farm Journal's Homemade Candy has a recipe that combines two of the tastes that make me think of Grandma G.
Unsurpassable Filbert Brittle

Filberts grow in Oregon and candy makers there believe that confections featuring them can't be surpassed. They have a right to be proud of this brittle. If you can't find filberts in your markets, you can use either raw Spanish peanuts or salted peanuts as a substitute in the recipe for Filbert Brittle.

As with all brittle recipes, the trick is to prevent scorching and the formation of sugar crystals during the cooking. This recipe shows the way a home economics teacher controls these problems. All her friends recognize her as an expert candy maker.

She likes to pour the cooked brittle onto a warm marble slab, brushed with mineral oil, but you can use heavy duty foil, well oiled or buttered. To warm the marble, she lays her electric pad on it and turns on the electricity -- an original idea.

Filbert Brittle

A holiday treat in the Northwest -- it's worth adoption across country

4 c. whole or halved filberts
3 c. sugar
1 14/ c. light corn syrup
1 c. boiling water
2 tblsp. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla

Remove any excess or loose fibers from filberts, but do not remove skins.

Combine sugar, corn syrup, and boiling water in 3-qt. heavy saucepan. Stir until sugar is dissolved, then cover and place over medium heat until syrup boils. Remove lid; insert candy termometer and cook at medium boil to the soft ball stage (240°).

Add filberts all at once. Do not stir until mixture again boils (it might start a crystal). Then stir with a wooden spoon to keep nuts from scorching, using care not to touch sides of pan above surface of syrup, for the friction of spoon may cause crystals to fall into syrup and cause a coarse-grain candy.

Cook to the hard crack stage (310°), or even beyond it to 320°, at which stage sugar caramelizes and turns a dark golden color. Add butter; remove from heat at once. Then add salt, soda and vanilla, stirring in well.

Pour onto warm marble slab, brushed with mineral oil or butter, or onto buttered heavy duty foil. Pour brittle so it spreads out as thinly as possible. Work a buttered or oiled spatula under one side of brittle and turn it over. Pull the brittle as thin as possible. (A heatproof mit is helpful in turning and pulling brittle.)

Let cool; then break in pieces of eating size. Store in airtight containers. Place in freezer, refrigerator or other cold place. Makes 3 pounds.
Do take it to the 320°F point, please, and get the darker, yummier, caramelized sugar. It's so worth it.

I can taste it now. The butter. The burnt sugar. The crisp nuts. How, on a humid day (and, hello, it was Oregon...rainy rainy humid), it would be a bit softer, a bit grainier. Still tasty as all get out.

1 comment:

  1. Yup! We used to crack nuts at home in Connecticut. Nutcracker=crab- cracker.