Colorful & comforting seasonal recipes for savory dishes, sweets and cocktails. 

Bourbon Maple Brittle

Bourbon Maple Brittle

It's never too late to put that candy thermometer to work and make some brittle for the holidays. This maple syrup brittle is packed with bourbon-soaked cocoa nibs, pecans, pistachios and a curveball, puffed quinoa. The puffed quinoa is of course is optional, but what I love about it is the surprise texture it adds to the hard crunch of brittle and it somehow keeps the brittle from getting quite as stuck to your teeth. I'd imagine puffed rice or puffed millet might have a similar magic. You can always swap in cashews, almonds, or other nuts you have in your pantry for the pecans or pistachios, though there's something about the fattiness of pecans and distinct richness of pistachios that I love with cocoa nibs and bourbon. Serve the brittle as garnish for bourbon on the rocks or your favorite whiskey-based winter cocktail. 

This brittle is inspired by two lovely reminders of my midwest home, cocoa nibs from Askinosie Chocolate and pecans from my aunt's pecan trees in southwest Missouri that my mom collected over Thanksgiving and sent back with me to Oakland. Wherever you are in the world, happy holidays. 

Bourbon Maple Brittle
Makes about 1 1/2 pounds brittle
1/2 cup cocoa nibs
2 ounces bourbon whiskey
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup pistachios
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup butter (1 stick)
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup puffed quinoa 

Prep your station by first combining cocoa nibs and bourbon in a small bowl, then set aside. These can be soaked up to a week in advance, just keep stored in a lidded airtight container if soaking cocoa nibs more than a few hours in advance.

Mix together pecans and pistachios in another small bowl. Measure out the puffed quinoa and keep that close by. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, or a nonstick baking mat, and coat lightly with butter. 

Add brown sugar, maple syrup, corn syrup and water to a heavy duty saucepan, between 2 and 4 quarts in size. Heat on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture comes to a rolling boil and the sugar fully dissolves. Add the butter and salt. Fix the candy thermometer so it's inserted fully into the mixture, but not touching the bottom of the saucepan. Stir the mixture constantly until it reaches 300 degrees. Immediately remove it from heat and fully stir in the baking soda as it becomes light and somewhat foamy. Very quickly fold in bourbon-soaked cocoa nibs, pistachios, pecans, and puffed quinoa then immediately pour the brittle out onto the sheet pan and spread it, with lightning speed, using a silicone spatula or spoon. Let cool completely before breaking off pieces to enjoy. Store any extras in an airtight container and enjoy within a week. 

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