Thursday, December 23, 2010


Oh, the holidays. You think you have it covered, with gifts for all the folks who make your life work. The yard guys (bless them, especially because we don't own a lawn mower and even if we did, Henry wouldn't know how to use it), the wonderful folks who keep my hair straight and not gray, the lovely people who own the dry cleaning establishment where Henry drops his shirts off every week and the staff at the local bank who knows me by name and always greets me with big smiles.

I can’t say “thank you” with cash. It wouldn’t be appropriate and besides, I don’t have any extra anyway. Who does? So instead I cook and bake. This year’s offerings include both English Toffee and Honey Pecan Bars (recipes previously posted, here are the links):

And it’s all good and you make enough to cover the folks on your list and then……..oh no! You forgot someone (or two or three) and you’ve blown through all of your toffee and pecan bars. Well, crap.

Here is the quick fix answer: Salted Cashew Brittle. I’ve had this recipe in my arsenal for years. It’s ridiculously easy and I’m almost sorry to post it because you will certainly start to doubt my food integrity as this involves the use of a microwave.

Okay, yes, I do have one. A microwave that is. Serious restaurateurs would undoubtedly look askance at that, but there you are. It comes in handy for melting chocolate, reheating my coffee in the morning when I don’t finish it quickly enough and softening up the dog food (because that snaggle-toothed dog of mine can’t eat dry food).

So Tuesday night I dragged out my recipe for the cashew brittle, nuked up a batch and patted myself on the back for my ability to come up with something fast and easy to the rescue. I set it out to cool, broke it into big pieces and packaged it up. Mission accomplished.


2 cups roasted, salted cashew halves (1 - 9.5 oz. can)
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda

Line a baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper and grease well. Alternatively, you can line it with a silicone baking sheet (Silpat).

Combine cashews, sugar and corn syrup in a 2-quart glass bowl. Place in microwave and heat on high, uncovered, for 3 minutes. Stir, then heat for another 3 to 4 minutes until mixture is a very light golden brown.

Carefully remove bowl from the microwave (I suggest using a good pair of oven mitts for this) and stir in butter and vanilla extract. Return to microwave and cook on high heat for another 2 to 4 minutes until mixture becomes caramel-colored.

Remove from microwave and stir in the baking soda. Mixture will become light and foamy. Turn out onto prepared baking sheets. It will be fairly thick, so work quickly to spread it out with a spatula.

Let stand until completely cool, at least 30 minutes. Break into pieces. Brittle will keep up to one week stored in an airtight container.

Yield: enough to completely fill an 8 x 3-inch round tin (3#)

There are two things I would caution you about.  The first is to be very, very careful when handling this stuff as it (and the bowl) gets extremely hot.  As I said before, it's best to use heavy-duty oven mitts.  I would also recommend using one of those 2-quart Pyrex glass measuring cups with a handle (which I thought I had but couldn't find  - think it's buried in the garage amongst all of my old catering equipment). 

The other thing to bear in mind is the fact that not all microwaves are created equal.  Yours may be higher-powered than mine and so forth.  I would therefore recommend that after you add the butter and vanilla extract, check the mixture every 30 seconds or so.  You want it to become caramel-colored but you do not want to take it too far or you will have a big, burned up mess in your microwave. 

Dump it in and stir

After a 3-minute zap

After 6 minutes

Add baking soda

Let harden for 30 minutes

Wrap it up and you're good to go!

Here's the interesting part.  I made this on Tuesday night.  Wednesday morning I settled in with my cup of coffee and the weekly Dining Section of the New York Times.  Look what was on the front page!

It's an article by Harold McGee about the efficiency of using a microwave to produce homemade candy!  There is even a recipe (similar to mine) for Microwave Nut Brittle.  Guess I was ahead of the curve and didn't even know it!

1 comment:

  1. I saw that article in the NYT as well. I will attempt the cashew brittle using your step by step guide. Love the blog about the English Toffee-- did not know you were JBChoice. Me too, and I get the same "oh no" feeling a week before Christmas when I start realizing I will be heading north to visit my family. This year was especially bad considering that Hanukkah came super early. Sue Apolinsky