12 December 2012

Gift Toffee: Pistachio and Cranberry Brittle

The children are nestled all snug in their beds,
While the adults collapse, tired and stressed;
With still more to do, I need a big coffee,
And a piece of that remarkable toffee...

Butter Crunch Toffee is always a crowd pleaser, but sometimes I want something a little different, a more sophisticated toffee if you like, so I came up with this Pistachio and Cranberry Brittle. My original intention was to have a red toffee with flecks of green, but on making it turned such a luminous deep amber I am even happier with the result.
This is a toffee to savour, from the deep notes of the browned pistachios to the astringent tang of cranberry juice infused through the toffee - a little complex and not too sweet. Brittle can be clear or have a little bicarb soda added to form bubbles making it cloudy but easier to bite. Because of the wonderful colour of this brittle I have made it clear and by tipping the tray when the toffee was hot, stretched it as thin as possible so it's not too hard to bite through and has a wonderful stained glass effect.

Before you start remember my 3 rules of toffee making:
  1. Be prepared - get out all the ingredients/ trays/ kitchenware you need before you start
  2. Read the recipe all the way through, looking up any process you don't fully understand so you know what's coming
  3. Remove children and pets from the room - hot sugar syrup, soft skin and/or fur do not mix! 
To make toffee you either need to get a candy thermometer, or learn all about the stages sugar goes through when heated, from soft ball right through to hard crack! If you are using the cold water method (dripping a little of the sugar syrup into a bowl of cold water then feeling it to work out what stage the sugar is at), take a look at Just a Pinch for an excellent explanation with photos of the various stages sugar will go through and its properties for candy making so your toffee will be just right.
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup cranberry juice
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup, also called glucose syrup**
  • 1/4 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup pistachios, out of their shells but still raw
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
You will also need a little extra butter, a lined baking sheet, oven gloves, a small bowl of cold water or a candy thermometer and a heavy spoon
**  glucose syrup controls the crystallisation of the sugar so your toffee is smooth, it can be found in most supermarkets in the baking section near things like vanilla essence or gelatine leaves. 
  1. Line baking sheet with baking paper and set aside
  2. With the extra butter lightly coat the inner sides of a heavy bottomed saucepan (this isn't for flavour but will stop any sugar crystals from clinging to the sides of your pan)
  3. Combine sugar, cranberry juice, corn syrup and vinegar over a medium heat until sugar dissolves
  4. If you are using a candy thermometer put it in once all the sugar has dissolved
  5. Cook, stirring over a medium high heat until you get to firm ball stage (121˚C / 250˚F on a candy thermometer) then add the raw pistachios (they will toast in the heat of the sugar syrup) and butter and stir to combine
  6. Continue cooking, stirring until you reach the hard crack stage (150˚C / 300˚F on a candy thermometer), the syrup dropped in cold water should form a hard crunchy ball with brittle threads, it took approximately 14 minutes over a medium high heat for me to get to this point
  7. When you have reached hard crack stage, remove from heat, add vanilla and stir well
  8. Carefully pour onto a baking paper lined tray, tilting the tray on its sides to let the toffee stretch out quite thin (wear oven gloves as the tray heats up quickly), try and pour the toffee evenly over the tray to begin with (not just in a pile in the middle of the tray), this will make it easier to spread it out further and thinner
  9. Allow to cool fully before breaking into shards, store in an airtight container until ready to serve or give as gifts (if you give this as gifts make sure your gift bags are tied very tightly as the toffee will start to melt and become sticky if exposed to the moisture in the air)!
A variation is to add craisons right at the end with the vanilla so you have pistachios and craisons through your brittle. You can also boil your cranberry juice to reduce it from 1 cup down to 1/2 a cup to get a stronger cranberry flavour and colour.

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