I called this ‘Gold Star’ brittle because I sprinkled little edible gold stars on it as a festive touch…and also because it’s worthy of accolades. A gold star would most appropriate- it’s a total winner.
You could make it and gift it for Christmas and people will kiss your face.
Though, as wonderful as it is with smooth, creamy cashew nuts, it would work with any kind of nut. Peanuts are traditional for brittle, but cashews just seemed a little more special and Christmassy.
Cashew nuts are simply fabulous- I love their rich flavour and creamy texture, and they have just the right amount of ‘bite’, I find. I love chunky Brazil nuts and waxy pistachios… but cashews have got it just right. I used roasted and salted nuts here for the fullest flavour.
Then cover those cashews in a hard, buttery, golden, brittle caramel and…well…heavenly. It is impossible to stop at one piece, seriously. A sprinkle of fleur de sel (or a good quality sea salt) contrasts perfectly with the brittle and gives that salty/sweet balance that’s so irresistible.
This brittle is brilliantly giftable because it’s easy, it doesn’t have to look perfect (so no pressure- its beauty is in the ruggedness!), it keeps brilliantly, it doesn’t need special storage conditions, and it is delicious!
Just smash it into pieces, and put in an airtight container like a jar if it’s going to be hanging around for a bit…or just a cellophane bag if you’re giving it to someone straight away.
You can add sprinkles or edible glitter (or whatever you like) to the top. Just add them while the brittle is cooling for best stickability. Chocolate chips would also work!
There’s just one ‘fussy’ thing about this recipe. It is truly easy to make- but you will need a sugar thermometer. I know there are many brittle recipes that claim to be makeable in the microwave, or simply by timing the bubbling of the mixture on the stove. If you’ve found that these types of recipe work for you, then more power to you. Unfortunately, I have had bitter disappointments (sometimes literally) this way. I need precision! Boring, but with it comes guaranteed sweet success. Throwing ruined nuts and sugar away makes me want to cry!
Sugar thermometers (actually, just ‘food’ thermometers) aren’t expensive and they are very useful, especially for sweet making. I really recommend you get one. (And then don’t run it through the dishwasher.) You need to heat this brittle mixture to an exact temperature to ensure it’s the right consistency when it sets.
The only other thing about this recipe that might be slightly unusual for a U.K. recipe is that it uses corn syrup, which is an ingredient from the US. I have had best results making brittle with corn syrup than with golden syrup (the UK’s equivalent, sort of). This is because corn syrup is an ‘inverted’ sugar syrup, and golden syrup is only ‘partially inverted’. Invert sugar syrup helps to prevent sugar in the mixture from crystallising, meaning you get a smooth brittle. I have made this recipe with golden syrup, but it definitely comes out smoother with corn syrup so it is worth trying to get hold of it. Also, golden syrup has its own distinct flavour so if you make it with that, expect to be able to taste that unique flavour (not at all unpleasant! Just different.) whereas corn syrup is just sweet; it doesn’t really have a flavour to compete with the nuts, which I prefer.
You can buy Karo corn syrup from several major supermarkets in the U.K. now – I believe Ocado, Tesco and Asda all sell it. Sometimes it’s in the ‘American food’ section of large supermarkets.
I hope if you make this brittle, you love it as much as I do. And Ed does. Not that he gets to eat much of it with me around.
Recipe: Gold Star Cashew Brittle
200g Cashew nuts (preferably roasted and salted)
60ml corn syrup
60g unsalted butter
225g caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Fleur de sel or a good sea salt, like Maldon sea salt
Sprinkles or decorations, optional (I used edible gold stars, available from Waitrose)
How To Make It:
1. Line a baking tray with a silicone mat (preferable! Nothing sticks to them!) or baking parchment and place it on the counter next to the stove (you want everything ready because you will need to work quickly).
2. Put the cashews in a bowl next to the stove. Get your bicarbonate of soda ready to add later on. Don’t add it yet!
3. Put the water, caster sugar, corn syrup and butter in a saucepan (you need reasonably high sides to your pan because it will froth up when the bicarbonate of soda is added later, so don’t use a frying pan or other shallow pan).
4. Heat the sugar mixture on a medium to high heat, stirring occasionally with a spatula. Use a thermometer to check the temperature of the mixture. As soon as it gets to temperature (149 degrees Celsius/ 300 degrees Fahrenheit), the next steps will have to be done quickly, so get ready!
5. As soon as the mixture reaches 149 degrees Celcius/300 degrees Fahrenheit, remove it from the heat and briskly stir in the bicarbonate of soda. It will fizz and froth.
6. Add the nuts and quickly stir to coat them, then equally quickly, tip them out onto your silicone mat/parchment and arrange with your spatula. Sprinkle on the fleur de sel or sea salt, or whatever toppings you prefer.
7. Leave to set (a couple of hours) before smashing into pieces with a rolling pin and devouring.