Cubbaita di Giugiulena

Sicilian Sesame Brittle

The name and origin of this Sicilian sweet are both Arab. Though many versions of it exist, I have chosen one from Tommaso d’Alba’s Cucina siciliana di derivazione araba (Sicilian Cooking of Arab Origin), which chronicles all Sicilian dishes with Arab ancestry. D’Alba suggests that cubbaita, alone among sweets, has retained the purity of its Arab origins, since it has never been subjected to the refinements of fancy cooking or cooks.

Ingredients

  • cups sesame seeds
  • cup sugar
  • 1 cup honey
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Method

Combine all the ingredients in a wide, deep pan and stir with a metal spoon to mix evenly. Place over low heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Be careful that the mixture does not boil over, since the honey foams a great deal as it is cooking. Insert a candy thermometer in the mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches 325 degrees, a light caramel.

While the cubbaita is cooking, butter or oil a jelly roll pan and set it on several towels to protect the surface under the pan.

When the temperature reaches 325 degrees, remove the pan from the heat and quickly pour the molten cubbaita out onto the pan and spread it out with the spoon. Allow the cubbaita to cool slightly. Slide a spatula under the cubbaita and loosen it from the pan. While it is still flexible — before it cools to the point where it becomes brittle — butter or oil an old knife and cut the cubbaita into strips 1 inch wide. Then cut the strips diagonally into diamond shapes. If the cubbaita cools so much that you can’t cut it, slide the pieces onto a buttered or oiled cookie sheet and reheat them briefly in a 250-degree oven to soften.

Store the cubbaita in a tin between layers of wax paper in a cool, dry place.

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