Brittles

Appears in

Chocolates and Confections

By Peter Greweling

Published 2007

  • About
Peanut brittle is an example of a traditional American candy whose popularity seems never to wane. Brittles are similar to hard candy in that they consist of sugar and glucose syrup boiled to a high temperature to remove most of the water. Brittles also contain nuts or seeds, which contain protein and, therefore, contribute to Maillard browning during the cooking process. This reaction is responsible for the characteristic color and flavor of brittles. Brittles may also contain butter for flavor and richness and baking soda to aerate the product. When baking soda is added to a brittle, it is done after cooking. The baking soda reacts with the slightly acidic pH of the cooked sugar-nut mixture, creating a fine foam of carbon dioxide gas that aerates the caramel. As the brittle cools and hardens, it retains this gas, which gives the brittle a lightened texture and delicate bite. Because of its aeration, brittle may be left in relatively thick pieces and still be palatable to bite. Alternatively, brittle may be left unaerated and, when it reaches a plastic consistency, pulled and stretched thin to create a lacy matrix of caramel between the nuts. This method requires more labor and skill on the part of the confectioner, but the result is a very delicate confection.