Cashew Brittle and the Gift of the Candy Thermometer

If you give the gift of five pounds of candy, the recipient will be sick for a week.
However, if you give the gift of a Candy Thermometer, the recipient will be able to make
jam, jelly, Italian meringue, caramels and Cashew Brittle — and you may reap your just rewards (or just desserts.)

Whether you are playing an instrument or playing golf or playing the radio, using the best tools and equipment makes the activities easier and more pleasant. You can, of course, make this recipe without a candy thermometer by learning the rules of “soft-crack” and “hard-crack” stages of boiling sugar, and you can get by without either parchment paper or silicone mats, but you will have to deal with the messy cleanup after having to buttered the baking sheets. Your choice. You are, after all, the boss of you.

  • To double or not to double? With the Bergin Nut Company in my back yard, I will always buy cashews in five-pound bags, and I will also always roast all of the nuts because roasted nuts are better to my taste. Extras go in the freezer.
  • Would I double the brittle recipe or make it in small batches? Until I have factory-style equipment (giant sugar-stirring machinery), I’ll continue to make small batches.
  • Would I leave boiling sugar unattended for any length of time? No way. Turn on your I-pod, the TV or the radio, or grab a book — but stay nearby. Boiling sugar is really really hot, and boiled-over sugar makes an incredibly awful mess.



3 qt saucepan
2 large rimmed baking sheets
parchment paper or silicon baking mats
silicon spoon or spatula
clip-on candy thermometer


2 cups of sugar
1 cup of vanilla-flavored light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1 cup (2 sticks) of unsalted butter
scant 1/8 tsp dried red pepper flakes (OPTIONAL)
3 cups roasted (not salted) cashews or cashew pieces
1 tsp baking soda, sifted

1. Roast cashews: Heat the oven to 350 (regular or convection oven). Cover baking sheets with parchment or silicone and spread the cashews in one level. Bake, stirring every 10 minutes, until the nuts are toasted to your satisfaction.

2. Make caramel: In a 3-quart saucepan, mix the sugar, corn syrup, water. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the butter and optional red pepper flakes. When the butter has melted, clip your CANDY THERMOMETER to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and boil at a moderate rate, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches 280 degrees (soft-crack stage). This might take 30-40 minutes.

3. Cook caramel and cashews: Add the cashews and stir. When they first are in the pot, the mixture will seize up because you have lowered the temperature and the sugar is angry. Keep stirring to loosen it up, and then stir often until it reaches 300 degrees (hard-crack stage). This may take another 20 minutes.

4. The Mixture Foams: When the mixture reaches 300 degrees, remove it from the heat and add the baking soda. The mixture will foam. Keep stirring until the whole mixture has achieved foaminess. Quickly, pour the mixture onto two parchment or silicon-covered baking sheets. Spread as the mixture as thinly as you can while it is still hot.

5. Cut it up! When it has cooled a bit — still really too hot to handle — lift one of the planks of brittle onto a cutting board sitting inside a rimmed baking sheet (which will capture the flying brittle shards). As soon as you can, begin to cut the brittle into strips and then into bite-sized pieces. Store air tight.

About susangainen

Whimsical Wildlife Documentarian. Abstract Painter. Writer. Teacher. Explorer.
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