salted maple and molasses walnut brittle

Christmas is officially (almost) upon us, and I frankly couldn’t be more stressed.

salted maple and molasses walnut brittle | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’m going to take a second here to be totally honest with you. I hope you can handle it.

Number one, I work in retail.
The “most wonderful time of the year” also translates to the most hectic and agonizing time of the year to anyone who works in the service industry. Something about buying gifts to spread all that holiday happiness and joy really brings out the worst in people.

Beyond that, I’ve always been a little bit stressed by the holidays. The pressure to buy gifts for dozens of people gives me serious anxiety. Trying to make sure all the gifts fit the recipients in a truly thoughtful way, and that nothing should appear cheap or hasty, is just too much for me. Oddly enough, I also don’t really enjoy receiving gifts. I guess that’s kind of weird, but I don’t really need anything and something about giving people lists feel really disingenuous and unnatural to me. I’m also very particular and picky and often feel like I would rather just buy things for myself.

salted maple and molasses walnut brittle | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’m sure a lot of you are thinking I’m an awful scrooge and just a terrible human being in general, but I promise you that I’m not! It’s not that I hate the holidays, it’s just that there are a few aspects of this season that really rub me the wrong way. If Christmas was more about spending time and less about spending money, I’d like it so much more. As much as I resent the conspicuous consumption, I promise that there are actually are tons of aspects of Christmas that I really love!

salted maple and molasses walnut brittle | Brooklyn Homemaker

Any reason to spend real quality time with friends and family is great in my book, and I honestly really love the whole ritual of getting a tree and decorating the house and hanging stockings and all that. I also love all the food and sweets. Obviously.

salted maple and molasses walnut brittle | Brooklyn Homemaker

This time of year my grandmother would always have trays and trays of cookies and candies and snacks out for grazing, and one thing I could never resist was the peanut brittle. There’s just something about that caramel-y nutty crunchy salty sweet thing that really does it for me. It may not be true for most people, but peanut brittle (or any nut brittle for that matter) will always make me think of Christmas.

salted maple and molasses walnut brittle | Brooklyn Homemaker

I’d never made my own brittle before so I thought it would be fun to try something new this holiday season. Homemade gifts, and food gifts especially, have always felt so much more honest and heartfelt and true to me than any things you can buy in a store. After a test batch for myself, I decided that I liked my brittle so much that I would make a few extra batches to give out as a Christmas treats to our favorite businesses in the area where I work.

salted maple and molasses walnut brittle | Brooklyn Homemaker

The Williamsburg neighborhood (where Whisk is based) is growing into a major shopping district, but it’s historically been a small underdog neighborhood and the main shopping area is made up mostly of small independent shops. A lot of the shops and restaurants work really closely together, and this time of year we often exchange little treats and food gifts to help everyone through this hectic season.

The brittle was a huge hit, and it was really nice to get out of the store for a bit and see the smiles on everyone’s faces when I dropped off their cute little paper boxes wrapped up with bakers twine.

salted maple and molasses walnut brittle | Brooklyn Homemaker

This recipe is a really interesting twist on traditional peanut brittle. The toasted walnuts have a special kind of earthy bitterness that complements the sweetness of the candy really beautifully. Real maple syrup is a natural pairing with walnuts, and the addition of just a touch of molasses gives just a bit more depth and adds a rich caramel-iness. Adding a sprinkle of crunchy minerally fleur de sel or maldon sea salt elevates the whole experience with an adult elegance. This stuff is perfect.

It’s actually not difficult to make either, though you will need a candy thermometer since the addition of molasses makes it difficult to tell by color which stage the cooked sugar has reached. You’ll also want to use a much bigger pot than you think, because the sugar boils and bubbles up a lot!

Happy Holidays y’all!

salted maple and molasses walnut brittle | Brooklyn Homemaker

Salted Maple and Molasses Walnut Brittle

  • Servings: about 2 pounds of brittle
  • Print
adapted from Food & Wine

2 cups sugar
1/3 cup (real) maple syrup
3 tablespoons unsulphered molasses
1/2 cup water
1 stick unsalted butter
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
12 ounces chopped walnuts
2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon of Fleur de sel or crushed Maldon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spread walnuts out in an even layer and toast for about 10 minutes or until they smell like heaven. Don’t leave them in too long or they could burn and become very bitter.

Combine sugar, water, butter, maple syrup, molasses, and corn syrup in a large stainless steel saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the caramel is thick with tight bubbles and registers 300° on a candy thermometer, about 10 or 15 minutes. Since the syrup and molasses give the mixture a dark color, it’s hard to tell if it’s reached the hard crack stage from color. I’d highly recommend the use of a candy thermometer.

Remove from the heat and carefully stir in the baking soda and cinnamon. Be careful, the mixture will bubble up. Stir in the walnuts, then immediately scrape the brittle onto a large rimmed buttered baking sheet. Using the back of a silicone spatula or spoon (oil it lightly if it sticks), spread the brittle into a thin, even layer. Work fast. Letting the candy cool too much before spreading can affect the texture. Immediately sprinkle with salt. Let cool completely, about 30 minutes. Break the brittle into large shards.

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16 comments

  1. Tux,
    You share the same thoughts on Christmas as I do. I like Thanksgiving so much more than Christmas. It is not about presents it is about being with the ones you love.
    The walnut brittle looks great. I don’t believe I have ever had any though. I am from Southampton County in Virginia, known for peanuts. Everything down here is peanut brittle. I would like to try this.
    Merry Christmas!
    Debbie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanksgiving is way more my speed too, but there are things about Christmas that are fun too. I do love the decorating!
      I love peanut brittle too- I just thought this would be a fun twist!
      Merry Christmas to you too!

      Like

  2. Love it! I think you’ve improved upon the peanut brittle – walnuts are so delicious and when made salty sweet like this I reckon it’s an impossible recipe to beat.

    I’m a bit like you: I love the Christmas season and I love giving presents, but get a bit shy about receiving them, sometimes worrying in advance that someone will have gone to huge trouble buying or making me something that I just won’t appreciate. Then I feel awful. Now if someone were to give me some of your brittle, however …

    But it’s wonderful to be with family and have lots of good food to enjoy together :) Yipee!

    Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post! I’m totally with you about spending time over money. That’s why I love Thanksgiving! Hope you have a great holiday regardless :) And hope you survive retail the next few days

    Liked by 1 person

  4. 1.) This looks amazing, can you send some to Ohio? K thanks 2.) I’m totally going to Whisk next time I’m in NY. 3.) I share your sentiments to a certain extent – I had a mild panic attack trying to navigate the traffic to get some last minute shopping done today. I was hungry and cranky and stressed, and all i wanted was for someone to LET ME IN THE LEFT LANE so I could turn into Wendy’s and get some chicken nuggets, but it didn’t happen, so I sat in my car in a parking lot and ate a plain can of tuna that was in my purse (don’t ask me why it was there), and I’m pretty sure I looked like a complete psycho. So I can’t imagine what life is like for you in retail! But that said, just try to remember the positive impact I’m sure you have on your shoppers. Through your work, you are contributing to someone’s perfect Christmas morning by helping customers choose the perfect gift for their loved ones. You never know how many people walk out of that store thinking “that was the nicest guy I’ve ever met, and he made my day better.” My guess is that it happens more often than not :) Hang in there – it’s almost over!!! And kudos to you for getting out a blog post in all of the craziness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahahahaha!!! That’s quite a story! These days I try to do as much of my shopping as possible online to avoid this very scenario.
      I do try to keep on a happy face but sometimes it’s hard not to feel grumpy when you get to that robotic “transaction complete, next transaction” phase in the week before christmas. I’ll try to remember your kind words and bring that smile back out! Than you!

      Merry Christmas!

      Like

  5. Hey Tux, I can not with any certainty relate to Retail but I imagine it is very hectic and nerve racking dealing with the general public! Needles and pins, pins and needles a happy man is one who grins! When you have a home filled with young ones (ages 4 y.o. to 13 y.o.) you just do what you must for their happiness Christmas morning. My children know what Christmas really is about they just can not help themselves to the excitement of Santa and presents. As a parent you will do anything to make your children happy. I often make homemade goodies for gift giving and personally prefer a homemade gift to a store bought one. I have made so much fudge and cookies I could well…SCREAM. It is just part of the joy it brings others. I really do not stress at Christmas I am lucky that way. I am always very busy to stop and think if I ought to be stressed?! To you and Russell and the girls A joyous, safe, Holiday! Your Florida Mom of 5. Cheryl

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cheryl, I bet I would feel very differently about Christmas if I had children. The gift giving really is (or should be) all about the kids.
      It’s really the shopping (more than the actual gifts) that I hate- so I’ll just have to be one of those people that stockpiles gifts in a closet all year long so I don’t have to fight the crowds in December!
      Have a happy holiday and a merry Christmas!!!

      Like

      1. Hi Tux, I just read an article yesterday that Florida ranks 3rd in the Nation for Population! Ha-is that not crazy. It does not surprise me one bit! Although, we are in a quaint beach town the County’s population is nearly 1/2 million full-time residents. I stay pretty much at my beachside home and community and rarely venture to the Mainland unless absolutely necessary! Now, in your (area) 5 BOROUGHS-say what!!! I would be swallowed up in NYC-period. So, I do understand how you must feel fighting crowds of strangers to shop?! I have been to NYC several times, a city that never sleeps, the Big Apple-I’ll be watching it drop on New Years Eve
        2015 on T.V. If its any consolation my husband hates shopping too!!! Have a cocktail (or two) for me and sit back enjoy the Holidays with your family (Russell and the Girls)! The big picture-Life is good. Merry Christmas…Cheryl

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I hope you made it thru!!! Retail really heaps the stress rocks on your back. Very sweet of you to be so considerate in finding the exact right gift. Well you did good with the brittle. I love the
    flavors you chose for it. It’s extra dark in color too. I find I am liking that aspect too.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Glad you survived Tux, I’m definitely in the shop ahead online camp, plus making lots of edible gifts – no one ever looks disappointed to get a box of homemade brittle or cookies :) I’ve made coffee-walnut toffee before, and your brittle sounds like it would have that same edge of bitterness that cuts through the sweetness a bit – yum!
    Beck

    Liked by 1 person

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