A couple of months ago, the incredibly nice folks at Lark Crafts sent me a book called Sweet Confections: Beautiful Candy to Make at Home. In a card enclosed with the book, Nicole from Lark wrote “I know this seems like a stretch for your blog, but making candy at home using natural ingredients is often much better than store bought candy with lots of additives and preservatives”. I agree with her 100%, and I think a little package of homemade candy (along with a copy of this book, perhaps?) would make a great gift for the holidays.

Written by Nina Wanat and photographed by Diane Cu and Todd Porter, Sweet Confections is a gorgeous book divided into sections for Crunchy Candies, Chewy Candies, and Silky Candies. Homemade candy can be intimidating, but I’ve made a few of Nina’s recipes over the last few months -including the fabulous Liquor Lollipops- and all came out perfectly. This adaptation of the Peanut Brittle recipe is no exception.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you: this Thai Cashew Brittle is addictive. Even though there’s just a tiny amount of crushed dried Kaffir lime leaves in here, they lend a bright and unique flavor. And even though my husband has threatened to have me committed for adding an element of spice to pretty much every sweet treat I make these days, I still strongly recommend adding the dried red Thai chile. Note that I purchased small bags of the dried lime leaves and the dried chiles from Kalustyans about a year and a half ago. I am still making my way though them…a little goes a long way.

I am not a big peanut fan, but you can certainly be a traditionalist and use roasted peanuts as the original recipe suggests. Nina mentions you can replace the 1/2 cup corn syrup with 1/3 cup honey and 2 tablespoons corn syrup for a Honey Nut Brittle, and if you don’t have the dried Kaffir lime leaves or the Thai chiles but still like the idea of a spicy brittle, add 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper with the nuts (and I haven’t tried it, but maybe some lime zest could be substituted for the dried lime leaves).

Note that the original recipe calls for adding the nuts at the same time you add the butter. When I did this, I found it really hard to avoid burning the cashews because they kept sinking to the bottom of the pot (and as you can see, they’re pretty dark in my photos). Even though the brittle still tasted great, I advise adding the nuts later (after you remove the brittle mixture from the heat) to avoid this issue.

Recipe for Thai-Inspired Cashew Brittle

Yield: about 1 pound: enough to fill 3-4 gift bags

Ingredients:

*1/4 cup water
*1 cup granulated sugar
*½ cup corn syrup
*3 tablespoons unsalted butter
*1 1/4 cups roasted cashews (or peanuts); I roasted my own in the oven...if purchasing roasted cashews or peanuts, make sure to look for unsalted ones)
*1 teaspoon coarse salt, plus another 1/2 teaspoon
*3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
*3/4 teaspoon baking soda
*1/2 teaspoon crushed Kaffir lime leaves (if unavailable, try lime zest or omit)
*1/2 teaspoon crushed dried red Thai chile (if unavailable, use red chile flakes or ground cayenne pepper)

Directions:

1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine water, sugar, and corn syrup. Mix until all of the sugar is wet.

3. Bring to a boil over medium-high, stirring with a heat-proof spatula until all of the sugar is dissolved. Then boil to 250 degrees F. without stirring.

4. Add the butter, and stir constantly (but gently) until the mixture reaches 320 degrees F.

5. Remove from heat and stir in the cashews, 1 teaspoon of the salt, the vanilla extract, the baking soda, and the crushed lime leaves and chiles. Stir thoroughly to incorporated all of the ingredients.

6. Pour the mixture onto the parchment paper, and, working quickly, spread evenly with an offset spatula. Sprinkle with the other 1/2 teaspoon of the salt.

7. Let cool completely, about 30 minutes. Break into pieces, and store in an airtight container. If making for gifts, keep in mind that the brittle will last for 2-3 weeks.

More Homemade Candy Ideas:

Pina Colada Truffles (also from Sweet Confections) at White on Rice Couple
My Spiced Dark Chocolate Bark Recipe (a guest post) at The Naptime Chef
Scottish Toffee from Liz the Chef