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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Passover Nut Brittle: Recipe

Imagine walking into your local supermarket and finding a display of Easter candy at Christmas time. Or better yet a display of chocolate during Lent. That's what it feels like when looking for Jewish holiday foods. It's as if grocers think to themselves, "well, it's Jewish and it's a holiday, let's just put out what we've got!"

This year, as usual, there were so few products available the week before Passover that I just snagged whatever I could find. The matzah meal wasn't kosher for Passover, but it was that or nothing. Surprisingly they had a couple boxes of matzah farfel and I picked one up with no clue as to what I would do with it. This can actually be my favorite form of grocery shopping, picking up a mystery item and challenging myself to do something with it.

Matzah farfel is basically little chips of matzah that you can use for stuffing or in place of soup noodles. Or you can get extremely creative and make brittle. I found a recipe for Matzo Almond Brittle on Epicurious and made some changes based on my preferences and reader comments.

Many Passover desserts require loads of eggs, but this doesn't use any. It makes a nice treat to go with Toffee Matzah Crunch, a chocolate covered confection. The hardest part of the recipe is cooking the sugar until it caramelizes, it takes some time to reach the right stage. Also once you mix in the farfel and nuts you have to move quickly and spread the mixture as thinly as you can or you end up with a jaw-breaking candy rather than a deliciously light crispy brittle.

Passover Nut Brittle
makes about 1 1/2 pounds


2 cups matzo farfel (you can substitute little chips of matzah)
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons salted butter or margarine, softened
1 1/2 cups chopped mixed nuts


Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread matzo farfel and nuts on a large shallow baking pan (1/2 to 1 inch deep) and toast, until golden, stirring every five minutes. total baking time should be about 15 to 20 minutes. If using some toasted nuts, do not toast them again, but add them to the toasted farfel. Transfer to a bowl, then line pan with a Silpat mat or with foil (shiny side down). If using foil, grease the surface or spray well with cooking oil.

Bring sugar, water, vanilla and salt to a boil in a deep 2- to 2 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring slowly until sugar is dissolved. Boil gently, without stirring until syrup begins to turn golden. Resist the urge to stir, and continue to boil, swirling pan occasionally. The sugar will clump up and get white, before melting into a golden caramel syrup.

When the caramel begins to turn a deep golden color, immediately remove pan from heat and carefully stir in butter with a wooden spoon (mixture will rise up and bubble vigorously). When bubbling begins to subside, immediately stir in toasted farfel and nuts, when combined, quickly pour onto baking pan, spreading and smoothing with back of spoon or heat resistant spatula, before mixture hardens. Spread the mixture as thin as you can, it's fine if there are some holes in the surface.

Transfer baking pan to a rack. If using a foil-lined pan, when cool enough to handle peel off foil and transfer brittle to rack to cool completely. Break brittle into bite-size piece.