Get candy, get candy, get candy…

November 1, 2006

I return home from work to find that my husband has distributed every last piece of the three pounds of candy we had bought. (Well, except for two measly Smarties’ rolls, which I immediately claimed and devoured.) He didn’t save even a single bite-sized chocolate bar for his candy-ravenous wife. Apparently, he’s a softie for 4-year-olds in head-to-toe Elmo outfits and gave out candy by the handful. Sucker.He did, however, prepare homemade candy…

… So I suppose I can forgive him.

His spicy pumpkin-seed brittle is beautiful to behold. In fact, it looks a little like the prehistoric amber you might see in a museum — minus the bugs, of course — or some snazzy amber jewelry. But edible. Actually, it’s more than edible — it was delicious. It was sweet, of course, but it also had a wonderful and unexpected kick — not unlike a Red Hot. And the pumpkin seeds make for an intriguing break in the sugar-britle texture, little bits of chewy goodness that mingle with the heat from the cinnamon.

Quite delicious, and I guess — I say begrudgingly — an adequate substitute to gorging on leftover KitKat bars.

My wife is right. I was a sucker last night. I gave away all the candy. She had to work late and missed the whole festivity. I was smiling at all the kiddies and all too happy to give away our candy in large handfuls. What can I say, when the 3 year-old kid dressed up as a pirate looks up at me and says trick or treat, I can’t help but want to give my candy away.

Luckily, I had already planned a more adult flavored candy for my wife—which clearly didn’t absolve me of my failure to holdback a few Kit Kats. I used our left over pumpkin seeds to make a spicy brittle.

This recipe is incredibly easy to make. It simply requires a little know-how and three pieces of special equipments— a candy thermometer, a wood or silicon spoon, and a silicon mat and parchment paper.

The thermometer is important because heated sugar goes through stages described by the way it acts when cooled. It begins at a softball stage which is sticky and gooey and progresses all the way until you make actual caramels. In between, there are several steps. The one we are aiming for is hard crack which is between 300-310F degrees. This is where you make brittle and you need to be able to tell the temperature. (For more info no this topic, here is a great link complete with video from the Science of Cooking.)

The other two pieces are important because we are dealing with the kitchen equivalent of napalm—those of you who enjoy Good Eats likely have heard Alton Brown expound on this idea. The reason is you are using something very hot and very sticky. If you get it on your skin it, will burn you while hardening. It is so sticky and hot that silicon is my favorite because its both inert and heat resistant. Therefore, please be careful that you don’t have small children at your feet or a crazy kitchen when you try to pour this out!

Now that I’ve scared you, read on for how to make this spicy treat!

Four-Spice Pumpkin Seed Brittle
1 1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup corn syrup (light)
1/2 cup water

1 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. all spice
1/4 tsp. ground clove
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Special Equipment:
wooden/silicon spoon
candy thermometer
silicon mat/Parchment Paper

1. There is a bit of prep work that needs to be done at some point either before or during cooking. Place a piece of parchment paper or a silicon mat (e.g. a Silpat) on a sheet pan. This is important because this will be the place the candy cools and it will stick to other surfaces. Also, you don’t want to be messing around doing this right before you are ready to poor it out because we are dealing with something so hot and will set up very quickly. So think boy scout and be prepared!

2. In a medium saucepan or saucier over medium-high heat, add the brittle components. Be sure to place your candy thermometer in place.

3. Stir regularly, scraping the sides to prevent the sides from building up too many smaller crystals.

4. When the temperature reaches 250F, turn off the heat, stir to break up the bubbling, and then add the flavoring ingredients. Turn back on the heat to medium and continue to stir regularly.

(NOTE: You are not really turning off the heat for cooking reasons. You are turning it down to keep the boiling from splashing up and burning you. Think: Culinary Napalm!)

5. Once the mixture reaches between 295-300F, shut off the heat, remove from stove and pour onto your lined sheet pan. Using your spoon, smooth out the seeds to ensure they are evenly distributed. Let cool for 20 min or until hard.

6. Take out your stress on the sheet of candy—crack in pieces, smash with hammer… Eat the pieces and enjoy!


  1. This looks amazing! I tried to make something similar last night but failed miserably due to my lack of a candy thermometer. I definitely need to get my hands on one of those!

  2. I was really pleased on a visual stand point. They just had a great look to them that made it fun.

    And absolutely about getting a candy thermomenter. I had an old standard one and just updated to digital. But even if you don’t go fancy, its crucial. We deep fry things from time to time and its perfect for that as well.

    Good tools make a job so much easier.

  3. I love peanut brittle and pecan brittle so pumpkin seed brittle must be fabulous. (The pumpkin seed shells aren’t troublesome when eating the brittle?)


  4. […] I don’t think it’s shocking to anyone that I’m a bit of an experimenter. And last week, while making brittle and talking about molecular gastronomy in relation to Top Chef, I decided to adventure out on my own and try to replicate a molecular gastronomy dish—the olive oil bonbon. This experiment was cause for great debate between my wife and I, but being the intrepid and confident one I proceeded. And her being the loving wife, she assisted and was vital in my mad lab. […]

  5. Elizabeth,

    The seeds are fine. They actually cook in the sugar. You put them in at a high temperature, the temperature has to come back up about 20-30 degrees. During that time they are reaching hard crack, they are getting a nice cooking. I wouldn’t object though if you tried pan frying them or roasting them before you put the seeds in the sugar mixture. I would just make sure I did it later in the process so they don’t get burned.

  6. smoke the pepitas before you add them to your sugar, adds a zillion more levels of flavor.


  7. This sounds fantastic…. newbie question: how do you smoke a pepita? Don’t they rip the papers? (okay, the last part was sarcasm, but I really don’t know how to smoke a pepita.)

  8. One more comment – the pictures are on top of the ingredients list. Can you post a pdf?

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