Does anyone remember Garbage Pail Kids? Can I go predictably off-course here and admit, as I just did to my husband, who is now cracking up, that I was kind of scared of them when they came out? It was 1985! I was young! I was super into Cabbage Patch Kids and definitely did not have a grasp of parody and was this… something that could happen to a Cabbage Patch Kid? I mean, was it going to happen to mine? Why did everyone find them so funny? Ahem, right, so of course I now find them dark and brilliant, which should be no surprise given that they were co-invented by Art Spiegelman, something I learned exactly five minutes ago from Wikipedia but will now pretend I knew all along.
I bet you’re thinking, as per usual, “What on earth does this have to do with cooking, Deb? Focus, please!” But what I’d wanted to tell you is that for nearly eight years now, I’ve an item on my Halloween To-Cook List called “Garbage Pail Brittle,” which I’d hoped would invoke the chaos of the cards but in a less haunting to elementary school kids format. My theory was that, sure, peanut, almond and fancy seed brittles are lovely and elegant, but you know what would be even more awesome? Rice crispies. Potato chips. Pretzels. Because everyone knows that salt, crispy snacky stuff is aces against caramel, butter and chocolate.
Well, the good news is that I finally got this item off my to-cook list so you don’t have to. The bad news is that potato chips and crispy rice? Just okay in brittle. I mean, nobody hated it, but it wasn’t as special as the eight-year build-up warranted. Pretzels, however… you need to do this. Pretzels are deeply delicious when brittled. They even more spectacular when mixed with salted peanuts. They’re even more insanely good when lidded with melted dark chocolate, smashed into chunks with a hammer and tucked in a container that is, thankfully, about 15 feet outside my reach right now or I’d be one of those wicked, wicked people who lies to children, such as my own, who I lectured this morning about why we can’t have candy or breakfast. I mean, phew.
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Chocolate Peanut and Pretzel Brittle
A few notes: You can replace the peanuts with pretzels if nut allergies are a concern. I have only made this with corn syrup and/or golden syrup but theoretically, honey and/or maple syrup as a replacement should work as well because the quantity is so small. I didn’t do it here, but thought it might be fun to play around with replacing the water with beer (you could use up to 1/2 cup) for a more grown-up flavor.
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup or golden syrup
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup broken-up chunks of thin salted pretzels
3/4 cup roasted salted peanuts
3/4 to 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Either grease a large cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Get all of your other ingredients ready; you’re going to need to add them quickly in a few minutes, and you won’t have time to hunt and measure.
Combine sugar, corn or golden syrup and water in a medium saucepan, stirring just until sugar is wet. Attach a candy thermometer and heat over medium-high heat, without stirring, until mixture reaches between 300 and 305 degrees F. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you’re looking for a small amount of the mixture dropped into cold water to separate into hard, brittle threads. This takes exactly 9 minutes on my stove.
Remove from heat and quickly stir in butter (until it melts), baking soda, peanuts and pretzels until all are coated. Pour quickly out onto prepared pan. Use a spatula or, even better, two forks to pull and stretch the mixture as flat as you can get it, working quickly. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and let rest for 5 minutes so that they soften. Once they are all soft, use a spatula to spread them over the brittle.
None of us has time or patience for waiting for these to cool, right? I put them directly in the freezer for 20 minutes, after which point the chocolate is firm, the base is cold and I get to bash the brittle into bite-sized chunks. (I like to lift pieces up onto the rim of the baking sheet and use something heavy to break them from there. I do not advise breaking it up with your hands, the warmth of which will make a mushy mess of the chocolate.)
Store in a container at room temperature, far out of your own reach.