It took two failed attempts, lots of research, and one sleepless midnight cooking session, but I finally managed to make my Cranberry Orange Mixed Nut Brittle. Third time really is a charm. The burns, sticky messes, frustration, and mild case of insomnia were well worth it because my final creation ended up even better than I had originally planned. My initial vision was to make a peanut brittle as a Mother’s Day gift, but as I managed to botch two batches and watch my necessary ingredients dwindle down to nothing, I came up with a new and improved plan – Cranberry Orange Mixed Nut Brittle.
With my mom being an avid lover of all things cranberry and orange (and a devoted Cosmopolitan drinker), this brittle makes a perfect Mother’s Day gift. The chewy cranberries and orange zest make for a great texture balance against the crunchy almonds, cashews, and pecans. The addition of Cointreau adds a bit of pep as well. My tip to making this brittle successfully on the very first try – Use a candy thermometer! Cooking is indeed a science and when changing the molecular makeup of sucrose, proper tools are necessary. Don’t let this scare you though, because I have done all of the dirty work – all in the name of science…and Mother’s Day. So, Mom, here’s to you! And here’s hoping that it doesn’t take you three attempts to make a perfect Cosmopolitan. Actually, that would make for a super fun Mother’s Day!
Cranberry Orange Mixed Nut Brittle (AKA Cosmo Crunch)
3 cups sugar
1 ½ cups water
1 cup mixed salted nuts (I used almonds, cashews, and pecans)
¾ cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon Cointreau or orange juice
In a small bowl, combine mixed nuts, dried cranberries, orange zest, cinnamon, and Cointreau. Spray a sheet pan with cooking spray.
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Continue to boil until the mixture reaches 300 degrees. This takes about 20-25 minutes. Do not stir or whisk, as this affects the sugar molecules. You may swirl the pan if you are worried about burning. This mixture is scalding hot, so use extreme caution.
Once the mixture reaches 300 degrees and appears to be an amber color, pour in the nuts and cranberries. Cook for one more minute and then transfer the mixture to the sprayed sheet pan. Use a spatula to quickly and lightly spread into an even layer. Let it cool completely to set. Break into pieces and enjoy!