These are the pili nut brittles that I made a couple of hours before this dinner with Tom Parker-Bowles a few weeks ago. They couldn’t be easier and they tasted absolutely fantastic. It’s easy to buy pili nut brittle, but once you have tasted freshly made versions, especially if done in your own home, you may never go back to buying commercial…
First start with fresh pili nuts. Not so easy to source in Manila, but if you have friends in the Bicol/Sorsogon area, they are quite common in large local markets. If you don’t mind the exorbitant price, I got these from Salcedo market for PHP300 for a small plastic container, dehydrated a bit (on purpose) and fresh to the bite and taste.
Toast them for a few minutes in a hot oven to awaken the natural oils and enhance the flavor of the nuts.
Next place a couple of cups of sugar in a pan with several tablespoons of water and put this over medium high heat (without stirring!) and watch as the edges of the sugar/water mixture start to boil and turn amber. At that point you may whirl the pan around (don’t stick any spatulas or spoons in the mixture) to mix the sugar a bit better. Watch this carefully as you can easily have burnt sugar before you know it. This is the same process for making caramelized sugar for the bottom of a leche flan pan…
When the sugar has reached a medium to medium dark amber, take the pan off the heat, add the warmed nuts (move quickly) and stir to ensure all nuts are coated with caramelized sugar and pour onto a silpat mat or pan lined with foil or parchment paper. Flatten the nuts into a single layer and leave be for a few minutes while the caramel solidifies.
When the sugar has gotten a bit hard (but not totally set), remove the silpat mat and lay the nuts/sugar on a wooden chopping board. With your bare hands or with the help of a knife, break the brittle into bite-sized pieces and cool completely and store in an airtight container. One of the downsides of living the Philippines can be the humidity, a natural enemy of brittles. These should be fine for say 5 days or so, but don’t keep them much longer than that. These didn’t last more than 3 days in our household… If you want, coat these brittles in dark chocolate for added flavor, richness and oomph!
P.S. DO NOT cut on a silpat mat, you will damage the mat forever. I learned that the hard way. When I made these spectacular looking peanut brittle sticks several years ago, I cut them with a pizza cutter and ruined a silpat mat. Bummer. :(