One of my favorite places to go for spices and hard-to-find ingredients is Christina’s Spice & Specialty Foods, located in Inman Square in Cambridge. This small and unassuming shop has a vast array of unique dried spices like mango powder, methi, alfalfa powder, liquorice root and juniper. I’m not sure what I would do with many of these things, but I do love to go into this fragrant, pleasantly cramped and overstocked shop just to see (and smell) what is there. The last time I went, I bought some saffron, chia seeds and a jar of neon orange habanero powder, all with handwritten labels and accompanied by very cheap price tag. This habanero powder was a fantastic find because of its deeply spicy, complex and perfectly balanced quality—and because it tastes especially amazing with chocolate.
I’ve combined peanuts, chocolate and a spicy element in a dessert before with surprisingly good results, so I thought I try it again in a brittle this weekend. I wanted it to be rich and almost toffee-like, so I used a combination of coconut cream and soy lecithin to achieve that quality. This created a buttery and fatty note, which was perfectly balanced out by the crisp and subtly shocking habanero powder. A final dredge in some melted and slightly sweetened raw chocolate sealed everything together here nicely, creating an addictive and unique melt-in-your-mouth brittle.
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup corn syrup
1 TB soy lecithin (optional)
1/4 cup coconut cream (skim the heavy stuff off the top of the can)
3/4 cup of roasted and salted whole peanuts
1/2 teaspoon of habanero powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 TB Earth Balance
1/4 cup raw virgin coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup unsweetened chocolate powder (I used Ghirardelli brand)
2 TB raw agave
extra large-crystal salt
Line a baking sheet with a silpat. Set aside. Place the first five ingredients into small saucepan over medium heat. Clip a thermometer to the side of it and set it to 300 degrees. (I used this.) Constantly stir the mixture until well combined with a rubber spatula and it starts to slightly bubble. Add in the peanuts and stir to combine.
Making sure the end of the thermometer is fully submerged but not touching the bottom of the saucepan, stir continuously until the temperature reaches 300 degrees. Remove the saucepan from the heat, then stir in the habanero powder until combined. Now, add in the baking soda and stir. It should be very bubbly and rise if you stop stirring it for a few seconds. Now add in the vegan butter and stir again. It should be very fluffy and almost marshmallow-like in texture.
Pour the contents onto the silpat-lined baking sheet using the rubber spatula. Lift and tilt the baking sheet from side to side so the mixture sets evenly. Let it cool for about 30 minutes.
Melt the coconut oil in the microwave for about 15 seconds. Whisk it together with the cocoa powder and raw agave in a medium-sized shallow square vessel.
Break the brittle into pieces and dredge then in the chocolate, returning them to the silpat to slightly harden. Sprinkle immediately with a little large crystal salt. Place into the freezer for about 10 minutes to set, then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. This brittle tastes best after a few hours of chilling in the refrigerator.