Regardless of what side of the battlefield you find yourself on regarding pumpkin beers, 'tis the season to lay down your arms and ponder a pairing that brings to life the flavors of fall with a healthy separation. So no, it's not a pumpkin beer. Rather, it's a brittle recipe with pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, that will fall on your tastebuds as gently as a red-orange leaf drifts to the ground in the Autumn. Or something like that. I'm just trying to get you in the mood. GBH collaborator, Emily Berman, walked me through this candy recipe that's so simple you could almost accidentally make it.
It's a pumpkin seed brittle paired with one of my all-time favorite Octoberfest beers from Sam Adams. Fundamentally, brittle is just melted ingredients left to harden. But add the right amount of sweet and savory, and you have something magical on your hands.
Sam Adam's Octoberfest is one of the unsung heroes of American craft beer. It's crisp, clean, and balances a German style spice profile with some American bitterness. And that color — almost too good to be true. Next to the smokey sweetness of this brittle, it's an unbelievable combo. You might never bother with a pumpkin beer again.
Here's Emily's recipe, tried and true.
- 1/4 cup (1/2 a stick) of unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup agave nectar
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1 cup toasted pepitas
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- Smoked Maldon Sea Salt, or other flaky sea salt
1. Be sure to have all of your ingredients and equipment ready before you begin. Place a silpat (silicon mat) or large piece of lightly greased aluminum foil on a sheet pan or a wooden cutting board. Anything flat, hard, and non-stick will do. Pre-measure your pepitas and cinnamon so they're ready to go, and place your sea salt close to the silpat where you'll need to work quickly with the hot brittle as it cools.
2. Combine the butter, agave and sugar in a heavy bottom saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer. Bring to a boil over medium heat, and cook until it reaches 280 degrees.
3. Stir in the pepitas and the cinnamon with a silicone spatula and continue to cook, stirring and shaking the pan often, until the temperature reaches 300 degrees.
4. Quickly pour the candy onto the silpat/foil, and spread with the spatula or lightly greased wooden spoon until you have a relatively thin and even layer, about 1/8-1/4 inch thick.
5. Evenly sprinkle sea salt over the warm brittle, and let cool for 10-15 minutes. When the brittle is completely cooled, break it into manageable pieces and store in an airtight container at room temperature for about a week (if it lasts that long!)
This recipe can be easily doubled or tripled. You can substitute honey for the agave, granulated sugar for the light brown sugar, nearly any other kind of nut or seed for the pepitas, and add other spices such as cayenne or smoked paprika to your liking.
Emily Berman grew up with a healthy respect for food preparations, observing and helping in the kitchen at every opportunity. After transplanting from Virginia to Chicago, she joined a CSA program for the first time, sparking her interest in locality and seasonality and rekindling the romance of her summers spent on her grandparents' farm. She started pushing herself to make everything she ate from scratch, spending hours upon hours, and sometimes days, prepping for dinner parties and holidays. Now a trained chef, her philosophy is simple — eat fresh, eat quality, and eat homemade — which is a perfect compliment to the craft beer movement. See more at Emily's blog, 52 Meals.