tale of 3 bourbon brittles

After a few weeks of dropping bourbon brittle teases, food for fun is ready for its show-and-tell.

First, the bourbon brittle I found for a mere $2 at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky. I tried to make it last, but it is now gone and my mistake was not coming home with a case of this stuff.

this stuff rocked

how it’s done at Buffalo Trace

Knowing this crunchy, sweet, bourbony candy would soon be gone, I committed to figuring out how to make it myself. How hard could it be, right?

The answer to this question varies depending on how much time I had to play in the kitchen. Turns out not so much, which left me scrambling for recipes just last night. Originally I wanted to make a brittle similar to what I’d found in Kentucky, but this recipe stopped me in my tracks. Yes, please! I thawed and cooked up bacon while gathering the other ingredients, refrigerated the brittle overnight, and ended up with…



Wanting a bit more bourbon in the recipe, I added 2 tablespoons to the top layer of chocolate.Β  And because I substituted an equal weight of DIY bourbon marshmallows for the storebought, the middle layer is softer than it might have been otherwise. In the end, though, dreamy stuff.

But I didn’t feel right not also trying a more traditional brittle, as promised. My thoughts immediately turned to my Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook (mentioned here before) as its Willy Wonka-esque treatment of sweet treats seemed just the ticket. The nut brittle chapter was brief, but intriguing. Instead of complicated recipes with specific sugar syrup temperatures, it simply directs the reader to boil sugar and nuts until a deep and dark brown. Uncomfortable playing it so fast and loose, I used a candy thermometer and also added bourbon because wasn’t that the point?

My first batch sugared out, leaving me with a solid brick of sugar in the bottom of the pan. Out it went. The next one was better as I covered the pan in hopes that the steam would wash the sugar crystals from the sides of the pan, preventing crystallization. I also upped the bourbon from 3 tablespoons per cup of sugar to 1/4 cup. I’m mostly happy with the result, though it was a bit sugary in the end. I played around with toppings, sprinkling with maple cinnamon popcorn, bourbon-smoked pepper, and crushed vanilla wafers.wpid-20141007_130937.jpg

Once completely cool, the pieces were hard, but they didn’t have the “snap” of a great brittle.

Which meant attempt #3 was next. I upped the bourbon to 1/3 cup even if only because I wanted to see how much I could get away with. (At this point I’m lucky my kitchen didn’t go up in flames as the bourbon fumes were strong.) I also used 1/2 teaspoon salt and was militant about brushing the inside of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush, ensuring that crystals didn’t stand a chance. The final batch poured out clear, smooth, glasslike. A sprinkling of bourbon smoked sea salt, in addition to the smoked pepper, were unorthodox toppings.wpid-20141007_163257.jpg

This shard-like brittle would be perfect served over vanilla ice cream or used to top cupcakes or a larger cake. But. It wouldn’t pass for Buffalo Trace brittle and that’s what I was going for. Mission not really accomplished, though I’m shelving future experiments as I’ve had my share of making bourbon brittle for now. I’ll give myself an A for effort and pass around trays of bourbon brittle. Just be sure to brush your teeth when you’re done.

Just Like Glass Bourbon Brittle

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup bourbon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

In heavy medium saucepan, combine all ingredients. Heat over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Bring to a boil. Boil, without stirring but brushing inside of pan down with wet pastry brush to prevent sugar from crystallizing, 8 to 10 minutes or until temperature reaches 310Β°F. Pour onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Top as desired. Cool completely.

59 thoughts on “tale of 3 bourbon brittles

  1. A+ for effort, Liz. You went back, back, back to the oven and pan and books. And they all look quite Boubonalicious to these greedy a.m. eyes.

    By the way, I went to rebeccaruth.com to see if you could take the plastic way of getting yourself some of that bourbon brittle (or somebody could buy you some as a present) but all they sell is chocolate bourbon balls and such. No brittle. A case of 24 one-pound boxes of bourbon balls is on sale for $672. Yikes!

    • Thanks for the generous grade, Mark πŸ™‚ Bourbonalicious has replaced my last new favorite word (which you gave me, I believe). Bourbonalicious, baby.

      Am glad we went the extra miles to hit RR while in Kentucky since those online prices are so high. I spent $15 for a pound of “bourbon boo boos,” which I guess is considered a bargain. If we lived closer to you and your Dear Wife Karen, we would invite you over for brittle, boo boos, and beer. I’d take care of the food and you could build the playlist.

  2. YAY!! I can do this (she writes with far more conviction than she feels)!!! Sounds so good – and possibly even good for you in a cup of tea if you have a sore throat?

    • All it takes is a sense of adventure and a willingness to donate your time to a project that may or may not turn out as expected. Should your throat be sore, I recommend drinking warm bourbon with apple cider and honey. Brittle garnish optional.

      Thanks, Mimi πŸ™‚

  3. I often read through posts and find phrases that would make good titles for biographies. So yours could be “Bacon and Bourbon and Shard-Like Brittle” or “Uncomfortable playing it so fast and loose: The DeLizious Story.” When I see yellow triangles, I want to dip them in salsa. Probably a bad idea. I would stab the roof of my mouth.

    • Uncomfortable Playing It So Fast and Loose only describes my candy-making derring-do. I seem to fly by the seat of my pants more often than not. Shard-Like Brittle appeals, though. But we’d have to stir it into Marshmallow Fluff because sometimes I’m sharp and sometimes I’m soft.

      What will your bio title be, Kerbey?

      Thinking the brittle and salsa would not mix well. And you do not need to add holes in the roof of your mouth to your list of health issues, haha.

      • One time at Thanksgiving, my aunt wanted to hop over a fence that said No Trespassing, and I told her the her tombstone would read “She Disregarded.” So, rule-abider that I am, mine should say, “She Regarded.” I will try to remember that you vacillate between sharp and soft. Crunchy or smooth peanut butter?

  4. Wow so impressed Liz, candy making is hard, takes skill and perseverance, that first one with the marshmallows looks so good to me, the other glass like shards looks very delicate and I imagine very bourbony. Great work.

  5. Total A for effort – especially since you went for the 3rd round, I was tired as you started round 2! Candy-making is not easy! I make a salted pretzel beer caramel at the holidays – but only on occasion because it’s exhausting! πŸ™‚ Kudos to you for giving it a shot and even more so for just knowing when to call it! Ok, and secretly? All I could really focus on was the amount of bourbon being poured into these recipes! πŸ™‚

    • Thanks, Bonnie. Salted beer pretzel caramel you say? Care to share the recipe? Sounds worth the effort!

      What I didn’t mention in the post was the small kitchen fire I may have started what with all the bourbon bubbling on the stove. The entire saucepan started on fire and continued to “burn” even after I turned the flame off. Looking back, I think I should have been more concerned (entire kitchens have burnt down over smaller sparks), but I found a bath towel, smothered the flames, and carried on. So that last batch was a bit smoked, haha. Martha Stewart I am not. But Julia Child would be proud, methinks πŸ™‚ Cheers, Bon Bon!

      • Hey Liz..I will totally share the recipe, I just have to find it. The best part is that you get to make a pale ale reduction! Well, to me, not so nimble in the kitchen, that just sounds more fancy than cooking beer! πŸ™‚ I am trying really hard, trust me, to not laugh…at you for starting a brittle flambe! Smoked brittle flambe..you have your signature item! Cheers to all good things, cooked, baked or flamed! πŸ™‚

  6. More like an A+ for effort! Looks lime you certainly had fun. It is definitely hard to reproduce a brittle you like but you sure tried! I’m not sure I would bother. Next time I’m visiting the MIL in Kentucky I may have to pick up some bourbon brittle for you!

  7. you really did perfect the art of the tease with this one, liz. i love that you don’t give up easily, you are like a scientist of the highest order. you are doing this for humanity and i am hereby nominating you as a nobel prize candidate for your work in the area of food science.

    • Beth! Thank you for the nomination πŸ™‚ I will see you at the ceremony as I hear you are a contender for the Peace Prize for your work with encouraging young children to get along and have fun.

  8. Wow, Liz. This is brilliant. I have a ton of Vermont maple bourbon and I think these would be perfect for that! I admire your dedication to this spirit! We’re kindred bourbon spirits!

    • Vermont maple bourbon? Tell me more! Appreciate your comment. We could call it “dedication” or we could call it “unable to focus on more important matters.” I may have gotten carried away a bit here, but that is nothing new and anything for the blog, I say. πŸ˜€

  9. Your persistence is amazing–and I’m still hoping you’ll go back for a few more tries, until you get this perfected. I can’t quite figure out why it isn’t working–making a regular brittle isn’t that much of a mystery so I wonder if the alcohol is the issue. Hmmm . . . I may need to experiment, too–God knows we have bourbon!

    • Thanks, Kerry. We can call it persistence or we can call it not knowing when to stop πŸ˜‰ I could definitely give it a better shot by taking cues from the ingredient list. Besides sugar and bourbon, I should also be adding brown sugar, pecans, butter, baking soda, and possibly vanilla. Thinking it won’t be long before I’m at it again.

      Tell me more about the bourbons you like. I’ve seen more bourbons in stores these last few years, but Kentucky still has way more brands available than what’s found where I am.

  10. Oh wow candy with a touch of alcohol sounds perfect πŸ˜€
    I was waiting for this post with anticipation and BAM! Delivered! πŸ™‚
    No one drinks really in my family but me so this is an excuse to keep some in the house haha

    Choc Chip Uru

  11. Wow. I admire your tenacity in the kitchen! That last attempt looks amazing – like brittle tortilla chips. I could definitely see myself enjoying that over ice cream. I know you didn’t achieve what you originally set out to do, but I still have to say – well done!!

    • Thanks, HD πŸ™‚ Have always loved the word “tenacity” and am honored you think that of me! lol, was thinking of buying (or making?) a batch of vanilla ice cream just so I can have some with the brittle. Would make a fantastic texture contrast.

  12. You had me at bourbon brittle. I’d never considered bacon in brittle before, I bet is tastes amazing with the salt and smoke components.

    Loved the pics too, even the “failure” looked like it would be great with ice cream.

    • Thanks, Fannie. Yes, bring on the ice cream πŸ™‚ My fails usually just find another purpose. And did you read my response to Bonnie’s comment above? It was definitely smoked brittle.

      • I loved Bonnie’s comments. Especially the part about being tired after try number 2 and the A for effort. Some time “accidents” in the kitchen are genuinely inspiration in disguise. πŸ™‚

  13. I didn’t even know bourbon brittle was a thing. WHERE HAS THIS BEEN ALL MY LIFE!?! I’ve only ever had peanut brittle–not always amazing. I have to say, the first brittle with the marshmallow and bacon sounds right up my alley. Yum.

    Even the ones you labeled a failure look delicious. You’re always failing up! πŸ˜‰


    • lol, thanks Kaela. Liking the sound of “failing up.” You must work with words for a living πŸ˜‰ And p.s. Could your new gravatar BE any cuter? πŸ˜€

  14. Your efforts are commendable! I often give up after 2 tries and need a long break before going back and rehashing. Glad you kept going to get something that you liked — even though it still wasn’t what you hoped it would be. Here’s to a successful “Buffalo Trace-approved” batch in the future. Once you perfect it, I’ll definitely give it a try. Bourbon in candy-form is the only way it’ll get past my lips! =)

    • ah ha, thank you J. I will take “commendable” πŸ™‚ This reminded me of our caramel/marshmallow challenge and how I made four batches of caramel sauce in one night. Kind of ridiculous, really, but it sounded like a good idea at the time.

  15. Can I say something lame, like, “It’s not the destination, but the journey”? Haha, it’s cliche and overused, but it still fits this situation. It will be great when you do find the recipe you’re looking for, but at least you have some sweet treats in the meantime!

    • I like your philosophy, Jenny, cliched or no. ‘Cause it’s true! Still munching my way through the first three batches. How do I get myself into these projects, lol.

      Speaking of projects, what have you been up to lately?

      • Working, working, working. Even went into overtime last week!
        I have been doing some baking and cooking, and even picture-taking, but I don’t have time to create the posts. One of these days, I will have a day off and I can organize some posts.

  16. Listen, Liz, I’ve asked you repeatedly to come and cook stuff for me in England and you REPEATEDLY DO NOT SHOW UP.
    This is the last straw. I want those crunchy slivers of bourbony delight. 😦

    • um….Stick ate my airline ticket? You will have to make these crunchy slivers of bourbony delight in your own kitchen, my dear. I’d like to see a post about it actually πŸ˜‰

    • Thank you, Amy. I’d LOVE to see what you come up with when you cook with bourbon πŸ™‚ (And the wine maxim of “a cup for the pot, a cup for the cook” doesn’t hold up so well after the first cup, lol. Someone else has to finish the recipe if I move on to a second serving.)

  17. Pingback: boozy baker bourbon brittle cookies | food for fun


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