Cardamom Peanut Brittle and Sesame Ginger Halva – Dan Lepard

Making sweets - Dan Lepard recipes

I sidled up to this week’s short and tweet choices uncertain as to whether I was really going to do them. I haven’t made many sweets. I had a go at making marshmallows last year, but they weren’t that good.  I have quite strong memories of disastrous fudge adventures when I was a child, the sort where you end up drinking the fudge,  but basically all that boiling sugar gives me the heebie jeebies.  I asked people what pans they used, lurked a bit on Twitter, hoping to see someone else do it and glean the secrets that way. But it was today or not at all this week. So here they are!

 The great thing about making both these recipes is that they were really quick to do: a pleasant change from bread baking!

Dan Lepard peanut brittle

I showed the recipes to Brian and he offered to put all the stuff out if I walked the dogs and he offered to help. When I got back there was this very neat mise en place waiting for me. I also really wouldn’t do this sort of stuff without someone there next to me to hold my burnt hand under the cold water tap. I am a coward I admit it.

But now, I’m smirking and have had a bit too much sugar to eat, as we made both of these and they not only worked but they taste fabulous!

Dan Lepard peanut brittle

The cardamom peanut brittle was the most exciting to make, anxiously watching the sugar thermometer climb up to the right temperatures and then the whoosh of the foaming toffee  which we managed to catch just as a few peanuts began to burn.  Evidence Matters tweeted encouraging notes all the way through, I felt like she was really in the kitchen with me, and helpfully suggested cutting it with a pizza wheel just at the right moment.

Dan Lepard peanut brittle

Brian beamed with happiness and said that he hadn’t had home made peanut brittle since his Gran (remember her?) made it for his Dad. The salt and the cardamom stop it from being sickly sweet and a small piece definitely makes you want more. I might make it again with almonds or pistachios and smash it up for praline, but not today. I”m sugared out.

Dan Lepard peanut brittle

Having made the peanut brittle we moved on to the sesame ginger halva. Now I’m never too sure about halva, it has that strange crystalline texture, almost sharp and it can be very oily.  But I figured that if I didn’t try it this time, I probably never would.  It was simpler than the brittle, not so dramatic, and you don’t have to heat the sugar syrup so high.

I found that it is much, much nicer than the stuff you buy, more fudgey and less sharp and scratchy to eat.  Though I did read something on the net that said the crystalline texture develops after a couple of days….

Sesame Halva with Stem Ginger Dan Lepard

If you decide to have a go at this, I would say you definitely need a sugar thermometer. I think they are a good investment if you ever want to make jams or marmalade or any of these things. The quantities in both recipes are not huge, so don’t use too big a pan. I could have done with a smaller pan as I ended up tipping my pan up on edge slightly in order to get the thermometer bulb in the syrup.

For the halva we used a fresh jar of Cypressa tahini. We didn’t stir the oil that sits on the top back in, but took the more solid stuff out and used that. We added it to the sugar syrup just before it got to temperature and then beat it like mad for a short time and it changed state quite quickly becoming sort of creamy and grainy, before putting it into the foil. We cut it when it had cooled down.It has a fudgey texture today, I don’t know if it will change over time. It will be interesting to see if it does. In terms of the colour of the final product, it might look a bit darker than the one in the book but mine lightened up as it cooled and firmed up.

Sesame Halva with Stem Ginger Dan Lepard

That was such fun, if a bit excessive on the sugar side. And it’s so interesting to have a go at doing something that you would never think of trying usually. If you want to join in and have a little tweety support while you do, sign up to Twitter and tweet to @Evidencematters using the hashtag #shortandsweet in your tweet and we can all support each other over there. Or if you just want to join in without tweeting, leave a comment on Evidence Matters tumblr blog with a link to a photo or whatever you want to share and you can be included that way too.

The recipes are in Dan Lepard’s new book Short and Sweet, one for your Christmas list if you haven’t already got your copy. It’s a friendly, intelligently written baking book and I thoroughly recommend it and the price has gone down today too!

33 thoughts on “Cardamom Peanut Brittle and Sesame Ginger Halva – Dan Lepard

  1. Suelle

    The halva looks really tasty, and a lovely texture. I haven’t had halva since my mother-in-law stopped buying it for us – at least 10 years ago and probably a lot more, as she got too old to traipse around her favourite shops (those with cheap imports from Israel and Eastern Europe)

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thanks Suelle, it was fun making it and I would definitely make it again for a treat. Maybe you will be tempted to have a go. I wonder if you could use home made halva chopped up as an ingredient in something eles maybe?

  2. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    My copy arrived on Saturday, and the halva was one of the first recipes that caught my eye. Thanks for test-running it for me! The black russian caramels was the other one – have you made those? I’m a bit like you when it comes to hot sugar, so Pete has to do the stirring and decision making.. :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      You can test run the caramels for me Celia ;) I like to have someone else around when doing this simply because if there is an accident there is someone to help sort it out.


      Which reminds me. If anyone else decides to do these, these are the things I always forget:

      1. Keep your sink clear so you can get to a cold tap quickly if you do splash yourself with hot caramel

      2. Always put something heatproof like a bowl or a board or preferably both next to your working area, so that when you need to take the sugar thermometer out of the pan or your spoon or whatever, that you have somewhere safe to put it down quickly. In the time you are looking around for somewhere to stow it, your caramel can burn.

  3. Misk Cooks

    That brittle looks fabulous. I wish I had people on my Cheistmas list who’d enjoy such a sweet treat but unfortunately most of P’s family are diabetic. It’s sure tempting though!

  4. ceciliag

    wow you both did so well. My mum used to make little baskets of fudge for the neighbours every ychristmas, but I do not have those recipes. so maybe i will try yours! c

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hi Cecilia ! There is a recipe for rum amd raisin fudge in the book too. It was being eyed up by the Sweet Monster and only the lack of double cream in the house stopped him from wanting to make them as well.

  5. C

    Wow, they both look amazing. I really want to try some sugarwork, must be very satisfying. Perhaps I’ll have to give these a go next weekend. Glad to hear they’re not too longwinded or difficult!

    1. Joanna Post author

      Given my lack of success in the past I wasn’t expecting it to work so I was very pleased today. I hope you have time to try them one day C :)

  6. Evidence Matters (@EvidenceMatters)

    Both of these look delightful and begging to be served up as small treats or petit fours.

    As the compilation will show tomorrow – mine didn’t look anything like as neat as these so I can only comment and applaud your results. It was pretty nerve wracking watching the sugar temperature rise and I had to tip my pan as well in order to bring the sugar up to the ‘liquid level’ on the thermometer. It’s tricky to pick the right size of pan as it’s hard to judge just how much the mixture will foam up after adding the bicarbonate.

    My halva looks nothing like yours, unfortunately. I stirred in the oil and I set mine in far shallower tin (I didn’t want the slices to be too deep but erred too far the other way). Although my tahini was fresh, the oil had separated out to about a quarter of the height of the jar and it was tricky to stir back in: the colour was fine for tahini but although it’s now more than 24 hrs old, the halva is still the colour of dishwater.

    The Russian Caramels are very straightforward and a good little mouthful – likewise the wine jellies.

    I wouldn’t recommend these sweets in any quantity to people with diabetes/similar reasons for avoidance but, oddly, the glycaemic load of both of these is comparatively better than that of most sweets (it’s the peanuts in the brittle and the seed content of the halva). These things are relative however – confectionery is still confectionery – and people’s individual response to such items may vary enormously. I bookmarked a lower-sugar version of halva a while ago but haven’t tried it as yet.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Thank you for all your nice comments today! I really think we just got lucky. The colour thing, mine are definitely darker than in the book, a sort of rich vanilla fudge colour. I think printing sometime changes certain colour more than others and I would hazard a guess that is the case in the book… the only other thing I can think of is that maybe vigourous beating lightens the colour? Someone will have to ask Dan one of these days. ;)

      I used quite a big deep pan because I am no judge either of how much it will foam up but I think one could use a medium sized pan now I’ve made it. The heavy base is the thing, I don’t think mine is quite heavy enough so I snatched the pans away from the heat the moment I could.

      I am used to Dan’s recipes having quite substantial quantities so these were surprisingly modest I thought. It’s very hard to judge unless you’ve made these things before.

      If it helps the pan I used was 30 cm x 15 cm. It’s a pan I never use for bread as it gives a sort of squat shape that I don’t like and it has round corners and I prefer square corners if I am making a tinned loaf.

      The halva mix spread out to 2cm high (just measured it)

    2. Misk Cooks

      EM: That’s why I avoided this particular challenge. I could have made something else, of course, but we’ve decided to eat the bread I’ve already made (and/or froze) before cranking out more. Hubby has requested another loaf of Dan’s Black Pepper Rye for our Christmas table. We usually lean toward Scandinavian type food spread across the table rather than big birds or humongous hams. Particularly since there’ll be only two of us here this Christmas.

  7. Choclette

    How brilliant you are to do both recipes. The results look highly professional and very tasty. Nice to have the help too. I so need to get myself a thermometer – I’ve been dithering around for the last couple of years as I don’t know what sort to get. But it meant I didn’t partake in this exercise today and I’d have liked to. I know you can do it without a thermometer, but I’ve had too many things go wrong in the past and I can’t stand wasting ingredients.

    1. Joanna Post author

      When I came back from the walk Brian had weighed out both lots of ingredients! So we did both ;)

      I just got a standard jam and sugar thermometer. I have a probe one as well for bread but I don’t think it’s long enough to dunk in a pan of jam or sugarstuff. These ones are the sort you can clip on to the side of the pan if you want to. Personally I wouldn’t do it without one, as the caramel burns so fast once it starts to go.

  8. Lou

    These look amazing. I have all the ingredients for the peanut brittle and a sugar thermometer which is yet to be used but with things going on this week such as needing to get computer fixed, spending time driving back and forth to Mum and Dad’s to use their computer for work, etc, I haven’t managed to get it done.
    Inspired by your post (and courage) to do it anyway when I get time.
    Lovely, too, that you did it together. :-)

    1. Joanna Post author

      I hope your computer gets sorted out soon Lou, sounds a bit of a nightmare :( Look forward to hearing about your brittle adventures soon !

  9. heidi

    They look fantastic for being your first time!
    I make cashew brittle in the microwave- no thermometer- just timed cooking periods.
    It always turns out perfect.
    Here’s a presentation idea-
    I pour my hot brittle onto a marble tile ( I usually buy black from the home improvement store) and then add a smallish hammer and wrap it up in cellophane paper to give as a family gift for Christmas. Children love the hammer- and can break off a small piece by themselves.

    1. Joanna Post author

      One day you must post the microwave method, but not all microwaves are the same are they? Mine has five temperature settings but they don’t match up to any recipe books, I think maybe it is because it is a German oven. But if it works in a microwave that must be a lot less stressful than hanging over a hot pan with a thermometer in one hnad and oven gloves in the other :)

      I love your presentation idea – I might make some for my Dad like that thanks Heidi :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      It is quite wonderful in the brittle, I would never have thought of using it like this, but then I wouldn’t have made this without a huge prompt in the first place! (wish I could remember to spell cardamom with an M at the end too, have changed it now, always get it wrong !)

    1. Joanna Post author

      This one is more fudge like and I think, from reading something Dan Lepard wrote a long time ago, that might be down to the glucose syrup that the stem ginger is in as glucose has that effect on sugar formation. Are you going to have a go one day ? The brittle is a lovely colour but very hard to photograph on a dull day like yesterday. It reflects all the lights in the kitchen and my little camera didn’t want to focus at all, so I carried it to the window and tried there… :)

    1. Joanna Post author

      Yes :) All that chucking bits of molten sugar in glasses of water stuff, not for me, I am sure that’s where it went wrong when I was a child… You need one for sure Kari :D

  10. Val

    I’ve never made either a brittle or a halva but your post has inspired me. I never realised halva was so simple and I don’t doubt that freshly made halva is far superior to the store bought kind. I love the idea of cardamon in the brittle. Just need to get myself a sugar thermometer…

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hi Val, thanks for dropping by! :) , I don’t know if it was beginners’ luck or not but it seemed fairly straightforward, I am very pleased to hear I inspire anybody !

    1. Joanna Post author

      I am resisting the urge to go and scoff huge quantities at the moment. The ginger definitely adds something lovely to it Alicia :)

  11. cityhippyfarmgirl

    Joanna they look wonderful. A great thing to give as Christmas presents too. I like making things like that, but I still haven’t made them enough times to not be nervous of the bubbling hot lava sugar.
    Resistance is futile not getting that book isn’t it.

    1. Joanna Post author

      Hello Mrs Pumpernickel! just peeked at your goegeous bread, I think you should write your own cook book xx

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