Sunday, October 25, 2015

Spiced Pumpkin Seed Brittle

By Leslie Budewitz

About a year ago, when I was wrapping up GUILTY AS CINNAMON (out December 1; available for pre-order now), I had an urge to make a cinnamon-spiced pumpkin brittle. Why, I have no idea—we’re not big candy makers or eaters, though at Christmas time, I occasionally haul out a classic peanut brittle recipe copied years ago from a friend’s recipe collection. I didn’t make it. Too many questions: What spices? What amounts? Peanuts or pumpkin seeds? Toasted or raw?

Fall returned, and with it the urge. So we experimented. This year, I was able to find a few pumpkin seed brittle recipes on line, but I didn’t want to stray far from my classic, so I drew from them only a hint at the amounts of spices to use, and the marvelous idea to dip the pieces in chocolate and sprinkle them with flake sea salt.

We used Cinnamon Toast Spice from my favorite spice shop, World Spice Merchants in Seattle. A cinnamon-cayenne combination would be yummy—similar to the cinnamon-cayenne and maple syrup used in the Spiced Glazed Nuts mix in ASSAULT AND PEPPER. My mouth also waters at the thought of a basic pie spice combo or cinnamon alone.

If you haven’t used a candy thermometer before, don’t be scared by it. Just make sure you get one with print large enough to read without sticking your face too close to a hot pan, and that it will clip on to the side of your pan and stay put!

So celebrate Halloween week with a tasty treat for all the goblins and ghouls. (The things that go bump in the night? A whole ’nuther story!)

Spiced Pumpkin Seed Brittle

2 cups toasted pumpkin seeds (see below)
1-1/2 cups white sugar
3/4 cups clear or light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons spice*
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
semi-sweet chocolate (optional)
flake sea salt (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and toast the pumpkin seeds on a sheet pan about 8 minutes, until they start to pop. Remove from the oven.

Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicon baking sheet and set aside.

Clip the thermometer to a 2 or 3 quart sauce pan. Cook sugar, syrup, and water until the soft ball stage, 230 degrees. Add the pumpkin seeds and cook until the mixture turns golden brown, the hard crack stage, 305 degrees. Remove from heat. Add the spice, butter, and baking soda, and stir until mixed and foamy; make sure the butter is melted. (My apologies; I got so focused at this point that I forgot to take pictures of adding the other ingredients and the fun foamy mess!)

Pour onto the parchment paper or silicon sheet. The mixture will be very thick, so spread it out as you pour. You can use your spoon or a knife to spread it a little; it may look spongy, but it will harden smooth.

Allow to cool. Break into pieces. If you’d like, melt the chocolate and dip the ends of some pieces, or use a spoon to spread chocolate on about 1/3 of a piece. When the chocolate is nearly cool, sprinkle with sea salt.


*The Spices: 

I used Cinnamon Toast Spice from World Spice, which includes brown sugar, true cinnamon, Indonesian cassia, Vietnamese cassia, ground nutmeg, and kosher salt. Alas, I have no idea of the proportions, so I offer these suggestions instead:

For a spark of spice:
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cayenne

For a classic pie spice flavor:
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
OR two teaspoons of a pie spice mix

For a more exotic flavor:
1-1/2 teaspoons Harissa blend (a Moroccan blend of caraway seed, smoked sweet paprika, garlic, coriander, Hungarian paprika, cumin, salt, and cinnamon or cassia)

GUILTY AS CINNAMON (Spice Shop Mystery #2, out December 1, from Berkley Prime Crime)

Pepper Reece knows that fiery flavors are the spice of life. But when a customer dies of a chili overdose, she finds herself in hot pursuit of a murderer…

From the cover ...

Murder heats up Seattle’s Pike Place Market in the next Spice Shop mystery from the national bestselling author of Assault and Pepper.

Springtime in Seattle’s Pike Place Market means tasty foods and wide-eyed tourists, and Pepper’s Seattle Spice Shop is ready for the crowds. With flavorful combinations and a fresh approach, she’s sure to win over the public. Even better, she’s working with several local restaurants as their chief herb and spice supplier. Business is cooking, until one of Pepper’s potential clients, a young chef named Tamara Langston, is found dead, her life extinguished by the dangerously hot ghost chili—a spice Pepper carries in her shop.

Now stuck in the middle of a heated police investigation, Pepper must use all her senses to find out who wanted to keep Tamara’s new café from opening—before someone else gets burned…

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. The president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher. 

Connect with her on her website or on Facebook.


  1. Spiced Pumpkin Seed Brittle looks so good! Thank you for the recipe.

  2. Leslie, I made a sunflower seed brittle that is very similar in prep, but I love the spices you added! Yum!

    ~Daryl / Avery

    1. Sunflower seeds! I wouldn't have thought of that -- yummy!

  3. What a clever idea for an alternative brittle.

    1. Thanks, Libby! Mr. Right says it's a keeper -- he likes it better than the peanut brittle!

  4. Wonderfully clever use of pumpkin seeds, Leslie. The brittle looks amazing, love the spices, and big congrats on the upcoming release of GUILTY AS CINNAMON. Have a very Happy Halloween! xoox - Cleo

    1. Thanks, Cleo! Trick or treating in the country can be difficult, and dangerous, so our little Village hosts a giant party, with costumed kids going from shop door to shop door. We love going down just to watch!

  5. The recipe looks good! But the book looks better. It will be one of the first that I get when I get to a bookstore after Christmas. Can't wait!

    1. Your enthusiasm makes my evening -- thanks, Elaine!