Sunflower Crunch

The cook can tone down the more exotic flavors in this recipe if necessary for timid younger eaters; for the rest of us, this is a bold, fun-to-make confection with Middle Eastern leanings. If youthful helpers are in the kitchen for this one, remember that an adult hand and a degree of focus really are called for when boiling caramel. Molten sugar is very hot, and it stays hot for a long time.

Dry weather is best for this recipe.

  • a few drops of neutral vegetable oil
  • ¼ teaspoon black peppercorns
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom seeds (from about 4 green seed pods)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • pinch salt
  • ¾ cup raw shelled sunflower seeds

Lay a piece of cooking parchment on a large cookie sheet, and lightly oil it. Make sure the cookie sheet is sitting on a surface that won’t be damaged by heat.

With a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, pulverize the pepper and cardamom.

Put the sugar, honey, corn syrup, water, and salt in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon or chopstick, over medium-high heat. Once the sugar is dissolved, deploy a candy thermometer, and stir only occasionally. When the temperature reaches 350 degrees (after 8-10 minutes), carefully remove and set aside the thermometer, and quickly and carefully stir in the spices and sunflower seeds. Allow the syrup to return to the boil—seeds will be toasting and popping a bit in the hot syrup—then, using caution, pour the candy slowly in a thin layer all over the parchment. With your wooden utensil quickly scrape the last of the caramel out of the pan, and then use the back of a clean wooden spoon to spread and pull the candy over as much of the parchment as possible.

While the candy is still hot, score the surface into diamonds with a pizza wheel, a pastry wheel, or a big knife. When it’s entirely cool, break it up and store in an airtight tin. Soak utensils in water to remove candy residue. 

Makes about 25 pieces.

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