Cacao Ginger Beer Brittle

During the Christmas season, I was a brittle-making machine.  I've gotten to be pretty good at it.

Something that helps: being good with flavor combinations.  Some combinations that work well:

Chocolate & Peanuts
Almonds & Coconut
Oats & Goji Berries

And now, cacao and ginger.  If you're not familiar, you can get cacao nibs in pretty much any grocery store nowadays.  They are unprocessed pieces of yumminess directly from the cacao bean.  I've seen them referred to as "nature's chocolate chips" - and rightfully so.  They're crunchy and have a hint of a coffee flavor, if you ask me.  You can also pick up crystallized ginger at the grocery store too.  Or try your hand at making your own.

My previous brittle posts have some valuable information when it comes to making brittle, so be sure to peruse them.  I don't want to sound like a broken record.  But if I could tell you a few things about making brittle, it would be:

1. Get a nice, heavy bottomed pan.  I have one of those Martha Stewart Dutch Oven types and I really like it.  It's great for making soups and brittle.

2. Invest in a candy thermometer.  I was cocky and I thought I could manage without it...but I couldn't, haha.  I suppose once you get really good at it, you can visually identify the stages, but I'm not there!

3. Cook it, and then cook it some more.  You might think it's done, but it's probably not.  It should be teetering on a fine line between done and almost burned.

Ingredients:
Adapted from The Food Network

1 1/2 c. organic cane sugar
6 oz. dark beer, like a stout
1 1/2 T. pure maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. cacao nibs
1/2 c. crystallized or candied ginger pieces

Directions:
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spray it lightly with olive oil or coconut oil.  Set aside.

Using a large, heavy-bottomed pan, attach your candy thermometer to it.  Over medium-high heat, combine your sugar, beer, syrup, and vanilla.  Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Your thermometer should read at least 220 degrees before you even consider mixing in the nibs/ginger.

 Before your eyes, you should see the mixture change from a watery mix, to a bubbly boil, to a dense, viscous liquid.  Stir with a wooden spoon regularly.  This process should take no less than 30 minutes.

When it's ready, add in your nibs/ginger.  Stir a few more times (if the mixture will allow).  Remove the brittle from the heat and pour it onto the prepared cookie sheet.  Spread the brittle out and smooth it as evenly as possible.

Allow the brittle to harden to room temperature.

Enjoy this brittle - it has amazing bursts of gingery flavor!

Cheers,
-Aileen