Mike Maasen makes about 60 batches of delicious pecan brittle every year.
He and his wife Margie live on the north side of Kansas City and together they raised two daughters and a son. Now they love spending time with their three grandchildren. He works in consumer finance for a locally based national jewelry chain.
Q: When did you learn to cook and what do you prepare?
I really enjoy cooking. My mom was a great cook and she had all of her children help with the cooking and the laundry, so that is where I began to cook. My first job was at a drive-in, but I learned a lot about cooking when I worked at the Gold Buffett, once a popular restaurant in North Kansas City.
My wife and I are a team in the kitchen and often cook together. She is a great cook and shares the kitchen with me. She will have fun making cookies with our grandkids for the holidays. For dinners I may grill while she does the sides.
I make lots of candy. I don’t eat much candy, but I love to make it and it is something I do throughout the fall and winter, not just at the holidays.
Q: What candy do you make?
I especially enjoy making pecan brittle and fudge, and then giving it away. I take bags to work and deliver several small bags to the staff at my church each week. I give it to family and friends, and the pecan brittle ships perfectly, so I send it to those out of town.
I love to give the candy away, not just as holiday gifts, but all the time. I find that generous people love to share their cooking with others.
Q: Where did the recipe for the pecan brittle come from?
My son loves brittle candy, and my wife loves pecans, so I took a peanut brittle recipe and tweaked it to include pecans. I increased the baking soda and the volume of nuts, then sprinkled it with kosher salt, which created a candy that I think is the best.
Q: Is this candy easy to make?
I find that this brittle candy is much easier to make than fudge, since it is so easy to scorch the chocolate, and my pecan brittle is almost fool-proof. Use a candy thermometer and let it cook until the bubbling candy reaches 300 degrees.
Brittle is best made in the fall and winter, when the weather is cooler, then stop making it in the spring when the weather turns warm and humid.
I buy pecan halves and very finely chop them. I feel they taste fresher than packages of those that are already chopped.
Since I make about 60 batches each year, I try to shop wisely and buy top quality pecans, butter, corn syrup and other ingredients at either a membership warehouse store or at a discount grocery store. I find that many ingredients, like pecans, chocolate chips and corn syrup are seasonal items for these stores, so stock up during the fall and winter when they are available. I store the butter and pecans in the freezer so they stay fresh to use all year.
Best Pecan Brittle
2 cups sugar
⅓ cup light corn syrup
½ cup water
½ cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cups chopped pecans
Set out a large, ungreased rimmed baking sheet.
In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, water and butter. Stir well. Heat over medium-high heat until it boils, stirring occasionally. Continue to heat, only stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer registers 300 degrees.
Remove from the heat. Carefully stir in the baking soda. (The mixture will bubble up and almost double in volume; use caution as the steam will be very hot.)
Stir in the pecans. Immediately scrape the candy onto the ungreased baking sheet.
Use caution as the mixture is very hot. Do not be tempted to touch the mixture or lick the spatula.
Sprinkle the candy evenly with the kosher salt, to taste. Let cool completely, at least 30 minutes. Break into serving portions.
Tip: If desired, substitute whole shelled peanuts for the pecans.
Roxanne Wyss and Kathy Moore are cookbook authors and food consultants that make up The Electrified Cooks. They have published over twelve cookbooks and thousands of recipes. They are members of Les Dames d’Escoffier and blog at pluggedintocooking.com. Email them at KCComeIntoMyKitchen@gmail.com