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you’re gonna have to wait

Recipe: pepita brittle

********* PLEASE VOTE FOR MY CHARITY *********

It’s finals week! I mean, it’s the week where all of the semi-finalists from The Awaken Your Senses Challenge go head to head for $10,000 for their favorite food charity. Living in a cave? Need a recap? Twelve food bloggers described their favorite food memories and Chef Dave of Good Bite recreated those memories using Quaker instant oatmeal. Every two weeks, viewers voted for their favorite of four food bloggers’ creations to select a semi-finalist. This week, voters determine which of the three semi-finalists’ charities will win the $10,000:

1) Catherine McCord of weelicious championing Stone Barns Center For Food and Agriculture

2) Jen Yu (that’s ME!) of use real butter (this blog!) championing Farm to School

3) Laura Levy of Laura’s Best Recipes championing Food for the Poor

I’m in the finals, yo! I SO TOTALLY NEED YOUR VOTE! Only with your help can we win $10,000 for Farm to School, a wonderful organization that “…brings healthy food from local farms to school children nationwide. The program teaches students about the path from farm to fork, and instills healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime. At the same time, use of local produce in school meals and educational activities provides a new direct market for farmers in the area and mitigates environmental impacts of transporting food long distances. More than 30 million children eat a school lunch five days a week, 180 days a year. If school lunch can taste great, and support the local community, it is a win-win for everyone.

Think about it – feeding children healthy food, helping local family farms, educating children, strengthening the community. Won’t you please do me the honor of voting for my charity? It’s as simple as four clicks!

Click #1) Go to the Quaker Talk site

Click #2) Click on “Vote” or “Watch & Vote”

Click #3) Click on Cherries Jubilee video

Click #4) Click on the GREEN THUMB to vote for my charity, Farm to School!

********* THANK YOU! *********

Hey, I hope everyone had a nice weekend! Mine was jam-packed full of friends, time-sensitive clandestine plans, work, rejoicing in cooler weather, and a few epiphanies. One of those epiphanies: this weekend was use real butter’s five year blogiversary. My plan was to have a big blowout of a giveaway, but… you’ll have to wait a little because 1) I am deciding on a good giveaway prize and 2) there’s just too much going on (for me) in November. So please be patient with me… you always are :)

Five years. You could call five years a long time, a short time, whatever. It’s enough time to see a pattern in what urb has become for me. urb has always been a personal blog with a good bit of talk about food. When I went public with it in August 2007, I had to clean it up – clean up my language, censor what I say (oh, you didn’t think I was censoring anything? ha!), move a good fraction of old posts to the other blog, put recipes up in a format that someone other than myself could follow. I spent several months finding my groove in my posting frequency – basically how often I could post without turning it into a chore. My photography evolved with the blog. It is still evolving which I take as a good sign.

The food blogging community has changed a lot in the past two years from when I went public to now. Some for the better, but I feel most of it isn’t for the better. Notice a lot of burnout lately? There’s some unspoken (well, actually it’s probably spoken all too often) mantra about HOW TO BE A FOOD BLOGGER which makes me throw up a little in my mouth every time I hear about it. One of the best ways to start a food blog is to be yourself. It’s like dating. If you present yourself as something you are not, you’re going to attract the wrong kind of partner and you’ll probably be unhappy. And if you’re just in it for the money, well – there’s a name for that too. I’m all about the love here.

I found myself swearing up a storm this weekend because I wasted four hours and a lot of ingredients trying to make a recipe that flopped. WHY? Why was I even making those? For the blog? Right. Well, no more. I don’t want that. I never wanted this blog to be a chore and it’s starting to feel like one. And once I announced that urb was not the boss of me, I felt better. Much better. urb was never solely a dedicated food blog and I don’t want it to be. It’s my creative space for sharing food, photography, my opinionated rants, and random bits of life. Anyone looking for a recipe source in a vacuum has likely left this place long ago.

So, five years – plenty of learning and a little adjustment here and there. I have met so many wonderful people and made some incredible friends through this blog. True love, I tell ya. Thanks for sticking with me. Now on to the food.

pepitas, flaked salt, baking soda

Whenever we go to a Trader Joe’s in New Mexico, we always get a look and a comment from our cashier because our cart is filled with chocolate, coffee, nuts, JoJos, salsa, dried fruits… I’m sure anyone who loves TJs and doesn’t live near one understands this hoarding behavior. So I’m walking down the dried fruits and nuts aisle, practically sweeping my arm across the shelves guiding the bags into our cart (okay, it’s not that extreme), when I spot pepitas (pumpkin seeds). Click click click – brain recalls bookmarked pepita brittle recipe on Smitten Kitchen.

sugar, corn syrup, butter

boiling the sugar

I don’t know if anyone else runs into this problem, but when I’m photographing caramel, I have a higher rate of burning it than if I’m not photographing the caramel. So it went the first time around which wound up in the trash. The second attempt was much better because I used my candy thermometer and I was pretty cautious not to let it burn again. I let the temperature go up to 310°F before I removed the saucepan from the range. I think it could have been a little darker, but I was nervous about tanking a second batch. Keep in mind that at my elevation, sugar mixtures will reach various states (hard crack, etc.) 17.5°F earlier than for sea-level. So I suggest following temperature guidelines, but also eyeballing the color of the caramel and taking it off the heat when it reaches a deep golden color.

whisking in the baking soda

frozen drip

When I added the pepitas, the caramel was hot enough that a few of the seeds popped and spattered drops of caramel about. So do be careful as you stir them in. I spread the hot candy onto a silpat on a baking sheet, but you can also use parchment. If you’re quick, you can cut the pieces while the brittle is still hot (ductile, more or less). Once cooled, I broke it up by hand. I find that to be the fun part because I like the mechanics of brittle deformation.

you decide what a good size piece is

The baking soda gives an airy structure to this brittle (as opposed to the glassy structure of this brittle) rendering it a more pleasant treat to bite into. Did I like it? I like anything caramel or toffee and this is no exception. I actually prefer pepitas for their snap and texture to let’s say, peanuts, so this is my new favorite brittle. I distributed this to my friends, especially to one friend who broke his collarbone in a skiing accident. I assured him of the healing powers of pepita brittle and after he took a bite, I asked him how he was feeling. “I’m feeling better!” he grinned.

pepita brittle – heals broken bones

Pepita Brittle
[print recipe]
from Smitten Kitchen

butter or vegetable oil
2 cups (450 g) sugar
4 oz. (115 g) butter, unsalted
1/3 cup (115 g) light corn syrup
1/2 cup + 2 tbsps water
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp coarse or flaky sea salt
1 1/2 cups (200 g) pepitas, raw and unroasted

Line a 12x16x1/2-inch baking sheet with parchment or silpat. If using parchment, grease the paper with butter or oil. In a medium or large saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, corn syrup, and water. Stir the sugar until it is completely moistened. Cook the sugar over medium high heat until it thickens. It bubbles quickly and often, so keep an eye on it and reduce heat as necessary to keep it from boiling over. The sugar mixture should turn golden after about ten minutes. When it is just shy of the desired color* (because it continues to cook a little after you remove it from the heat), remove the saucepan from the heat and carefully whisk in the baking soda and salt. Use a heatproof spoon or spatula to fold in the pepitas. Pour the contents onto the baking sheet and quickly spread it out evenly. If you want to score the brittle, do so while it is still warm, otherwise let it cool completely and then break it into pieces. Store in airtight container.

*For me this corresponds to 317°F at 8500 feet above sea level or 330°F at sea level.

46 nibbles at “you’re gonna have to wait”

  1. Marija says:

    Love that brittle!

    ps: voted for you :)

  2. Ronine says:

    Please don’t get too ambitious for the blog updates and then loose your mojo!
    We’re happy when you post and about what you decide to post – remember your readers don’t know what you had in mind for the blog so don’t feel bad about letting it go!

  3. evenlyn says:

    yay ! voted ! :)

  4. Amy says:

    I do the same thing with Trader Joe’s whenever I am in Ann Arbor. The closest one to me is 60 miles away. I love the look of that Brittle! Oh…and I voted for you!

  5. Fiona says:

    I, too, love anything caramel or toffee.

    If you are so inclined, could you possibly comment on what makes brittle go all pale and sort of honey-comby? I don’t like it as much when that happens, but sometimes it happens to me anyway. I think it must be something about my approach/technique, but the specifics escape me.

    Pine nuts are my current obsession, so I think I’ll be making this with pine nuts and putting them in my cookie give-aways. Thanks, as always.

    BTW, I love the non-food posts, esp. when they involve Kaweah.

  6. Wendy says:

    Jen, all your rants and random bits of life thrown into your posts is what makes your blog so interesting to read, regardless of the recipe! Even though I’m Chinese and my mum’s food is great, I really love reading some of your older posts on things like wrapping dumplings and spring onion pancakes, because of the step by step photos. Okay, now I’m off to vote for your charity :)

  7. Lindsey@pickyeatings says:

    I happen to live near a TJ’s and I still stock up on stuff when I’m not careful. And then I get home and wonder why I bought half the stuff I did.

    And food blogs would be boring if there weren’t bits of life and rants thrown in. At least that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it!

  8. Carolyn Parker says:

    I’m going to make this for a Christmas bazaar. Thanks!

  9. Patricia Scarpin says:

    Oh, Jen, these are so beautiful they could heal even a broken heart. ;)

    Congratulations on your blog anniversary/birthday – I haven’t been reading you for that long, but am certainly enjoying every bit of it ever since I got to know it.


  10. Donna says:

    Happy anniversary!

    Your blog appeals to me because it is much more than a source for recipes. It is a friendship with someone I have never met, it is a vacation to a place I have never been, it is loving a dog when I have a cat. You have a gift for broadening horizons and I look forward to each and every post.

  11. Tartelette says:

    Yes, it’s about sharing recipes, techniques, people, books, etc…Thankfully, life’s circumstances have a way to throw breaks in there for me so I follow its natural pacing. At the end of the day, to the phrase “who’s your daddy?”, I often answer B, the pupps, my wallet. I am forever grateful for the opportunity it gave me to find my strengths and abilities and enjoy the process. One of the greatest joys it gave me was to meet you and find an incredible support system full of quirky personalities! I can only hope I give it back tenfold.

    But….I’ll take a whole tray of this brittle in the meantime. Nothing gets me shaking like hot caramel :)

  12. maybelles mom says:

    AMEN. I was really dreading my blog last year, then I got really very sick and decided screw it. I have come back and used it as a writing journal and I feel way happier about it.

    Frankly, I like your blog as more for the writing and the photos as the food. And anyway, who care what others think…

  13. LoveFeast Table says:

    voted!! We are pulling from you and we love your charity!!
    Kristin and Chris Ann

  14. Laura B. says:

    Congrats on the anniversary! I think its great how you write for you. I think it makes all of us keep coming back for more. Your pictures are amazing and your recipes are genuine. Plus your writing is funny and entertaining, much like you are in person I imagine. Anyway, just wanted to say I’m glad you’re here and that you’re staying! You always make my day a bit brighter.

    P.S. I also voted! Good luck!

  15. TheKitchenWitch says:

    Happy 5 Years!! What an achievement!

    I’m glad that you smacked urb upside the head and told it who was boss! You have to keep it authentic to yourself, or else you become dangerously close to those “plastic, recipe-whore blogs”. And that would be a shame. Because your voice, your pictures, your rants and your raves–those are gold.

    But that won’t happen, because you are Jen! That honesty, that sass, that energy–that’s not going anywhere!

  16. Kate @ Savour Fare says:

    To be a food blogger you have to love food and communicate that love. You do a great job, Jen, and you inspire some of us newbies.

  17. Hana says:

    Voted – hope your charity wins, and happy anniversary! I am fairly new to your blog but i keep coming back for the writing and gorgeous pictures. And now for your recipes too – I just made your ma pu tofu (with minced turkey) – twice in the last 2 weeks. Because it was so good and easy. Now that I’ve started a blog, I realize that it is not always so easy share information about my life, so thank you for sharing yours.

  18. Whitney says:

    I hope URB never become a chore for you….I enjoy reading your blog too much. I get Colorado, amazing photography, kitchen skills and cute dog envy every time :)

  19. Kristi says:

    Congratulations on your five-year anniversary! I recently realized I had been following your blog for a year (I stumbled upon it while google-ing “sugar plum fairy.”) Your’s was the first food blog I had ever read and I feel fortunate to have stumbled upon the best. I love your Colorado mountain photography, the food, and your wit and heart. URB is the total package, yet, I’m glad it’s not the boss of you! Best wishes.

  20. Manisha says:

    Congrats, girlie! I discovered my share of this fab brittle later over the weekend and it was all gone in two seconds. Ms. M who is rather picky about her toffee and brittle declared that yours is the best she has had so far. The award is yours! I was not surprised cos everything you make totally rocks! We loved the pepitas in it. And apparently it heals sliced fingers (the real kind), too. ;-)

  21. Hsin says:

    Congrats on the anniversary. That’s quite an accomplishment. It really IS a lot of work to keep publishing as you have. I just hope that it stays fun for you. It’s no fun if it burns you out.
    Speaking of work, I have an idea for a sort of “giveaway” that I think a lot of your followers would enjoy participating in. (But it would be more work — sorry.)
    You could auction off a box of your amazing macarons and then give the net proceeds to a charity. But then that would entail running an auction PLUS baking and assembling the treats PLUS mailing them out …
    I know — you just came out of Na(freakin)BloWriMo. But I bet you that people would definitely enjoy bidding on those macarons.

  22. Liz says:

    “Once cooled, I broke it up by hand. I find that to be the fun part because I like the mechanics of brittle deformation” – spoken like a true dork!
    The recipe looks awesome!

  23. Wend says:

    Is there any chance you could give recommendations on how to clean up after a Carmel disaster? I want to attempt more projects like this, but am afraid of ruining a pan or utensil for good if the Carmel hardens before I get it off.

  24. Melissa says:

    Voted also.

    And you know, you KNOW how much I love what you said about blogging. I too have seen a lot in the last year especially about How To… *vom* is right. Just… no. It shouldn’t be about that. That’s why I weeded out the BS.

    I’m so glad to know you Jen. You’ve really been one of the ones to help me realize that it IS about ME and that blogging for myself is enough. And that just *being* myself is enough. I admire and adore you so much. Happy 5 years!

  25. Abby says:

    I’m heading to the coast this week for my anniversary and plan to stop at TJ’s in Chapel Hill on the way. I wish one was closer, but I spend too much there as it is!

    Gorgeous brittle. I’ve never used pepitas in anything, but I really should more often just so I can say “pepita” more often. Cutest word ever!

  26. Caitlin says:

    Oh my god I love this brittle. I had completely forgotten about it, but now that you’ve reminded me – I must make it again. And my goodness – if I made everything for my blog, I’d burn out so fast! So many things I make don’t even hit the blog, to be honest, just because they’re simple things I throw together for dessert when the bf is around.

    And now I need to hit up TJ’s again, next time I’m in Madison. I hoard the dried fruit and the mini PB cups. Those PB cups are perfect for cookies. And snacking.

    Oh, and the size of brittle that’s just right? I’m gonna go with the one on the far left :P

  27. Ruth says:

    Happy five year anniversary Jen! As someone who has only recently found your blog, I hate that I missed the previous five years of opinions, photos, stories, and, yes, recipes. I love reading the recipes, but have yet to try one. But it’s the writing that has me hooked: personal, funny, intelligent, and real. Like someone else remarked, you are someone that I wish I knew personally, the kind of girlfriend to share an adventure or a good cry.

    Keep it real, girl, and write when you want, and only what you want! Your readers will be waiting…

  28. Mrs Ergül says:

    These, I assumer are American brittles are pretty similar to the Chinese kind. Only that the latter is thicker like the size of a Mars bar.

    Happy 5th anniversary to you and URB! 5 years is a considerable achievement!

  29. Karen B says:

    Happy Bloggiversary! I’m glad you’re you – wouldn’t have it any other way! I enjoy your food blog because it isn’t just a food blog! Food IS life (at least in my book), and you intertwine the two so well.

    I’ve been wanting to make brittle, but my fan club (okay, my family) has differing opinion on nuts. I think we could all agree on pepitas!

  30. Lauren says:

    Good luck!! This looks fabulous =D. Congrats on 5 years, thats huge!!

  31. Denise @ There's a Newf in My Soup! says:

    Happy five year blogiversary! URB is one of the first blogs I started reading, and immediately subscribed to…you’ve been one of my mentors in the past 6 months, since I started my blog, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your inspiration, stories, photographs, and wonderful food you share.

  32. Jill says:

    Happy Blogiversary! Just wanted you to know I voted. : )

  33. emhuze says:

    Happy Anniversary! I voted for YOU! And… YOU are the reason I’m hooked on this blog. I do no other blogs cuz your blog does it all. I like your humor, down to earth attitude and kindly ways. I absolutely support you doing your thing and not being a trend follower. The recipes are wonderful and so is everything else about your blog. Please keep it going your way! Rah Rah for the uniqueness of Jen!
    So, do you think you’ll ever do a book?? Mary

  34. Arlynn says:

    Jen – Although I’m a pretty new follower of your blog, it’s one I really enjoy. I love to learn more about Colorado through your eyes, I’m happy to see pictures of your dog, it’s thrilling to see your photography. If you happen to have a day with a recipe, great! If not, great! Your humor is sly and sometimes your opinions blunt, which I happen to appreciate! So here’s what I’m thinking, keep doing your blog for you, I’ve got my seatbelt buckled and I’m enjoying the ride! Arlynn in Monument

  35. Debbie says:

    Congrat on the 5 year anniversary of your blog! I have been reading your blog for about a year and a half and love it! Your photography and recipes are both wonderful and you are so honest, which is really the best part of this blog…this is no bs!!!!!

  36. Laura @ Hungry and Frozen says:

    I went and voted for you! The whole competition was a bit over my head really – food memories interpreted into oatmeal? But your charity sounds fantastic and you’re pretty fantastic so you got the green thumbs up from me.

    Congratulations on your five years of blogging. I’m two years in but I imagine it’s quite a commitment. The ‘how to be a good food blogger’ thing – ugh. Sometimes you end up seeing so many shiny, carefully formulated blogs that you end up becoming suspicious of any that you read. Good on you for keeping it real because I’m all about the content, the real personality behind the cooking, and yours always draws me in.

    Finally, that brittle looks gorgeous! I love the smell of sugar boiling up.

  37. Phoo-D says:

    Congratulations – that is a long time full of commitment and learning. I hope to have learned as much by 5 years as well. And the TJ’s thing? Um yeah that was totally us this weekend. The TSA guy almost confiscated our peanut butter but finally let it through- Mr. B said “He knew a TJ’s run when he saw one!”.

  38. Lori says:

    I truly look forward to everyday that you post. I read your blog regularly. Thank you for interesting words and wonderful food porn!

    I went and voted. There is nothing really taht said your vote was counted or a confirmation in some way. So I am pretty sure my vote went in for you though I am nto positive.

  39. Margie says:

    Gee, I wonder who I voted for? ;)

    Seriously, this is some very serious brittle. I know I will eventually make it, but before I do it, I must find me some seeds.

    P.S. My daughter requested your cream cheese cookies, Jenzie. Oh, and she refuses to wait until Christmas. Guess what I am doing tomorrow?


  40. Jennifer says:

    You got my vote! Thanks for working to help such a great cause.

  41. barbara says:

    Well you know how I feel about this blogging thing Jen;). Congratulations on 5 years of blogging.

    I’d heard of pepitas and then when we were first offered them in Spain I was so disappointed to discover they were just pumpkin seeds. I’d been introduced to pumpkin seeds by a Greek boyfriend in my teenage years. I’ve never had them in caramel though so a new taste to look forward to.

  42. Meaghan says:

    Five years, that’s amazing!
    I agree that it’s better to write what you feel rather than forcing yourself to only present recipes. This blog is wonderful to read as it is, I enjoy your shots and stories of Colorado nature, life and your family every bit as much as your recipes!

  43. Diana says:

    Congrats on your blogiversary! I just voted for you. Hope you win the finals!

  44. Hailey says:

    Jen, my little vote is in! Great charity. I hope you win :-) Good luck!

  45. Anita says:

    I voted!

    Belated congrats Jen! Can’t believe it’s been five years! It’s been almost four for me and I find myself going through a similar thought process – what am I doing with my blog? What am I trying to say? Am I still enjoying it? I’m sorting out what it all means to me too. But I’ve always admired your clarity of vision and like you said it’s important to be true to yourself. I always get such a clear sense of *you* when I read your blog, I’d visit whether you changed it to a photography blog or a dog blog or whatever you felt like writing about:) I’m glad you’re continuing to find a way to make blogging enjoyable and a true expression of you:) XO Anita

  46. jenyu says:

    Thanks for the votes, everyone! I really appreciate it. Keeping fingers crossed :) Also thank you for all of the encouragement. I mean it when I tell people that my readers are the best.

    Fiona – the honey-comby texture results from the addition of the baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) which upon mixing in releases (I’m guessing) carbon dioxide (CO2) that adds all of the bubbles to the brittle. If you don’t like that texture, then perhaps omit the baking soda. Maybe try it and let me know if it comes out to your liking?

    Tartelette – I know all about you and caramel, pastry goddess!

    TKW – thanks, hon xoxo

    Manisha – so glad you guys enjoyed it! Maybe some for the holidays too??

    Hsin – that’s so nice of you to say. Probably won’t be a box of macs though – perishable and not good for international shipping.

    Wend – I usually soak it in water. The water will eventually dissolve the caramel.

    Melissa – I know that you know exactly what I was referring to. What is WITH those people?! ;) Well, it’s not our prob, anyway, right? xoxo

    emhuze – I doubt I’ll ever write a cookbook, but I guess I shouldn’t say never, huh?

    Anita – oh sweetie, how I love you so!! :) xoxo

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