Who You Calling Brittle? An Ode to Karen DeMasco

Karen DeMasco. Don’t know her? That’s a terrible shame.

Last I saw her, this would be years ago, she was the pastry chef at Craft in New York. I believe she’s moved on, as the talented kitchen-kind tend to. But I’ve not forgotten her nor her talents and what must be her abiding affection for me. Mind you, she’s never met me but I can only assume she must like me an awful lot because her pastries told me so. No one can create such sublime treats without tunneling a boatload of love into them. And if not me, she must just adore what she does because each morsel I shoved into my mouth, every few minutes reminding myself to breath and to savor the edible delights, both melted me with its charms and inspired me with its goodness.

I could wax poetic about nugget after blessed nugget she’s created: pain perdu to get lost in, biscotti that makes you look twice, glorious donut holes that, once polished off, leave a sucking void in your life for their absence. And sticky buns. Sticky. Buns. The stickiest. The bunniest.

But one beauty that I’ve walked away with, quite literally, is her peanut brittle. It’s perfect. It manages to be both crunchy and airy. Salty and sweet. Peanuty and caramely. She uses dry roasted salted peanuts and that makes a world of difference. I add a hit of cayenne and those tasty bites sing. For the reading at Bear Pond Books, I switched it up and made almond brittle. I poured a teaspoon of almond extract to give the treat a nutty punch and then drizzled melted chocolate on top.

If you’d like the recipe, it’s buried in the back of Colicchio’s Craft of Cooking. But I’ve heard some delightful news on the DeMasco front. She has a cookbook coming out called “The Craft of Baking” on October 27th. It’s all Karen goodness all the time. I suggest we all partake in her wisdom this October and bake it like we mean it. Because Karen does.

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