Have you tried pouring gigantic stockpots of hot molten butter and water boiled with sugar and cornstarch onto silicone baking mats, then quickly smoothing it out to form uniform sheets of thin, crunchy, rich sweetness? Needless to say, it's an extremely hot and potentially messy task. Fortunately Max Lesser of Morning Glory Confections has got the dangerous activity of artisanal brittle making down to a series of swift motions.
An artist and former private chef, Lesser "kept coming back to the brittle" as a treat primed to be "brought into its renaissance." Since October 2008, packages of Morning Glory Brittle -- produced entirely in Los Angeles and made extra attractive on the shelf thanks to the help of some of Lesser's former comrades from the Art Institute of Chicago and Cal Arts -- have been available at gourmet shops around town. (Morning Glory products are also available online, and are not to be confused by a different foodstuff of the same name.)
The basic brittle combo of sugar, water, cornstarch, vanilla, baking soda, and butter acts as a perfect canvas on which to play with intense flavors. For spice hunters, there's Thai curry peanut brittle created with lemongrass, Kaffir lime leaf, ginger and bird chiles, and New Mexico chili and pumpkin seed brittle also brings the heat. Cocoa nib, coffee bean and pecan brittle scratches that coffee and chocolate itch. Lesser's also been known to satisfy the seemingly insatiable demand for bacon in all things by folding Niman Ranch bits into the mix.
Sustainable and local ingredients are sourced to the best of Lesser's ability, a goal that doesn't at all impede his creativity. But exceptions are unavoidable. For the fleur de sel and peanut brittle, Morning Glory's modern approximation of traditional brittle, Lesser uses le Saunier de Camargue fleur de sel from France, which is fine by us, given the brilliant sweet vs. savory contrasting results.
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Most recently he's been dipping brittle pieces in Valrhona chocolate to make even more sumptuous enrobed brittle bites, which makes a perfect, not-overly-cliche Valentine's Day gift. The holiday is not so far off, folks, so plan ahead.