Instead of high-fat pralines, toffee, or brittle, give croquant (French for "crisp")--a cream- and butter-free combination of caramelized sugar and almonds. Package in a paper-lined confection box or pretty bowl with a note to crumble over ice cream, layer into parfaits, or simply eat like brittle. Be careful not to burn yourself when pouring the hot mixture onto the jelly roll pan. The color of the sugar mixture (rather than temperature) is the best cue for doneness. The darker the color, the more bitter the candy--aim for a golden honey color. If your pan is too dark to gauge the color of the caramel, very carefully lift a small amount of the mixture with a spoon and drop it onto a piece of white paper--the level of caramelization will be evident.
Cooking Light DECEMBER 2003
Combine the sugar and water in a medium, heavy saucepan, being careful not to splash sides of pan. Stir gently over high heat just until the sugar dissolves (do not stir beyond this point). Using a clean pastry brush dipped in water, brush inside walls of pan to loosen any sugar particles.
Cook sugar mixture over high heat until light golden brown (about 10 to 15 minutes; do not leave unattended). Remove pan from heat; gently stir in almonds. Immediately pour almond mixture onto a jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray. Cool completely, and break into pieces.
Note: Store in an airtight container up to 5 days.
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