I love to give gifts I have made myself.  One year I knitted so many infinity scarves, I gave myself tennis elbow!  Usually, I make it my policy to give consumables — enjoy it, and it’s gone.  My wonderful brother-in-law, David, who is an excellent baker, used to make four kinds of squares, divide each pan into four pieces, reassemble pans of mixed varieties, and provide us lucky recipients with a “patchwork quilt” of treats.

The search for the annual project is very enjoyable — much magazine research and many taste-testing batches.  This recipe for cookie brittle came from an idea found in “Fine Cooking” magazine.  You may have encountered Florentine cookies, or those lovely rolled and filled confections called “Brandy Snaps”.  This recipe is a variation on that theme, but much, much simpler.  The brittle is caramel-y, buttery, and crunchy, and depending on what you put in it, very “au courant” with sweet and salty notes.  I melted a lot of butter to arrive at this particular flavor combination, and I know you can tweak the recipe to make it your own.

German Chocolate Cookie Brittle

If you have the time, Google “German Chocolate Cake”.  It’s interesting!  I always thought it was named for the country, but it’s not.  This recipe makes just enough for one generous gift, or two more modest ones.  I tried making a half-recipe in an 8 x 6″ disposable foil pan.  It was do-able, but hardly seemed worth the effort.  This year I have saved jars and cans with lids, which I will decorate appropriately and fill.  The brittle can go in the recipient, and the wrapping can go in recycling.  Win-win.


  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar (dark or golden, doesn’t matter)
  • 2 Tbsp flour (gluten-free works fine, no xanthan gum needed)
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt (less if you’re using table salt, maybe 1/2 tsp)
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly (salted or unsalted — I tested with salted)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line a 9 x 13 inch pan with non-stick foil (best thing since sliced bread) or well-greased regular foil.  Don’t use parchment — holes are inevitable and the brittle will find them and make a mess.  You can improvise a 9 x 13 inch pan on a regular cookie sheet by folding up the edges to match the measurement.  This batter is not so aggressive that it will push past a folded foil border.

Combine the sugars, four and salt in a bowl, stirring to combine.

Add the melted butter, cream, yolks and vanilla.  Stir vigorously for 30 seconds to completely combine. If the mixture is uneven, the brittle will be too, and it won’t be pretty, I can tell you.

Stir in the pecans and coconut until everything is nicely coated.  You will get the best results if your add-ins are chopped quite finely.  I didn’t have much success with whole nuts, even though I wanted to.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan.  Spread it right to the edges, and poke it into the corners.  You might think this batter is going to spread itself, like a brandy snap, but it doesn’t, so make your layer as even as you can.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, turning the pan around at the 15 minute mark to promote even browning. When it’s completely done, it should be a lovely toasty golden brown all over.  If it’s not, the underbaked portions will stay flexible, not “brittle” at all, and while it will still be delicious, it won’t break up nicely.

Cool the brittle in the pan on a rack all the way to room temperature.  The brittle may continue to brown due to “carry-over cooking”, if your baking sheet is heavy or darkly colored. While it is possible to return the brittle to the oven for further cooking if you find it isn’t crisp enough, it’s much better to cook it long enough in the first place.  You’re looking for quite a toasty color, almost “European brown”, which is a term I picked up somewhere in my training, and which my family uses to describe things that are just shy of “burned”.

While the brittle is cooling, you can sprinkle it with the chocolate chips, let them melt from the residual heat (you’ll know they’re ready when they’re shiny), and then spread them with a knife or an offset spatula to make a thin coating.  Alternatively, you can melt your chips in a zip-lock bag in the microwave on 1/3 heat until they are liquid, then snip off the tiniest corner and squeeze squiggles and stripes of chocolate all over the cooling bark.  Lovely either way.

Once the bark is completely cool and the chocolate has set (you may need to give it a bit of “fridge time” if you’re in a hurry), lift the brittle out of the pan by the foil, and then break it into random pieces.  Package attractively, and give with pride.

Save the crumbs to sprinkle on muffins or ice cream.

As always  there are a million ways you can customize your brittle.  The batter is basic, but the add-ins are up to you, as long as they’re dry.  All kinds of seeds and/or nuts, crushed cereal, chopped pretzels, etc., etc.

Dried fruit tends to burn if it’s added to the batter, but it can be sprinkled onto the melted chocolate for a lovely festive effect.  Some nuts don’t do very well in the batter either (cashews and pistachios, for instance), but could go on top very nicely. How about a festive array of pistachios and dried cranberries, with maybe an additional drizzle of white chocolate! How about GORP brittle — peanuts in the batter, and raisins (nice big Sultanas) on top, with maybe just a few mini M&Ms.

I tried to make a gluten-free batch by replacing the flour with cocoa powder.  Some tasters liked it, but others found it too bitter, almost burned-tasting (which it might have been — hard to tell when it was done, because it’s already brown).  The batch I made with 1 Tbsp gluten-free flour and 1 Tbsp cocoa powder was much better received.

Mint, particularly crushed candy cane, does NOT go well with this recipe, in my opinion.  However, you’re going to have leftover egg whites.  You can make Crispy Meringue Kisses with them, satisfying your need for peppermint and creating a second gift from the kitchen at the same time!  Aren’t you clever!