The second hand ticked, the whistling heater steamed, and I sat, waiting in the overly warm classroom. I looked around at the other students; some apathetic and others relentlessly chatty for so early in the morning. My unnecessary 4-inch heeled boots clicked on the classroom floor and I doodled in my notebook around my careful notes with my dark colored polish chipping off my fingernails, occasionally popping my winter-blast gum. The professor was late. A student noted loudly, “Five more minutes and we can go, according to the syllabus”. The apathetic started packing up their things in the back and headed toward the door to wait out the last few minutes. The chatty chatted more, as expected.
Thirty seconds to inevitable freedom, the professor ran in the door and hurried to hand out the quiz on the reading assignment. I’ll sum it up in an overly brief three sentences for you: We read about a man, a king, that is, who crafted a plan to cheat death and by doing so, he allowed human-kind to temporarily cheat death as well. His punishment? Pushing a rock up a hill in Hades only to watch it fall back down for the rest of eternity. Now, personally, I would commend anyone for successfully cheating death. I mean, shouldn’t Death be smart enough to not let that sort of thing happen? I was under that impression, as per “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey”.
Not to mention, I was also taking Buddhism across campus later that afternoon, and the whole concept of watching a rock fall back down a hill, was being taught as well…just how it is …so we should pretty much just get over ourselves for expecting anything we do or have to last forever (please forgive my extreme paraphrasing). This line of thinking also competes with those diamond engagement ads that we’re inundated with around the holidays that quite frankly, I find slightly insulting to women’s intelligence, but that’s beside the point, I guess.
I snap out of my day dream.
Flash to ten years later and back to reality, the phone rings and I chat with Mike about work and lunch and what we’re doing that evening; typical couple-type stuff. I turn around to see my little mess-maker in action. Max smiles and pulls yet another nicely folded towel off the bed and I give him a very serious look, then smile at his precious face and pack up the stroller. I throw on my running shoes and we head out for a run on the lake, followed by some serious playground action.
The air was brisk, the surrounding colors were warm and we reveled in the moment. I did the laundry that night, peacefully and without distraction, and as expected, Max carefully and with purpose, unfolded things the following morning. He was “helping”. This phase, like all things, won’t last forever.
This recipe is sweet and meant to be savored. Spiced with pumpkin pie spice, the toasty pumpkin seeds shine in their glassy sugared coating. Sugar, like life has phases; some are ugly, like crystallization, but necessary to get through in order to really hit the good stuff. The end result, like life, is delicious, delicate, truly delectable, yet fleeting.
Spiced Pumpkin Seed Brittle
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 3/4 cup raw green (hulled) pumpkin seeds (not toasted; 4 ounces)
- Special equipment: parchment paper; a candy thermometer
Put a 24- by 12-inch sheet of parchment on a heat proof work surface and anchor the corners of the paper with pieces of tape. In a 2-quart heavy non-stick saucepan over moderate heat, bring sugar, water, sea salt and pumpkin pie spice to a rapid boil stirring until sugar is completely dissolved.
Cook mixture, without stirring, washing down any sugar crystals from side of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water, until syrup registers 238°F (soft-ball stage) on thermometer, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in seeds with a wooden spoon, then continue stirring until syrup crystallizes – 3 to 4 minutes.
Return pan to moderate heat and cook, stirring constantly with wooden spoon. The sugar will be clumpy, grainy and crystallized, the seeds will toast and then the sugar will finally start to melt after 4-5 minutes. Once the sugar melts, continue to stir constantly and let it bubble until it turns a deep caramel color which takes about 4 or 5 minutes more.
Carefully pour hot caramel mixture onto parchment and carefully cover with another sheet.
Immediately roll out (between sheets of parchment) as thinly as possible with a rolling pin, pressing firmly. Remove top sheet of parchment and immediately cut brittle into pieces with a heavy knife or pizza wheel. Cool brittle completely, and then peel paper from bottom. (Alternately, break brittle into pieces once cool.)
Cooks’ note: Brittle can be made 2 weeks ahead and kept, layers separated by wax paper, in an airtight container.