You can’t escape the Great Pumpkin this time of year. It’s in beer, and muffins, and the delicious milkshakes of Burgerville. (For a good rundown of who’s doing what with pumpkins at restaurants around town, read our own Allison Jones’s article in Eat Beat.) And great pumpkins are carved into jack-o-lanterns on front steps and porches all around town. Now, the powerful pumpkin has a place in candy brittle too. Yes, brittle is that much better when pumpkin seeds are added, for crunch and a bit of “healthy fats.”

This recipe from Marissa Lippert (in Bon Appetit) purports to be “light on sugar” (it uses a combination of brown sugar, agave and honey), but really – no one should expect candy to be healthy food. It’s supposed to be a treat for the costumed kids who come a knockin’ at your door October 31 – those cute little ghosts and goblins and Darth Vaders and princesses who toddle up and squeal, “Trick or treat!” And in this case, for the adults who accompany them: this brittle also includes a pinch of cayenne pepper. The adults may figure out the secret ingredient, but the little ghouls won’t even know what hit’em. 

Pumpkin Seed Brittle with Vanilla Bean and Cayenne Pepper
(Makes about 24 pieces)
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup agave syrup (nectar)
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon (or less) cayenne pepper
1 1/4 cups shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas), toasted

Coat a baking sheet with nonstick spray; set aside. Combine butter, sugar, honey, and agave syrup in a medium saucepan; scrape in seeds from vanilla bean and add bean. Cook over medium-high heat for 8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda, salt, and cayenne.

Gently fold in pumpkin seeds. Spread out mixture on prepared sheet to 1/4"–1/2" thick. Chill until cool. Break or cut into pieces with a knife. If brittle is too hard, let it stand at room temperature for a few minutes before cutting.