Come Early Stay Late Olive Brittle

Today’s recipe is from Come Early Stay Late by chef Brian Malarkey. You may recognize him from Top Chef Miami, but in San Diego he’s a celebrity chef  and creative force behind restaurants Searsucker, Burlap, Gingham, Gabardine and Herringbone. This book is an account of his journey and a collection of recipes from the restaurants. Titles include things like Summer Loving Watermelon Salad, Sauteed Shishito Peppers, and Chicken Brie Sandwich with Tarragon Aioli; plus two that I’ve already made — Carrot Cake Plus Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting and this Olive Brittle.

Olive Brittle

Malarkey credits all desserts to pastry chef Rachel King, whose specialty is “classics with a twist”. Along with the brittle and the carrot cake, there are recipes for Searsucker’s
Apple & Ale Muffins, Red Velvet Sandwich Cookies, Key Lime Pie, Lemon Bars (the recipe calls for 7 eggs!) and Coconut-Filled Brownies. As much as I like Malarkey’s book, I say bring on a book from Rachel King! The desserts chapter is terrific.

But back to the Olive Brittle. It was unique, to be sure — different, but slightly addictive. I wouldn’t serve it as a full dessert but rather as a sweet appetizer or fun cocktail party snack. It would also make a fabulous hostess gift. In fact, if someone gave it to me as a gift I would have to open it up and try it on the spot!

Come Early

Here’s the recipe as written in the book  I included a few personal notes at the bottom.

Come Early Stay Late Olive Brittle
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
A sweet and salty brittle using olives instead of nuts. Nuts may be substituted.
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 8
  • 1/2 cup olives, pitted and chopped (I used Kalamata)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda for aeration
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Put the olives on a small sheet tray and bake them until they are dry – about 1 hour.
  3. In a medium saucepan on high heat, combine the water, sugar and corn syrup. Cook the mixture until it turns a golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the butter. Continue cooking until the butter is melted and thoroughly incorporated. Take off heat and stir in the baking soda.
  5. Stir in the olives and immediately pour the mixture out onto a Silpat or a parchment lined sheet pan. Flatten with another Silpat or a layer of wax paper and a rolling pin if needed (I didn’t really flatten it because I didn’t want to lose too many bubbles).
  6. Once the brittle has cooled completely, break it into bite-sized pieces. You can store this in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Chop the olives into very small pieces. I made this twice, and in my first batch I left the olive pieces fairly large. People definitely preferred the second batch with the smaller pieces.
One reason I had to make this twice was because there is no temperature given. Knowing exactly when to take candy off the stove is a skill and an art, so most home cooks would be better off with a candy thermometer. I undercooked mine the first time, and used a candy thermometer the second. I added the butter when the mixture was about 290 and took the candy off at 300 F. Also, burner sizes and pans will affect whether or not you really need to use high heat. I was better off using medium-high.
It takes longer than some other brittles to set – not terribly long, but it won’t harden until it is completely cool.

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  1. Jen says

    I think I’m going to try this. Lenny cannot come home from the store without buying some kind of olive so we have tons of jars taking up space in the fridge. This won’t put any kind of dent in his collection but it’s an interesting place to start.

  2. Sue says

    That is a combo that wouldn’t have ever occurred to me. The texture of olives and the texture of brittle are so different!

  3. T. Martin says

    Do you think certain types of olives work better in this recipe than others? I feel that black and green olives, just using my imagination, wouldn’t do well as what I think B. Malarkey is trying to do is balance the savoriness of the olives with the sweetness

  4. says

    Jen, good luck! I’m not an expert brittle maker, so getting the exact timing took some practice.

    Sue, drying them out at 300 degrees F an hour helps solve that problem. They’re still soft, but they don’t have as much moisture.

    Taneka, Kalamata olives are my favorite, but the introduction to the recipe says you can use any olive. In the intro he says he’s trying to balance sweet & salty.

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