Tuesday, June 2, 2015

No-Fail (No-Kidding) Peanut Brittle


Peanut brittle is one of my favorite "old fashioned" candy, but I've only made it once or maybe twice because it can be a bit temperamental cooking the conventional way.  Brittle is a bit labor intensive because it takes a long time to cook your sugar to a hard-crack stage and burning is always a worry.  In fact, I think that we [our family] just left this brittle making to our Grandmas to slave over it at Christmas.  Yeah, they only made it once a year because it was a pain-in-the-butt to make.  Until now.

My Dad loves peanut brittle, and for years I've been sending him brittle via the Internet from gourmet stores.  Gawd, the prices were outrageous!  After all, I was leaving the task to making it to someone else.  Sometimes brittle would cost up to $25 for a 2 lbs. gift.  Holy crap.  All of the ingredients are fairly inexpensive, but I am paying for the process of making it.  Until now.

Thanks to my sister, Dori, who gave me this recipe when she came out to visit over Memorial Day weekend.  She had run this recipe through her "test kitchen" many times and was able to get the same, perfect results every time.

My first batch I made was with Habanero pepper and it was pretty hot since we put about a tablespoon in.  That was a bit too hot so I cut down the recipe to 1 teaspoon if you decide to use it, but you can adjust to your taste*.  The sweet caramel flavor is wonderful with a little heat.

When I made this again for this post, I omitted the peppers.  I plan on sending some to my Dad and I know he's old school and prefers it the old fashioned way.  I also made a cashew nut batch.  Yum!

No-Fail (No-Kidding) Peanut Brittle
Yields a little over a pound

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 heaping cup party peanuts (or any other lightly salted nuts) (get your nuts at a bulk or discount store...Dori told me that BIG LOTS is her "go-to" place)
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbls. butter
1 tsp. finely minced Habanero* pepper (this is optional)
1 tsp fresh baking soda

Line an edged baking sheet with a SILPAT® mat or grease very well (butter or non-stick spray) and set aside.  I recommend that you invest in a couple of the SILPAT® mats.  These are the best for baking or candy making, and I've had mine for 20 years.

In a microwave-safe glass 2-quart bowl,  stir sugar and corn syrup until combined and microwave for 4:00 minutes on HIGH (I have a 1,000 watt microwave).  I recommend that you use a  heat proof silicone spatula.  These are very versatile tools to have in your kitchen.  I have many sizes of the GIR (Get it Right) spatula.

Remove and immediately stir in nuts and microwave for 3:30 minutes on HIGH.

Remove and immediately stir in butter, vanilla, and Habanero peppers (if used),  and microwave for 1:30 minutes on HIGH or until a medium golden brown or a rich caramel color.  The darker color will add a depth of flavor, but be careful not to burn!

Immediately stir and then fold in baking soda.  WORK QUICKLY!  The mixture will foam as you fold it.  Be careful not to over stir or it will collapse.  Pour onto prepared pan and move the pan back and forth to spread out mixture.

Let it cool completely before gently breaking into pieces.  The round back of a heavy ladle or a jar works great for this task.  If you used SILPAT®, you will need to remove it from the mat and place it back onto the baking sheet before breaking into desired sizes.

Store in an airtight container, or you can seal in zip-top bags and it will keep for a week.  Your humidity level will effect freshness as well.  Here in the humid northwest of the country, we have to eat our brittle immediately.  All of it.  We don't like soggy or sticky brittle.  Yeah, that's what we tell ourselves to justify being little brittle pigs.


*WARNING: to anyone who puts a tablespoon of Habanero in their brittle...do not eat a lot at one time.  We made the mistake of scarfing down the whole pan (minus about 1/3 pound which I gave to the neighbors) throughout the afternoon and all of us were hit with horrible side effects of too much capsicum.  Capsicum is the compound that makes a pepper hot.  Too much can cause diarrhea, and the Habanero has a lot of capsicum...a lot.  I'm not trying to gross you out, but you have been warned.

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