Monday, March 30, 2009

Peanut Brittle, with Spirit and Spice

This is an old recipe, which I have started playing with recently. Turns out you can substitute other things, like beer or wine, for the water, and it still turns out great. Also, adding the amount of "heat" I have listed gives it a nice mouth feel without really being hot at all. In fact, if you add it and don't tell anybody, they'll like it better and have a hard time figuring out what you did different. Any hot-heads out there will want to put in a lot more than that.

Find the abbreviated Peanut Brittle Recipe here.

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup clear corn syrup (aka Karo)
  • 1/2 cup water or Guinness or Chardonnay
  • 3/4 cup (6 oz, 1 & 1/2 stick) butter
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 3 shakes Tabasco sauce (optional)
  • 1 lb salted cocktail peanuts
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • kosher salt

  • 1 large bowl of ice water
  • 3 -4 qt pot
  • candy thermometer
  • wooden spoon
  • greased heat-resistant surface, such as pans, sil pats, or my favorite non-stick rolling mat from King Arthur Flour, which is heat tolerant even though it doesn't mention it on the website.
  • Note: the countertop underneath the pan or mat will get hot, so make sure it isn't too sensitive either.
A helper with a strong arm is also nice.

Keep the bowl of ice water nearby, in case you get hot candy on you. Candy will really burn your skin, and once it's on you, plunging into the icy water is the best way to prevent a bad burn.

1. Measure the baking soda into a small bowl, and keep handy for later.
2. Mix the sugar, corn syrup, liquid of choice, and butter in the pan over medium heat. Also stir in the cayenne and tobasco, if you want the extra kick.

3. Stir until melted and blended.

4. Increase heat to med-high, and heat until it reaches 320 deg F. The candy will bubble and even foam a bit at first, especially if you used beer. It will then thicken, and smooth out, with fewer but deeper thick bubble holes. As the temperature climbs, it will begin to change to a more golden color. The temperature tends to rise, then hold, then rise again several times.

5. When it reaches 320, slide the pan off of the heat, and stir in the peanuts.

6. The temperature will drop, and the candy will become very thick, making it hard to stir. This is where the strong arm is handy. Once mixed, return to heat, and stir constantly until the temperature reaches 305 deg F.

7. Remove from heat, and immediately stir in the baking soda, mixing well.

8. Pour the candy onto the greased surface, allowing it to spread on its own. In the middle, the candy will be thicker than the peanuts are wide, and thinner at the edges, with many bubbles throughout. This creates a light candy that crushes to the bite. Manual spreading will deflate the bubbles without actually spreading the candy significantly. Sprinkle the top with kosher salt. If the cooling surface is in direct contact with a countertop, moving the candy, pan and all, a couple of times will cool it faster.

9. When it has cooled completely, lift and drop the brittle from an inch or two over the counter, to break it. Store in an air-tight tin or container to keep moisture out and keep it crunchy.