Monday, December 19, 2011

Buttery Delicious Peanut Brittle


Christmas is the season for tins - tins of shortbread, peanut brittle, holiday cookies, and, of course, flavored popcorn (whose terrible idea was that?).  As a tasty munchie for a hotel party I was hosting for a dear friend of mine, I thought peanut brittle would be a perfect snack.  I've never made peanut brittle, but my mom used to make Korean bobbki which is a kind of Korean snack/candy of burnt sugar and baking soda.  The burnt sugar has a wonderful caramelly taste and the baking soda gives it a nice airy crunch.  After looking up several recipes for peanut brittle, I've discovered that the two are pretty similar.

My mom is a bit of a disaster in the kitchen (as am I).  She's the Korean Julia Child except much shorter, and no one knows who she is.  My mom is a bit like me in the sense that she improvises with what she has.  She'd make hoddeuk using Pillbury biscuit dough and press out bobbki using the bottom of a heavy saucepan sprayed with PAM nonstick spray.  She had a chemistry degree that sat latent in her brain for a few years until she started making her own lotions, face washes, laundry detergent, and even some cosmetics.  I use all her stuff, and I'd like to believe it's the reason why people comment on my skin (in the good way...they aren't screaming "OH GOD!" and handing me plastic surgery business cards).  Anyway, I'm not letting my Umma steal my thunder.  I made peanut brittle.

Before I share the recipe, I have to comment on the final result.  Glorious.  It's the culmination of stripping clean all the best aspects of sweets to just BUTTER and SUGAR, and forcing the sparse marriage between the two (with some peanut babies strewn in).  I could not stop snacking on the "chips-that-are-too-small" or "uneven" or "offensively-phallic-so-I should-just-eat-it-because-no-one-wants-to-eat-penis-shaped-brittle-at-a-cocktail-party."


Peanut Brittle
(adapted from Mom's Best Peanut Brittle Recipe)
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1 cup peanuts
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon baking soda

If you need to, shell the peanuts.


Set some baking sheets in the oven at 300 degrees F to keep hot.  This will make it easier to spread out the peanut brittle once it's ready.

Pre-measure the 2 tablespoons of butter and teaspoon of baking soda.  If you're using vanilla extract, measure that out now too.  Make sure the butter is already softened and ready to go.  Set aside.

Combine the sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat.  To measure out the corn syrup, which is impossibly thick, measure out a 1/2 cup of corn syrup in the measuring cup and pour it out.  About 1/4 cup will remain but double-check the measurement marks.  Then pour in 1/4 cup of water into the same measuring cup and whisk with a fork to dissolve all the corn syrup so that it can be poured out.  Whisk the sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt to dissolve, and bring the mixture to a boil.  Stir in the peanuts and bring the mixture up to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).  Don't take it past this temperature or the peanuts will burn.  The mixture will take a while to reach 250 degrees F.  Once it does, it goes REALLY fast up to 300, so keep an eye out.  When the mixture is at about 250 degrees F (121 degrees C), take the baking sheets out of the oven and lay them on the counter.




Once the mixture has reached the right temperature, take it off the heat and mix in the pre-measured baking soda, butter, and vanilla extract (optional).  The baking soda introduces the bubbles which give the brittle an easier bite (so it doesn't take your teeth out when you bite into it).  Just stir it a few times until it's pale golden brown, but don't over-stir.  Pour out the brittle onto the warmed baking sheets and kind of shake and tilt the baking sheets to spread the peanut brittle batter.  Don't use a spatula or forks; they'll break down the bubbles from the baking soda.

Let the mixture cool completely.  Lift the baking sheets a few inches off the counter and drop.  That should break the brittle up into bite-size pieces.

Sun-bathing peanut brittle.

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