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Visions of sugarplums: peanut brittle

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Peanut brittle has become synonymous with the holiday season and with good reason. First is the taste, of course. The combined flavors and textures of butter, crunch, sweet and slightly salty have been proven to light up the addiction centers of the brain. Second, however, is that the best hard candies are made when there is no humidity, a condition that many Midwesterners battle during the winter months in their homes. Sugar is hygroscopic, that is, it attracts moisture, and humidity makes hard candies tacky to the touch. Take advantage of the weather and central heating and make some brittle before charging up the humidifier.

Cooking hard candy does take some skill and patience; the hot syrup must be stirred and watched so that it doesn't scorch, and the temperature monitored with a candy thermometer so that the brittle isn't overly hard or too soft.

Peanut Brittle
2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. water
1 c. light corn syrup
3 c. unsalted whole peanuts
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. unsalted butter (no substitutes), at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Lightly oil a 10 x 15 baking sheet or line with parchment paper. Lightly oil an offset spatula or knife. Set aside.

Combine sugar, water and corn syrup in heavy 4 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cover and boil for 4 minutes.

Remove cover, insert a thermometer and cook to 240 degrees without stirring. Add the peanuts and cook, stirring constantly, until syrup reaches 320 degrees. The syrup should be light brown.

Remove from heat; add the butter, salt, vanilla extract and baking soda. Stir until all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.

Pour onto prepared pan and spread using oiled spatula or knife. Work quickly; the brittle hardens fairly fast.

Allow the brittle to cool. Use a small hammer to break brittle into smaller pieces. Store at room temperature in an airtight container, away from moisture.

Tips

  • Don't like peanuts? Substitute any oil-rich nut. Pecans, walnuts, macadamia nuts (chopped) or cashews make wonderful nut brittles.
  • If you'd prefer to avoid nuts altogether, substitute sesame seeds or sunflower kernals.

Friday: Easy Peppermint Bark

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