I can see the headlines now:
Man Killed in Peanut Brittle Catastrophe
Well, it really wasnít as bad as all that.
People are often surprised to find out that I am an extremely good cook. I guess it just doesnít fit the persona I usually project. Iíve never found any stereotypes to be a good fit.
The trick is that my wife usually doesnít let me in her kitchen. The exception is the holidays. We like to entertain, and even in years that are too frantic for that, we generally make massive batches of peanut brittle and fudge as supplements to Christmas gifts...both are my specialties.
The two tricks to peanut brittle (other than the recipe) are the timing, and the temperature. The initial mix of the sugars is brought slowly up to 270 degrees, and then the peanuts are added and this new mixture is slowly brought up to 300 degrees. Change the temperature too fast, or donít get it right, and the batch is ruined. The mixture also must be kept in constant motion or it will scorch, and even a little of that will impart a terrible taste.
I am proud of my peanut brittle.
So then I did something stupid.
At a critical point yesterday, I managed to hook the candy thermometer with the spoon and flip it out of the batch. 295 degrees. The mixture is liquid, but stringy, and slopped up my right hand from the base of the pinky finger to just past the wrist. The instant reaction of course is to stick the injured part in the mouth.
BTW, 295 degrees is HOT, and sugar solutions hold onto the heat very well.
End result? Half-a-dozen dime sized blisters on the side of my hand. The whole hand is swollen and difficult to use. And just to add insult to injury, blistered lips. Ouch.
Only 10 more batches to go...
Itís worth it though...VERY tasty...(I am proud of my peanut brittle).
1/2 cup water
1 cup white corn syrup
2 cups white sugar
2 cups raw peanuts (I use raw spanish peanuts)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 stick butter (NOT margarine)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking soda
Note: The raw peanuts are important. Cooked ones will not result in the same flavor in the finished candy. (they cook via the heat of the sugar solution). Also, have all the ingredients ready to hand. Once the temperatures are reached, things move fast. Also note that the temperatures are CRITICLE to a successful batch, and the mixture MUST be kept in contsant motion after the peanuts are added and until poured out onto the baking sheet. Use a good candy thermometer, be patient and reach the correct temperatures.
All that said, it's a pretty simple recipe and produces excellent results if you pay attention to the details.
--Add a tablespoon of butter to a cookie sheet and put in warm oven (lowest setting). Grease the sheet with the melted butter and leave it in the warm oven until needed.
--Add soda and salt to a tablespoon of water. Mix well. Set aside.
Just cook it:
1) Cook water, corn syrup, and sugar to 270 degrees F.
2) Stir in raw peanuts. Cook to 300 degrees F keeping mixture in CONSTANT motion.
3) Remove from heat. Add vanilla and butter. Stir in well until butter melts.
4) Add the soda/salt mixture and stir briskly until the mixture is foamy.
5) Pour onto the center of your warm, buttered cookie sheet, letting mixture spread itself (don't spread it with utensils as that will pop the bubbles in the mixture).
6) Let cool completely (do not refrigerate or try to rush it). After cooling, break it up and store in airtight containers (tupperware or the like).
Do not double or half the recipe. If you need more, make more batches. You'll not find an occasion to need less!