No one seems to make candy from scratch anymore. And, while we can understand that, well, just a bit, because candy is so ubiquitous, we happen to know that candy you make at home is about a million times better-tasting. Plus, some candies are remarkable easy — you can have a batch done in under an hour with very little effort on your part. But, we do have this caveat: use a candy thermometer, preferably a digital candy thermometer. It’ll set you back about $15, but, once you start using one, you’ll never know how you did without. So, if you have a thermometer, let’s scratch up a batch of brittle.
Peanut brittle is one of the easier candies to make: basically, boil up a syrup until it reaches the right temperature, add peanuts, cook a while longer, and done. Well, a few more details are needed, so follow along. Oh, and for the record, we found this recipe in The Holiday Candy Book, by Virginia Pasley, part of the vast Scratchin’ It Central Library.
We always try to use corn syrup without high-fructose corn syrup, which, for us, means we buy Karo. Not a brand recommendation; it’s just what we can get that has the least number of ingredients. For vanilla, it’s always 100% pure, real, tasty vanilla. Even though we specify unsalted butter, it won’t matter a jot if you use salted.
Procedure in detail:
Prepare pans. Line two large baking sheets with parchment, then set them aside. Later you’ll spread the brittle onto the sheets, and the parchment will keep the candy from sticking to the pans.
Make syrup. In a large saucepan (about 3-quart), combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Stir and place over medium-low heat. Continue stirring until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a boil, about 10 minutes.
Boil to 280°F. Insert a candy thermometer and increase the heat to medium-high and boil, without stirring, until the temperature reaches 280°F. Don’t wander away or stop paying attention during this time. The syrup might boil over, or cook too long, making something other than brittle. Once at 280°F, remove the thermometer so you can stir the candy easily.
Add butter. Drop the butter into the pan, lower the heat to medium, and stir the candy rapidly. It’ll foam up and spit as the butter melts, so be careful. Nothing burns quite like hot melted sugar syrup. Continue stirring until the butter is completely incorporated.
Add peanuts. Add the peanuts and stir in. Continue stirring and cooking for about 2-3 minutes. Then re-insert the candy thermometer.
Cook to 300°F. Continue cooking the candy, stirring occasionally, until the thermometer reads 300°F. Remove from the heat, and remove the thermometer to get it out of the way. DO NOT be tempted to taste the candy; it’s 300°F and sticky.
Add baking soda. Sprinkle the baking soda over the top of the candy and stir it in. The candy will foam up slowly in about 30 seconds. No need to worry about it overflowing.
Add vanilla. Stir in the vanilla, and you’re entering the final stretch. Literally.
Divide and stretch. Pour the candy onto the two prepared baking sheets, and spread it as thinly as you can with a spatula or back of a spoon. You might not be able to do a great job now, but try. As the candy cools, carefully test the corners to see if you can handle them. If so, pull on the corners and the sides to stretch out the brittle as thinly as you can. As it cools, pick it up and stretch out the center and flip over. Let cool completely.
Break. Once cool, the brittle, being brittle, will shatter into pieces easily. Break the brittle apart and store in an airtight container.
See, not so bad to make brittle, right? And, we can tell you that this is better-tasting than the brittle you’ll find at the store. Why? When you make it yourself, you don’t need to take shortcuts, or add ingredients that make it easier to make, handle, or stay fresh. Instead, you use great ingredients for a great product. Try it yourself, and see. Five stars.