filling the empty nest with food

Life Lessons from a (Double) Batch of Peanut Brittle

peanut brittle 2Stories and fables in history and literature abound about learning the hard way: everyone from the prodigal son in the Gospel of Luke to most of the duped or naive animals in Aesop’s fables (My favorite is the grasshopper. Probably out of envy for how shamelessly lazy he gets to be, at least for a while) to Shakespeare’s tragic heroes.  Particularly poor Othello who believed “honest, honest Iago” enough to smother his own wife, falsely accused by Iago of cheating on Othello.  Only too late does Othello learn that Iago is the most evil of liars, and then Othello can’t bear to live anymore once he realizes he’s wrongfully killed his wonderfully sweet and loyal Desdemona. His wail to the gods upon learning (the hard way) that he trusted the wrong person is seriously heart-wrenching:

O cursed, cursed slave!
Whip me, ye devils…
Blow me about in winds! roast me in sulphur!
Wash me in steep-down gulfs of liquid fire! (Othello, Act V, Scene 2)

My hard-won cooking lessons don’t get quite to that level of remorse, but I have made enough mistakes where I should think twice about many things I’ve done rashly.  Things like doubling candy recipes.  A long way, I realize, from Othello’s wife-murder to screwing up homemade candy. And not to trivialize Othello’s self-inflicted agony, but sometimes regret is regret.

I have a note to myself in an old Betty Crocker cookbook on the Peanut Brittle page.  It says: “If you double this, it takes HOURS to cook and increases the risk of burning.  RESIST!!  MAKE TWO BATCHES!”  The multiple exclamation marks and the yelling at myself about how many agonizingly long hours it takes for a double batch of peanut brittle to reach that perfectly crunchy, hard-crack stage of brittleness is the hit-me-over-the-head reminder. Trust me…a double batch takes much more time than you want to spend standing at the stove watching a candy thermometer creep forward at its glacial pace.

The note to self brings back memories of past Christmas seasons staying up late at night willing the candy thermometer to move at more than a few degrees per hour, or so it seemed.  Getting that innocent mixture of sugar, water and corn syrup to 300 degrees seemed to take forever.  Those exclamation marks (since I’m not normally a person who speaks in exclamation marks) also remind me that it took more than one double batch of late-night sleepy stirring to get me to recall my mistake from a previous year.

The peanut brittle recipe, by the way, yields delicious candy.  Better than any store-bought version I’ve ever had.  And it really doesn’t take that much of any evening to whip up–as long as you MAKE ONE BATCH!

Peanut Brittle (from Betty Crocker)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
 1 tsp water
 1 tsp vanilla
 1 1/2 cups sugar
 1 cup water
 1 cup light corn syrup
 3 tbs butter
 1 pound shelled unroasted peanuts
  1. Heat oven to 200ºF. Butter 2 cookie sheets, 15 1/2×12 inches, and keep warm in oven. Mix baking soda, 1 teaspoon water and the vanilla; reserve.
  2. Mix sugar, 1 cup water and the corn syrup in 3-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, to 240ºF on candy thermometer or until small amount of syrup dropped into very cold water forms a soft ball that flattens when removed from water.
  3. Stir in butter and peanuts. Cook, stirring constantly, to 300ºF or until small amount of mixture dropped into very cold water separates into hard, brittle threads. (Watch carefully so mixture does not burn.) Immediately remove from heat. Quickly stir in baking soda mixture until light and foamy.
  4. Pour half the candy mixture onto each cookie sheet; quickly spread about 1/4 inch thick. Cool completely, at least 1 hour. Break into pieces. Store in covered container.
Makes 6 dozen candies

O cursed slave!Wash me in steep-down gulfs of liquid fire!

2 comments on “Life Lessons from a (Double) Batch of Peanut Brittle

  1. John kremer
    December 16, 2012

    Always a delight to read!!

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This entry was posted on December 15, 2012 by in Candy, Recipes and tagged , , , , , .

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