Saturday, August 22, 2009

Microwave Peanut Brittle

This recipe is special in our family, at least I think so. For as long as I can remember, my family has been eating peanut brittle and chocolate balls at Christmastime. Personally, since the chocolate balls have coconut in them my favorite was peanut brittle (though I always enjoyed helping roll and dip the chocolate balls). The mystique of making peanut brittle was great in my mind though. You had to cook it just long enough and work quickly so that it didn't set up in the bowl or too thick. I left this difficult task to the Grandma and Mom....until this summer.

I was home visiting family for my cousin's wedding (Congrats Rob and Sarah!) when I decided to have Grandma and Mom teach me the secrets of peanut brittle. We went to shop for all of the ingredients (more on that later) and got to work.

Mixing the peanuts, sugar and corn syrup, that's easy. Just be sure to get the sugar really mixed in with the corn syrup, coating the peanuts...makes it come together better later.

After the first cooking time, the mixture should be boiling and nuts brown. Keep in mind that every microwave is different. Apparently this is the real "secret" of making great peanut brittle...finding out how long to cook it for each step in your microwave. SO, you'll likely need to experiement a bit...good thing the ingredients aren't that pricey! A warning...from this point foward the mixture is extremely hot!

Anyway, since Grandma and Mom had done this a billion times before in Grandma's microwave, they knew the exact time...and it came out looking perfect. So we quickly moved on to the next step and added the butter and vanilla....stir it in and put it back in the microwave for the second time. this is the step where things were a bit scary for me....the warnings of "work fast," and "have everything ready to go so you can go quickly," were ringing in my ears. SO...take note...make sure you have your pan buttered, your baking soda measured and be ready when the buzzer goes off.
The baking soda, once added, will make the mixure foam up and you'll think you're working with a chemistry set (I guess in a way you are! Cooking/Baking is like that sometimes!). quickly, stirring it in and then....pour out onto the lightly buttered pan and spread the nuts into a single layer. You'll notice I let my expert mom handle this I could snap photos (I did do the other batches later though...I promise!). Now the hard part....waiting. HA! You have to let it sit and cool down. Once cooled you break it into pieces and enjoy. Yumm...(sorry for the blurry shot...)
As it turns out that one of the hardest parts of this family recipe is finding raw spanish peanuts....HA! So, I asked if we could make it with other more easily available nuts as well....we made a batch with the hard to find peanuts (as shown), a batch with cashews and a batch with mixed nuts. Of course, the traditional peanut was a hit, but I also really liked the other variations. They were all just as easy to work with and didn't require adjusting the cooking time. Though I would imagine if you were to use the larger Brazil nuts only, you may want too cook them a bit longer.

A tip for clean up: Soak everything that touched the brittle IMMEDIATELY! This stuff becomes rock hard, and pretty quick. Once you've spread out the brittle, take that spoon and the bowl and put it in hot water. You'll be glad that you did me.

I don't have a glamor shot of any of the three batches, but they were a big hit and enjoyed. It was so fun to be in the kitchen with my Grandma and mom learning this recipe. Maybe one day I can pass it along to the next generation now.

The Recipe:
Microwave Peanut Brittle

1 1/2 cups peanuts (or other nuts)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light Karo syrup
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda

Mix nuts, sugar and syrup in a microwave-safe glass bowl. Cook 7-10 minutes on high (again, adjust to your microwave!). Mixture should be boiling and nuts browned. Quickly stir in butter and vanilla. Cook 2-3 minutes more.

Add baking soda and stir quickly, just until foamy. Pour immediately onto buttered cookie sheet. Let cool. Break into pieces. Enjoy! (Store in airtight container, or as we do in my family, a zip-type baggie.)

Enjoy with Love,

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