Sunday, January 12, 2014

Spicy brittled peanuts

If there is one thing that I absolutely cannot do, it is making peanut brittle. I've tried making this treat no fewer than 5 times and each time it's been an utter failure. I have used a candy thermometer, but for whatever reason, it hasn't helped. My brittle turns out burnt, too dry, too grainy, too crumbly, or just plain gross.

Imagine my horror when our CSA delivery included a bag of fresh peanuts. I didn't feel like making a batch of fresh peanut butter since we already had some so I found this peanut brittle recipe in my copy of the smitten kitchen cookbook. I had low expectations for this since I am 0-5 when it comes to peanut brittle. I was banking on making it 0-6.

I asked my husband and Addie to help me shell the peanuts. We sat around the kitchen table and had fun smashing the shells and extracting the peanuts. The next day, I put the peanuts in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes so I could get the skins nice and crispy. Once they were cooled, I was able to remove the red skins.

Much to my surprise, this brittle recipe actually worked. I think the main difference is that the peanuts are added much later in the candy-making process and only after the sugar mixture turns into caramel. Deb mentions in her instructions that there is a time when the peanuts will look dry and crumbly, and that readers will want to smack her at that stage. She was right - I was ready to call it a failure until the sugar remelted and turned back into caramel.

My skating coach loved this brittle and I gave her some to enjoy at home. My husband still said that the brittle had a slightly burnt taste, but that is probably because I left the peanuts on the stove for too long. User error, as usual.  But for those of you who have unsuccessfully made peanut brittle before (please tell me I'm not the only one), then this recipe is for you. No candy thermometer required, which makes it that much better. (Note: I did not taste any because I don't eat peanuts, so I cannot personally vouch for the brittle)


Spicy brittled peanuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt (I used Maldon)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup (200 grams) sugar
  • 1 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) water
  • 2 cups (280 grams) shelled raw or roasted unsalted peanuts, skins removed
Directions
In a small bowl, whisk together the baking soda, sea salt and cayenne pepper. Set aside.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or use a silicone baking mat. Set aside.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the sugar, butter and water on medium high heat until it starts to turn golden brown. Add in the peanuts and stir constantly until the peanuts are fully coated.

In a few minutes, the peanuts and sugar will clump up and look dry and crusty. Keep stirring. The sugar will melt back into caramel after a few more minutes of stirring. Do not stop stirring or else your peanuts may burn.

Once the sugar has melted again, make sure that all the peanuts have been fully coated with the caramel mixture. Turn off the stove, remove the saucepan from the heat and quickly add in the baking soda mixture.

Working as quickly as you can, stir the peanuts and try to get the baking soda mixture incorporated as evenly as possible. Immediately transfer to your prepared baking pan. Use a spatula and break up any clumps as you try to smooth it into an even layer.

Allow the brittle to cool completely before breaking it into smaller pieces.

Brittle can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Yield: About 2 cups of brittle

Source: The smitten kitchen cookbook, pages 286-287

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