Friday, December 23, 2011

Speecy Spicy Peanut Brittle

It's Friday evening before Christmas Eve. A Chicago deep-dish pizza for dinner. One glass of Italian red wine. A shot of Jägermeister (don't judge — the bottle was a gift...thx, Eric!). Plus, Meghan told me that her friend Stephanie referred to me as a "hot salt-and-pepper head." So, I'm feeling a little "spicy" myself!

But this isn't about me, it's about peanut brittle. I spotted a recipe a couple of months ago for "Spicy Brittle" in People magazine. The picture was beautiful — perfect peanuts covered in a glossy-drippy-syrupy dark caramel-colored brittle — and the recipe looked super-simple. "Simple" is right up my alley!

I made my first batch last week and went strictly by the recipe, which called for 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. I thought it might be a bit much but I wanted to see what it was all about. When the boiling brittle reached the hard crack stage of 300°, I dumped the molten ball of goo onto the oiled cooky sheet and pressed it flat. I was worried it would cool too quickly to finished mashing it with the spatula but my concerns were unfounded; after all, I imagine it takes a long while for molten lead to harden.

The brittle was sweet, salty, and spicy-hot. Harvey thought it was great. I had a few pieces but knew I had to stop when my lips started burning — I guess it's a way to be sure you don't eat too much at once. I must sound like Harvey's dear mother, Gertie, when I say, "Oh, EVERYONE who's tried it LOVES it!" But really, if you like brittle, this is really good. And less than a week later, it's almost all gone.

Tonight I tried the recipe again — one batch with no pepper, another with a reduced amount: about ½ teaspoon. It's already cooled and broken into pieces but we haven't done a taste-test yet. And next time (yep, there WILL be a next time), I'll use dark corn syrup instead of the light syrup I already had in my cupboard. Maybe you'll try this recipe and tell me if you felt the need to vary it.

Oh, and the picture in People magazine? It sure seems to be a case of photographic trickery with food because this brittle did not turn out dark and syrupy looking. So, I'm not going to include the original photo because I don't want you to be misled into thinking you screwed up the final product; instead, I'll include my own unaltered pic.

Spicy Brittle

✔ 2 cup sugar
✔ ½ cup corn syrup
✔ ¼ cup unsalted butter
✔ 1 tsp. salt
✔ 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
✔ 1 tsp. baking soda
✔ 1 12 oz. jar (or 3 cups) salted, dry-roasted peanuts

Spray a large sheet pan with nonstick baking spray. In a large, heavy stockpot over medium heat, combine the sugar, corn syrup, butter, salt and cayenne pepper. Stir until the sugar dissolves. [Note: it never really dissolved for me.]

Clip a candy thermometer on the side of the pot and boil mixture without stirring until temperature reaches 300°. Immediately remove the pot from the heat. Sprinkle baking soda over the syrup and stir. The contents will bubble vigorously. Stir in the peanuts.

Quickly pour [actually, dump] mixture evenly onto prepared sheet pan. Use a small spatula, sprayed with nonstick baking spray, to spread the brittle in the pan while it's still warm. Cool completely and break into pieces. (Makes about 1½ pounds.)

Buon appetito!

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