Trial-and-error Peanut Brittle


Originally posted 8/23/05:
I have now tried to make peanut brittle twice. The last time I tried it was about 2 years ago; the horror of that experience is the reason behind the lengthy delay. In any case, I'm still not quite "there" with peanut brittle, but here are some lessons I've learned:

1. Don't get impatient waiting for the sugar to melt and turn the heat up to high. This causes the sugar to smoke and catch fire, forcing you to run around the apartment, arms flailing in panic, before finally disconnecting the smoke detector and turning down the heat.

2. But don't turn down the heat too low, or the temperature of the sugar won't be high enough and it'll get too solid before you have a chance to get it out of the pot and onto the baking sheet, leaving you with a pot full of fossilized peanuts in amber.

3. And, for the love of Pete, no matter how tasty the liquid sugar looks, don't taste it. First of all, it's hot and will instantly liquify your taste buds. More importantly, the relatively low temperature of your mouth will rapidly cool the liquid sugar, causing it to almost instantly harden into a cast mold of your teeth which you will be unable to dislodge short of slowly sucking it off, which is really embarrassing when your roommate walks in just then.

4. Keep the heat on the low side when melting the sugar. Too low, and the sugar just forms into crystals. But too hot, and the liquid sugar very rapidly goes from golden to brown, which is fine if you want Carbon Brittle (Now with peanuts!) but not so great if your goal is peanut brittle.

5. A more general lesson: Mark Bittman (of How to Cook Everything) always prescribes about 2/3 of the sugar you actually need for a sweet recipe, tells you to cook said recipe at about 1-2 steps lower heat than is actually needed to cook it, and estimates cooking time by picking a number that seems remotely plausible if you've never cooked it before and have no idea what's involved, but which will become a source of endless comedy when you return to the recipe later.


Kuddos to you Zach! Candy making is something that I even fear to tread (mostly because the burns you sustain are probably the worst short of droping a whole bucket of hot oil). My only advice, and it's not very good at that, is if the recipe doesn't include corn syrup you should put some in anyways (helps the melting without crystalizing process) and wax paper is a gal's best friend.

I feel like Mark Bittman, whose recipe I used, prefers simple over easy; that is, he goes with the recipe that has the fewest ingredients and least steps. In most areas, this is fine, as he's aiming at dabblers in the kitchen. In candy-making, it's problematic as, generally speaking, more ingredients creates a larger margin of error. The recipe here was a very basic sugar + peanuts recipe, whereas most other peanut brittle recipes I see use either water or corn syrup to help smooth the process.

February 2012
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
      1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29      

Contact Zach


Webcomics of Which I am a Fan

Sites I Read Daily: Politics

Sites I Read Daily: Video Gaming

Sites I Read Daily: General Miscellany

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Zach published on August 24, 2005 10:18 PM.

A Sheepish Return was the previous entry in this blog.

A few thoughts on New York is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Powered by Movable Type 5.04