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Good Eats Peanut Brittle

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There are many ways of making peanut brittle at home. Most are easy, but no recipe is as simple as the one presented by Alton Brown on his show Good Eats (episode The Trick to Treats). I decided to try this recipe and see how it compares to others.

I can't eat too much peanut brittle at one time, so I decided to halve the recipe that Alton presents on his show. Alton started with lightly salted, roasted peanuts. I had blanched peanuts in my pantry, so I started by lightly toasting them in a small pan. Raw, blanched, or roasted are all good in brittle. If you've got raw or blanched, you can optionally follow this step to bring out a little bit of the toasted flavors. If you've got roasted peanuts, then skip ahead to ingredient assembly. Over medium heat, I kept the peanuts (3/4 cup) constantly moving and tossing them every ten seconds or so. This keeps the peanuts from burning while the heat is developing and concentrating the peanut flavors and smells. As the peanuts start to change color, I threw in a pinch of table salt (kosher grains are a bit large for peanuts). My constant tossing incorporated the salt evenly and when the peanuts became a light yellow with dark brown spots, I removed them from the heat into a medium bowl.


Along with the 3/4 cup peanuts, I assembled 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, 1-1/2 cup granulated sugar, and 3/4 cup water. That's all - it's the shortest ingredient list for any peanut brittle recipe that I'm familiar with.


I mixed the peanuts with cinnamon and cayenne pepper by tossing a couple times in the medium bowl. I was glad to see Alton Brown adding cayenne pepper to his peanut brittle. A bit of spiciness in sweets helps to heighten the flavors and punch of the other spices (like the cinnamon in this case). This is a "trick" well known to chocolatiers and made famous by the movie Chocolat.


Over on the stove, I combined the water and sugar in a saucepan. I used a nonstick saucepan, but if you're using a traditional pan, then you'll want to rub the interior surface of the pan down with vegetable oil. Over medium-high heat, I dissolved the sugar into the water and brought it to a boil. At this point, I deviated slightly from Mr. Brown and added about a tablespoon of corn syrup to prevent unwanted crystalization.


While the syrup was coming to a boil, I prepared a half sheet pan by dropping a Silpat baking sheet onto the pan. Silpat is probably the most popular brand for non-stick baking mats made by coating weaved fiberglass with a layer of food safe silicone. The sheets are reusable, easy to clean, durable, temperature resistant, and really, really non-stick. I find them invaluable for not just making pastries (the main use for silicone baking mats), but also for working dough, making oven baked steak fries, and of course, working with melted sugar. If you don't have a silicone baking sheet, just use parchment paper - but, I'd grease it with a lot of butter to ensure nothing will stikc (sugar is really sticky).

Once the syrup starts to boil vigorously, I tried out Alton's tip to cover the pot for three minutes to allow steam to collect and water to stream down the sides of the pan (to clean off any sugar on the sides of the pan). After the three minutes, I noticed that water had streamed back down, but not evenly. The pan was indeed cleaner, but not so much that I thought the step was useful, especially in light of what happens over the next ten minutes. As the water boiled off and the sugars started to heat up, additional sugar droplets were splattered onto the sides of the pan by the little bursting bubbles. Oh, well. When the sugar turns a light amber color (if you're using a candy thermometer, look for 350°F; like Alton, I eyeball most of my candies), we're ready to introduce the peanuts.


Working quickly, I used a wooden spoon to mix in the peanuts and spices. It's important to work fast (and sure) from this point on because the syrup is rapidly cooling. While you are stirring, the syrup will foam up, but the high sides of your saucepan will save you from a mess.


After the peanuts have been stirred in, I poured the syrup onto a silpat sheet. Syrup will flow out from the peanuts, so just use a silicone spatula or the wooden spoon to fold the excess sugar back onto the peanuts. As it thickens it won't flow anymore. At the same time, I used a silicone spatula (or back of wooden spoon) to press the peanuts down flat so you only have a single layer.


After the brittle cooled (about thirty minutes), I wrapped it in plastic wrap and broke it into 1-1/2 to 2 inch pieces with my hands. I them placed them in air tight container and brought them to work.



I found that the brittle was indeed simple to make and tasted quite good, but wasn't as light as some other recipes. Several recipes use baking soda (or a combination of tartaric acid with baking soda) to provide some additional lift to the syrup after cooking. This produces a lighter, crispier brittle. Another common practice is to preheat the baking pan (with silicone mat) to about 200°F so the syrup continues to flow, producing a thinner, lighter brittle.


Good Eats Peanut Brittle (makes about 30 pieces)
3/4 cup (105 g) peanutscombinemix quicklypour onto silicone sheetflatten, cool, break
1/4 tsp. (0.6 g) cinnamon
1/4 tsp. (0.5 g) cayenne pepper
1-1/2 cup (300 g)granulated sugarcombineboil until amber
3/4 cup (180 mL)water
Copyright Michael Chu 2004
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Written by Michael Chu
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31 comments on Good Eats Peanut Brittle:(Post a comment)

On March 12, 2006 at 07:29 PM, an anonymous reader said...
A good way to take care of the crystals that form on the side of the walls of the pan is this: Keep a little bowl of water with your pastry brush in it. Instead of covering the pan (which most of the times means the water that drips down the walls through condensation is never even) every now and again just brush the TOP of the sides of the pans with the brush. The water that drips down is enough to solve the crystallisation problem. It's quick and easy and adaptable.


On March 12, 2006 at 07:30 PM, spottiswoode (guest) said...
Peanut brittle is a v common snack with Indoniesians. You can also get it in Singapore, and it is usually comes with seseame seeds too. A very yummy snack!


On March 12, 2006 at 07:30 PM, an anonymous reader said...
You might also try rough chopping the nuts. Halfs or quarters work great, and lets you have a thinner, denser brittle.


On March 12, 2006 at 07:31 PM, Iced Nyior (guest) said...
Its a common snack in Malaysia too. And we also have a similar snack that is soft and chewy. It tastes great with sesame seeds. Goin to try this recipe soon. Can i omit the pepper?


On March 12, 2006 at 07:31 PM, Michael Chu said...
Yes, the pepper can be safely omitted. It heightens the cinnamon flavor, but is not necessary.


On March 12, 2006 at 07:31 PM, Chuck (guest) said...
I used to be one of the professional chocolatiers you mentioned, though I just called myself a candy man. We avoided crystallization, as well, by brusing down the sides of our kettle with a brush and some nice clean water. I saw the same Good Eats episode and tried Alton's lemon-lime jelly candies. I thought they were way too rubbery.


On March 12, 2006 at 07:31 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Because of the suggestions I added 65 grams of sesame seeds (no other changes), tastes great, very crunchy. I would definitely miss them, maybe you can go as high as 100 grams extra. It sets very quickly, so be sure to just turn it once or twice and pour.


On March 12, 2006 at 07:32 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Far easier recipies exist to make peanut brittle, using a microwave and karo syrup instead of the stove. Search on "Microwave Peanut Brittle" on google or the like.


On March 12, 2006 at 07:32 PM, an anonymous reader said...
So...it was a nice fall day. I decided to do something fall-y and try to make peanut brittle. I'd seen Alton Brown make a delicious-looking batch a few days ago on his Food Network show, Good Eats, so I printed his recipe from their website. Looked simple enough, and the recipe was rated only medium difficulty. His recipe called for 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. On his show he said it "balanced the sweetness" or something, so I figured I'd give it a try. It took me 15 minutes of looking at the spices in the grocery store to find out that it's called a generic "Red Pepper" with a tiny little Cayenne on the label. Grrrr. Anyway, got home, got my sugar and water boiling and waited for it to turn a "light amber" color. Alton doesn't use candy thermometers. From now on, I will. When it looked a light amber-ish color, I mixed in the peanuts and poured it out onto the prepared, Alton-advised buttered wax paper. Within seconds I could see the nice peanut brittle brown color change to a waxy-looking white. Uh-oh. Went to sugar. Oh well, I thought. Sugar is sugar. Still edible. I broke (well, more like crumbled) a little chunk off the corner and tasted. And then ran for the fridge for water. A half teaspoon of red pepper suddenly seems like so much! I mean...candy that can burn your tastebuds off?! Bad idea. But my roommate likes spicy, so I broke off a chunk for him. But alas, Alton's ingenious advice to spread boiling hot candy onto buttered waxed paper failed miserably. (Noticing a pattern here, Alton?) The wax had melted away and into the candy, and the waxed paper could not be removed. At least not without a microscope, a pair of tweezers, and a lot of time and patience. So the whole batch went into the garbage, along with my hopes and dreams. So I'm searching for Alton Brown's email (he can expect a very strongly worded letter from me!) along with a better recipe for peanut brittle.


On March 13, 2006 at 01:20 AM, transiit said...
Subject: Clarifications
Anonymous wrote:
Good Eats, so I printed his recipe from their website.


First problem. The foodtv website only includes the recipes, and not nearly enough of the explanation. http://www.goodeatsfanpage.com/ publishes the full transcripts of each show, which is probably better.

Anonymous wrote:
Alton doesn't use candy thermometers. From now on, I will.


Mr. Brown also has more experience than you cooking this stuff. Using a thermometer is hardly a crutch, and probably a really good idea if you're starting out (even if it's just the first time you try a recipe.)

Anonymous wrote:
Alton-advised buttered wax paper.

Did he recommend wax paper or parchment paper? They aren't the same.
See here for an explanation of the two: http://www.baking911.com/pantry/list_kitchenstuff2.htm

Anonymous wrote:
Within seconds I could see the nice peanut brittle brown color change to a waxy-looking white. Uh-oh. Went to sugar. Oh well, I thought. Sugar is sugar.

Sounds like your sugar hadn't fully dissolved. Good chance a couple lingering crystals in there acted as a seed crystal, and the super-saturated sugar solution (woo! alliteration!) instantly crystallized on you. This is specificially the reason why Mr. Chu added corn syrup to his batch. It's a different type of sugar (fructose, I believe), and the incompatibilities in molecular shape help reduce the likelihood of all that sucrose lining up in the crystalline form it wants to.

Anonymous wrote:
But alas, Alton's ingenious advice to spread boiling hot candy onto buttered waxed paper failed miserably. (Noticing a pattern here, Alton?) The wax had melted away and into the candy, and the waxed paper could not be removed.


Again, this is why you should stick with parchment paper (no wax) or a silpat mat.

Anonymous wrote:
So I'm searching for Alton Brown's email (he can expect a very strongly worded letter from me!) along with a better recipe for peanut brittle.


I don't think it's public anymore. He used to have a contact form on his site, but that disappeared a few months ago.

-transiit


On November 04, 2006 at 05:10 PM, megsambit said...
I too tried the recipe out (in its original form) and ruined it. But to be honest, I didn't expect it to work on my first go-around. A little while after I removed the lid, I started noticing a little crystallization around the perimeter of the pan. I assume that was what ruined me, though it probably didn't help that I don't think my candy was really dark enough yet. It's pretty pale. Next time, I will try the pastry brush trick. I may not have made a brittle, but I still think it's delicious. And for the cost of more peanuts, I might as well try it until I get it right. :)


On November 11, 2006 at 03:17 AM, megsambit said...
Update: I tried this recipe once again, but this time, I used the pastry-brush trick. It worked! Ah, the sweet, spicy, and sometimes cough-inducing taste of success...


On December 12, 2006 at 05:04 PM, Kartiq (guest) said...
Subject: Try raw sugar/jaggery/panela
Peanut brittle in India is made with jaggery/raw sugar/panela, whatever you may call it.

It makes the brittle lighter and imparts an earthy/nutty flavour that makes it much more tastier! Though I think setting points for raw sugar will be different than with refined sugar.


On December 28, 2006 at 05:31 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Correction and notes
Recipe Correction: Add peanuts at 250 degrees F, not 350 degrees F. Also, you want to stop at 300-310 degrees F (Also called the Hard Crack).


On January 16, 2007 at 02:46 AM, Rusty (guest) said...
Subject: Microwave Peanut Brittle
This is a fast and easy way to make Peanut Brittle.

Microwave Peanut Brittle

1 cup granulated sugar
6 Tbs light corn syrup
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup raw, shelled peanuts

1 Tbs butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp baking soda


Spray cooking oil on a 9 x 12-inch cookie sheet. Set aside until needed.

Place sugar, corn syrup, salt and peanuts in a 4-cup pyrex measuring cup. Mix well with wooden spoon.

Microwave 4-minutes at 60% power.

Stir well.

Microwave 4-more minutes at 60% power.

Stir in butter and vanilla.

Microwave 1-minute at 60% power.

Add baking soda. Stir until mixture foams.

Pour onto cookie sheet and spread evenly over sheet.

When cool, break into pieces.


Recipe is for 1500-watt , turntable microwave. For 750-watt microwave, use same cooking times, but 100% power.


For easy clean up, soak measuring cup and wooden spoon in warm water. Stuck on sugar disolves after a few minutes.


On September 28, 2007 at 11:47 PM, an anonymous reader said...
I made this recipe following the show transcript and the wonderful above description, and it turned out great. I couldn't taste any actual heat from the pepper, but it did seem to have "something" that would have been missing had I omitted it.

To the above poster who's angry with Alton: Perhaps you shouldn't be so quick to blame the recipe when things don't turn out correctly?


On October 24, 2007 at 02:49 AM, lvtybug (guest) said...
Subject: OH MY GOSH I DID IT!!!!
WOW!!! OMG! I did it. Im in college and saw the show and wanted to try it. I had all the ingredients in my house. The only thing i didn't have was the cool cooking utensils, but i had my imagination and determination. AND IT WORKED!!! I didn't use the fancy plastic baking sheet. I used aluminum foil and smothered it in vegy oil, and i didn't have a silicone spatula but i had a metal spoon. And i did it....of course i over cooked the sugar the first time but 15 minutes after i dumped the bad batch in the back of my apartment, I had the real thing beautifully cooling in front of me. I feel awesome!!!
Good luck to all those beginners out there. You can do it!!


On October 24, 2007 at 03:16 AM, Mattjjd (guest) said...
Subject: alton brown peanut brittle
I did it 3 times and every single time it crystalized. Thats a lot of sugar, nuts, adn TIME to be wasting. I love alton, but I'm never trying this without corn syrup again.


On January 30, 2008 at 06:45 PM, sfwmson (guest) said...
Subject: About washing the sides...
The very easiest way to avoid the spattered side issue is to spray the coking vessel with pan spray before you begin the process...it doesn't change the outcome.

Seems to me to cover the pan is to add water to the mixture and therefore increase the cooking time you have to boil away the water to begin with.

If you don't have silicon tools, just spray the spoon or spatula you do have with pan spray before you spread out your brittle...you may want to have a couple ready to go because it will begin to stick to the first one.


On February 15, 2008 at 12:09 AM, goober '08 (guest) said...
Subject: Don't forget to leave the skins on
There's a lot of flavor in the skins of the peanuts (and it's a different flavor), which is where the antioxidants are.


On August 14, 2008 at 06:06 PM, Ryan (guest) said...
this is very similar to what we call Chikki ...a sweet treat in western india...readily available in Bombay/Mumbai...and also in indian stores here in the US...u can use jaggery...other kinds of sugar...or even some honey to mix in the syrup...for the nuts u can use cashews, almonds, seasme seeds instead or in combination with peanuts...u could try experimenting with different layers of thickness...and even try a mould that would make it look more like a hersheys bar...easier to break off without creating too many crumbles


On December 14, 2008 at 11:28 PM, Helen (guest) said...
Subject: Mark Bittman Video
LOVE this site! Just wanted to share that Mark Bittman in his Minimalist Gourmet column at New York Times website has a video where he makes peanut brittle. It was so devastatingly simple that I was inspired to try it even though I'd never made any kind of candy before. And it came out PERFECT! He just put sugar in a pan and heated it slowly till it melted (I used his "cheat" tip of adding a couple TBS water) and reached the desired color, then stirred in an equal amount of salted peanuts and poured it out on an ungreased cookie sheet to cool. I was amazed that this was so easy...which inspired me to make his caramel walnut tart for Thanksgiving (he has a video for this too) which was equally simple and really delicious. I'm planning to make your english toffee recipe next (for Christmas). I've discovered a whole new world of sweet treats! Thanks again for this wonderful site.


On December 21, 2008 at 04:42 AM, LizzyRoux (guest) said...
Subject: BRITTLE~TEMP
Sorry, but 350 for a brittle is way to much!

Brittle should not go past 300, and in most times it is best taken off the fire at 295!


8|


On December 23, 2008 at 03:26 PM, Brittle Lover (guest) said...
Subject: Peanut Brittle
FYI...If you just can't make it yourself Found a good site for all kinds of peanut brittle

www.brittlekitchen.com


On January 03, 2009 at 03:03 AM, tangela (guest) said...
This is unrelated to the peanut brittle discussion, but I think there's a typo in the second paragraph:

"Raw, blanched, or roasted all all good in brittle."

On a candy-related note, while I've been tempted by AB's recipe, I will probably try Bittman's instead. Since it doesn't take a lot of time and effort I'll be less disappointed if [when?] it fails / I mess up.


On January 03, 2009 at 05:48 AM, Michael Chu said...
tangela wrote:
This is unrelated to the peanut brittle discussion, but I think there's a typo in the second paragraph:

"Raw, blanched, or roasted all all good in brittle."

Thanks for the catch - I just fixed it.


On February 27, 2009 at 10:18 PM, Doc (guest) said...
Subject: Peanut Brittle with Erythritol
Has anyone made peanut brittle using a combination of erythritol and Splenda? I have been successful one time without it crystallizing, but not since then. Erythritol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol (found in pears) that will brown nicely at higher temperatures, hence offering an option for folks who must severely limit their sugar intake. Any suggestions would be appreciated.


On June 28, 2010 at 06:25 AM, ChefJoe (guest) said...
Subject: Indian spicy red chile pwder
I used Spicy Red Chile Powder that I purchased at a local Indian/Pakistani grocery store instead of the cayene pepper. It adds more flavor instead of just heat. It also opens up the cinamon and carmel flavor. As the brittle cools sprinkle coarse kosher salt evenly across. This is substituted for salting the peanuts. Salt is key with sweet items, think of pretzels and ice cream, It intensifies sweets. If you haven't visited one of these Indian grocery stores you should def put it on the list. You can find great spices for REALLY CHEAP! The quality of the spices is also very high compared to common supermarket brands like McCormics or Spice Islands.


On December 16, 2010 at 04:00 AM, candy lady (guest) said...
Subject: Better recipe.
I have been making peanut brittle now for holiday gifts. Did two batches today, and 1 last week. I have a great recipe (I've tried a few others, some that looked more similar to Alton's). It does use baking soda, but the result is a non-clear candy coating with lots of intrinsic peanut flavor as the nuts are mixed with the candy as it heats. First time I tried it (without seeing the recipe), I thought that peanut butter was somehow incorporated. This recipe is also pretty easy because of the water and corn syrup added that make it slower to carmelize at first (the sugar doesn't get super hot without first evaporating the water). Never had an issue with crystallization. I'm sure spices could easily be added either when adding the butter & peanuts, or at the end, instead of the vanilla.

Here it is:
Set aside in a small bowl:
1.5 tsp baking soda
1 tsp water
1 tsp. vanilla
Set aside in another bowl:
1 lb. peanuts (I use roasted, salted, blanched)
3 tbsp. butter
Heat in a large, tall saucepan:
1 c. water
1 c. light corn syrup
1.5 c. sugar
Cook sugar, water, & corn syrup until temp reaches 140 F. on candy thermometer. The rapid bowl will have slowed a bit at this point. Hint of caramel color beginning.
Add peanuts and butter, and stir vigorously & continuously so it does not burn. Heat until temp reaches 300 F. I wear oven mitts to prevent bubbling sugar burns. Candy mixture will be foamy. When approaching temperature, color will be a medium light caramel. The mixture will look sticky, slightly stringy, and start to pull away from sides of the pot near the top of the mixture.
Take off heat, add soda/water/vanilla. Stir very vigorously, & be careful of it foaming. Spread in large buttered metal baking pan (no parchment/wax/silpat needed). Spread as thin as possible, about 1/4 inch.
Let cool until center of pan is no longer warm. To get out of pan, slightly flex metal pan, and candy will pop free.
Delicious.


On November 30, 2012 at 05:34 PM, sewgalsis (guest) said...
Subject: penut brittle
I hate to call names, but watch me do it! READ the recipe, to those whom the name doofus fits. It is not waxed paper, it is not parchment paper, it is a silpat sheet. It is not 1/2 t. red pepper, it 1/4. So there. personally, I like the texture soda gives to a brittle recipe, not the dense texture in this recipe.


On December 19, 2012 at 07:32 PM, Mjames said...
I followed the Joy of Cooking recipe for peanut brittle using a large can of Planters, brought it to just under crack stage (I was running out of time and had to leave the house), so I poured it into a Pyrex dish and put it outside in the cold. I brought it in later and was disappointed it was like hard taffy, so I put it in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes and then let it rest again outside. It set perfectly. Beginner's luck probably.

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