Hello, everyone. Many of us are doing our part to stay at home, during this trying time, and it kind of sounds like a lot of us are bored.
I think that making brittle would be a good use of our time, don't you? It would satisfy the "busy hands"* and "sugar craving" requirements. When Christmas rolls around, you'll also have a new skill and can whip this recipe up for gifts.
After some trial and error, I ended up adapting a recipe from the 1966 edition of Better Homes and Garden’s Cookies and Candies cookbook. The adaptations were needed because I switched up several ingredients and found that I needed to make some practical changes.
Interestingly, many candy recipes on the Internet do not utilize candy thermometers, relying instead of cooking times. While I think that an experienced candy maker may be able to sense a correct color, or texture, I rely on my candy thermometer for best results.
I also use a heavy aluminum pan for candy making (brand: “Update”). While I love my Revere Ware, the aluminum pan fares much better with sugar and high heat, and I don’t have to scrub off burned candy.
My equipment list:
Three-quart aluminum or heavy saucepan
Heavy-duty oven mitt or “Ove glove” (pan handles are very hot, and the Ove glove is part Kevlar. Kevlar. Wow.)
Two large cookie sheets with sides
Racks for cooling cookie sheets
A helper, if you have one, for spreading the mixture, once you get it ready to pour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup corn syrup
½ cup water
1 cup butter, plus extra for buttering cookie sheets (A word about butter in candy making: You can substitute margarine, but I think butter tastes better. If you are going to all the work of making your own candy, there is no sense in using inferior ingredients.)
2 cups nuts (the original recipe called for peanuts, but a friend sent me a bag of macadamia nuts, so I'm using those. I gave them a rough chop (see photo).
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon real vanilla
Butter the cookie sheets. I don’t skimp on the butter, which makes the candy easy to remove and the cookie sheet much easier to wash, later.
Chop nuts, if using macadamia or larger nuts.
Don apron. If candy splashes, it is very hot, and you don’t want to risk a burn.
Combine the sugar, corn syrup, water, and vanilla in saucepan. On medium-high heat, stir until sugar dissolves (no “grit”).
When it reaches a boil, add the butter. Stir frequently until the mixture reaches 230.
Add the nuts when the temperature gets to 280.
Keep stirring until the temperatures reaches 305.
Remove from stove. Quickly, stir in the baking soda and mix thoroughly. Pour half onto first cookie sheet and the remaining half onto the other. Pick up the cookie sheet carefully and spread the mixture onto the entire sheet. This is when it’s nice to have a helper, since you are working with two sheets.
When you have the cookie sheets covered with candy, place on cooling racks.
I made the mistake, initially, of making this candy on a warm, humid day. The brittle would not set up. However, putting it into the refrigerator did the trick. Just a half-hour later, it was hard.
Once the brittle has hardened, take a spoon and bang the edge on the brittle, breaking it into pieces.
Store in tins, or plastic, lidded containers, with waxed paper separating the layers. A recipe makes about 2.5 pounds, which is a lot of candy. I found that I had plenty for a gift, and extra for the neighbors.
This method works with a variety of nuts, even though peanuts are traditional. Macadamia nuts are very buttery and were especially tasty.
*A former boss of mine, P. Horgan, used to enjoy these quotes, "Busy hands are happy hands" and "An idle mind is the devil's playground." Funny guy, but good advice.