I only ever think about peanut brittle around the winter holidays. I don't know why, it would be delicious all year round. There's just something about peanut brittle that says Christmas to me. The same is true for fudge, congo squares, Ritz crackers and peanut butter sandwiched together and dipped in chocolate, spiced nuts, peanut blossom cookies and cheese balls. I tend to gain about 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day every year because of all of the food that I only make around this time of year. Perhaps, if I were to make these "holiday treats" more often throughout the year, I wouldn't put on holiday weight. But alas, I'll never know. Traditions are traditions and I think I'll keep mine.
I was sitting at home after volunteering at my kids' school in the morning and it hit me that I had forgotten to get any kind of Christmas gifts for the kids' teachers. Peanut brittle automatically came to mind. Who doesn't love the crunchy, caramel-y candy studded with salty peanuts? I don't know of a singe person. And I remembered that I made a killer batch of the confection a couple years ago about which my friends raved. That's what I would make for the teachers this year.
You'd be surprised just how easy it is to make your own peanut brittle. I made two batches, one with peanuts and one with almonds, in about an hour. I used two different recipes and I like the way the peanut brittle turned out better than the batch with almonds. The peanut recipe was the one every one loved a couple years ago. So that's the one I'll post. I think this recipe would be really good with cashews or almonds too.
Christmas-time Peanut Brittle
2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup water
2 cups peanuts (or cashews or almonds)
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter
2 tsp baking soda
Sea salt (optional)
Butter the bottom and sides of a half-sheet baking pan. Set aside.
Combine sugar, syrup and water in heavy 3 quart pot. Bring to boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves and add salt. Once the mixture reaches a boil, DO NOT STIR until you add the peanuts. Boil until mixture reaches 250 degrees on a candy thermometer, add peanuts.. Continue cooking, stirring often to keep the peanuts from burning, until it reaches hard crack stage, about 300-305 degrees. Remove from heat. stir in butter and baking soda. It will sputter and foam up a lot, but will settle down fairly quickly.
Pour the mixture onto the buttered pan and spread it out. (This would be a great time to add some sea salt if you want a little extra saltiness. Just a suggestion.) Let it cool to room temperature. Break into large pieces. Store in an air-tight container or zip-top bag.
This can also be dipped in chocolate, like toffee. It would probably disappear even faster that way though. Without chocolate, it should keep for a couple months if kept away from moisture, not that it's ever lasted that long at my house.