Adam, The Amateur Gourmet, make me laugh. Today, I read and loved his poem about his misadventures with peanut brittle. He ended up with a batch of peanut brittle soup. Now, 500 miles away, I was in my kitchen making brittle as well. Ironically, I was using the very same recipe and it turned out brilliantly. Take a gander at my food porn, baby!
The recipe in question came from Craft of Cooking by Tom Collichio. Adam found it vague and confusing, hence his pan of soup. I had no problems understanding exactly how the recipe should turn out in the end, hence my tasty, hip hugging treat. Was it the recipe or was it the cooks?
Let’s take a look at the recipe:
2 c sugar
¼ pound unsalted butter
6 T corn syrup
¾ pound dry-roasted, salted peanuts
1 ½ t salt
Line a rimmed baking sheet with a non-stick baking pad (or lightly but completely oil the sheet.) Combine sugar, butter, corn syrup and 1 1/3 cups of water in a large pot. Heat over high until the sugar melts and the caramel turns amber. Stir in the baking soda, then remove the pot from the heat and add the peanuts and salt. Mix well, then, using a metal spatula, quickly and evenly spread out the mixture out on the baking sheet. Allow the brittle to cool and harden. Break the brittle into pieces and serve, or store in a covered container.
I think the answer is: a little bit of both.
Unless you have made candy every year since you were a kid, you probably would never understand “Heat over high until the sugar melts and the caramel turns amber.” Most candy recipes give you temperatures and stages, maybe even nice photo illustrations showing what color “amber” is. Shame on the author for assuming that everyone reading the recipe would be clairvoyant.
Now that we’ve taken the recipe to task, let’s look at why an old fat chick got the recipe to work and sexy, young Adam did not.
I shall start with my candy making background. I was a source of slave labor every Christmas when my mother would make candy to give away to the multitudes that descended upon our household during the holidays. Guess whose job it was to watch the caramel while my mother was off punishing my wayward brother? You got it! Somehow, I have a feeling that Adam’s mom never forced him to watch boiling pots of sugar, instead allowing him to run free… to express those creative urges that allow him to amuse us even to this day. Which, of course, explains his remarkable kitchen chops. At least when it comes to peanut brittle.
So some tips to remember when you are looking for recipes that venture into uncharted territory. Read the recipe through twice, maybe even three times. If there are ANY doubts about how the recipe should proceed, look up similar recipes from reliable sources and compare. When tackling something like candy, find a good reference that will give you the basic science behind the process. By educating yourself on how the chemistry works, you increase your chances of success. This doesn’t mean you will not end up with a bowl of peanut brittle soup, but hey – you did your best!
PS. Adam, if you REALLY need that peanut brittle fix, I will be more than glad to send you some of mine!