Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Peanut Brittle - Is It Cheating to Make It in The Microwave?
I have friends who, without hesitation, will say that I am a bit of a type-A personality. I love organization and order. I love precision and will happily work to a high standard. That can imply that I HAVE to do things the RIGHT way. But in the kitchen, going with traditional methods at every turn is not one of my mantras.
For me, as long as I have a reasonable handle on the science, taking short-cuts or using time saving equipment can usually get me the same result as going the 'long' way.
When I tweeted out yesterday that I was knee-deep in my annual peanut brittle production, I let it slip that it was dead easy when you use the microwave. Well it appears that Jonathan Viau, aka @bigheartchef, decided to call me on my culinary heresy and shouted back "Cop out!" Lovingly, of course.
So why would I turn against my species and use a microwave for a candy that is so temperature sensitive? Well, because I do find it easier to push out the volume. I make each batch 1 1/2 pounds at a time. I find this most manageable. As a result, I made 8 batches reasonably quickly. (12 pounds of peanutty goodness to gift to family and friends!) I use my two 10-cup Pyrex bowls, cleaning one while the other was in service. Most importantly, I don't need to be at the pot for the full duration of the heating process, stirring away, waiting to hit 250ºF to put in the peanuts and then 300ºF for completion.
What I do need to know is that the sugar and corn syrup needs to be heated in the end to the 'hard crack' stage for candy, which is 300ºF. And I need to know that I am looking for a light amber colour on the sugar when it is heated. The baking soda will give it a light, crunchy texture and it will also give it colour. The vanilla will also darken it a bit. The vanilla and butter add flavour. Once I have poured my brittle out onto a well buttered pan, I tip the pan to have it spread and I will bang the pan as well to release any big bubbles that may have formed from the baking soda. If you like a very thin brittle, consider spreading or 'stretching' it with two forks pulling in opposite directions.
I use a silicon spatula to do my stirring. I also make sure everything is pre-measured before I begin as it all moves very quickly. Important to note, my microwave throws out 900 watts of power and based on this I was able to determine my times for each stage of the process. If you have a microwave with less power, you will need to increase the cooking times.
I have made peanut brittle the 'candy thermometer in pot' way but I do think making peanut brittle in the microwave is dead easy. If you do want to make peanut brittle and want to go the route of using a candy thermometer on the stove-top, you will find similar recipes that will have one additional ingredient - water. It helps the sugar melt evenly and by the time it is up to temperature, it will have almost all evaporated.
Now on to the recipe.
Microwave Peanut Brittle
1 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups peanuts
2 tsp butter
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
In 10-cup Pyrex bowl combine sugar and corn syrup; stir. Cook at HIGH for 4 minutes. Stir, then add peanuts; stir well. Cook at HIGH for an additional 3 minutes; stir, add butter and vanilla, stir well. Cook at HIGH 1 1/4 minutes. Add baking soda; stir gently until light and foamy. Immediately pour mixture onto well buttered cookie sheet. Spread thinly. Cool completely; break into small pieces.