Let’s Make Candy: Peanut Brittle

When we held the estate sale of our parent’s home, one item that we didn’t sell was my mother’s heavy marble slab that she used for making candy. She made the best Peanut Brittle every year at the Christmas holiday season. I kept the marble slab and recently located her Peanut Brittle recipe. Here’s my attempt to duplicate it.

I have vivid memories of making this candy in years past in the cold winter season in Virginia. It’s funny how some memories stick with you. Don’t know why. This one just did. My mother’s peanut brittle is not too sweet; it is not grainy. It is very hard and brittle as the name implies. The peanuts give the caramelized sugar candy a nice crunch and flavor. It is irresistible. This batch cooked a little too long; it’s still good.

Candy Cooking Technique

The technique to making candy is not simple. It does take practice and I made several batches to get it right. Here are a couple of tips.

  • Marble Slab.  Why use a marble slab when making peanut brittle and candy? Peanut brittle is sugar and water which is cooked to a very, very high temperature and caramelized to make the candy. You need a hard, flat surface to pour the molten liquid candy onto so it will spread out and not burn the counter or warp a baking pan. A marble slab is perfect. Mom’s was always kept underneath a kitchen counter — for 50 years or so — always ready for Christmas candy.

  • Use a candy thermometer. Temperature of the is most critical element when making candy. It is imperative to know the temperature because as the sugar and water cook, the sugar becomes super-concentrated and this raises the temperature of the candy above the boiling point. Sort of a chemistry lab. Do you want soft and pliable candy (as in caramels) or solid candy (as in pralines) or a hard and brittle candy? You must cook the sugar and water concoction to the correct temperature and then take the candy off the stove to get the right hardness.

I’ve worn out many thermometers. Now I am trying a digital one. Here we are getting started. This thermometer has a grasp so you can attach it to the side of the pot without the probe slipping to the bottom of the pot. It is easy to read the temperature on the display without moving the thermometer around.

  • Watch what you are doing. Peanut brittle candy is cooked to the “hard crack” stage of 300 degrees Fahrenheit (or 149 – 154 degrees Celsius). That’s a very high temperature. This can take 20 to 30 minutes. At first the temperature rises slowly, then as you approach 300 degrees the heat/temperature shoots up quickly.  You much watch the stove closely during this process.
  • Don’t stir the candy while it is cooking. This will cause “seeding” which will result in large sugar crystals and very grainy candy.  Just let the sugar solution boil away in a heavy pot on medium high heat.

Peanut Brittle Recipe

Here we are ready to get started. The main ingredients for my Peanut Brittle are sugar, water and corn syrup. These are cooked on the stove to make the caramelized brittle. My mother used to purchase raw peanuts in bulk from a broker on the eastern coast of Virginia. Since I didn’t have raw peanuts, I substituted dry roasted peanuts and added them at the end of the cooking process. 

Let the sugar, water and corn syrup gently boil on the stove on medium high. Use a heavy pot. After all the sugar and corn syrup is dissolved, DON”T STIR. Patiently watch closely. It’s hard to believe that the solution will actually increase to 300 degrees; but it will. At 300 degrees Fahrenheit quickly remove the pot from the heat, add the dry roasted peanuts, baking soda, salt, vanilla and butter and stir. This brittle cooked a little too long; slightly over 300 degrees..

Immediately pour onto the lightly oiled marble slab.

I took this batch of brittle off the stove at 296 degrees. See the difference.

When the brittle it cools just a bit so that it can be handled; butter your fingers or dip fingers in cold water and turn the candy over. Pull with your fingers to stretch the candy out into a manageable layer. That was always the exciting part for a little girl– stretching the molten candy out while it was still pliable. Before it cools entirely, snap into small pieces.

Try not to eat it all yourself. Peanut butter makes a great present.

With a some practice of several batches, my candy turned out well. Guess I didn’t forget everything from my childhood. These are memories to treasure and share.

Peanut Brittle from Hazel Heisey

  • Servings: about 2 cups
  • Difficulty: hard
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  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup raw (unblanched) peanuts (may substitute dry roasted peanuts if raw peanuts are not available)
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp soda

Method and Steps

  1. Cook sugar, syrup and water to soft ball stage (113 – 116 degrees Celsius or 235 degrees Fahrenheit). Add unblanched peanuts. (NOTE: if using dry roasted peanuts, add in step #3.)
  2. Continue cooking until syrup is light brown and give hard crack test (149 – 154 degrees Celsius or 300 degrees Fahrenheit). Remove from stove.
  3. Add salt, butter, vanilla and soda. Mix ingredients well. (Add dry roasted peanuts here.) Pour onto an oiled sheet of marble. Wet hands in cold water and turn candy over stretching to desired thickness.
  4. Cut into squares or break into pieces.

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