Who would have thought that peanut brittle would be so easy to make??? It always seemed so much more convenient to buy it instead… But caramelized sugar and nuts are a match made in heaven, and being able to make your own batch at home is a small epiphany of sorts. Peanuts, almonds, macadamias, cashews, etc. all make wonderful brittles and you can even make brittles with some types of seeds such as pumpkin, watermelon, etc. Your main enemy in your quest for brittle brittle is the tropical humidity. But my first attempt yielded delicious results, so read on. I saw a write-up in Gourmet Magazine a couple of years ago about a brittle made by one of the chefs at El Bulli in Spain and it incorporated an interesting twist to the standard procedure of brittle making so I kept it in the back of my mind. Traditionally, one makes brittle by first making a batch of caramelized sugar and when it is nice an amber in color, you drop in the pre-roasted nuts, stir, spread, cook and crack the brittle into pieces.
The traditional method is what is used by the vast majority of brittle makers, to varying results. Some get a stunningly beautiful brittle, with an almost amber or jewel-like feel, others get a sandy, cloudy, chalky, opaque brittle. The key apparently has to do with the type and temperature of the sugar used, the reaction with the nuts and the pace at which it dries. I can’t explain the alchemy…I just know that slight variations to each variable results in dramatic physical attributes to the brittle. In the Philippines, brittles range from “blond ones” of a super thin variety, the color almost too light it would seem (see some Baguio examples), while other brittles are chunky, dark and substantial (see cashew brittle in this post), but often sandy or cloudy in feel. I like a brittle with a nice color, a good sheen, an abundance of nuts and paradoxically, does not taste so incredibly sweet (achieved by taking sugar to the edge of caramelized and bordering on burned).
To make this brittle, I first blitzed (or chop finely) some raw skinless peanuts, about a cup and a half worth. Next, In a heavy bottomed pan, mix 2 cups of white sugar and 1 cup of water and turn the heat up to medium high. Wait until the sugar reaches the “soft ball stage” where a tiny drop into a bowl of cold water turns into a soft ball (or alternatively about 238 degrees F, I think, on a candy thermometer), it will still be clear at this point, NOT yet turning amber. Then add the nuts and stir constantly. Do not fret when the gooey liquid turns into crystallized sugar and nuts and looks like you have a disaster on your hands.
Continue to stir and miraculously, the solid masses de-clump and start to turn an amber color and they do this VERY FAST once it starts… so be CAREFUL. As soon as everything is liquid again and the color of dark amber, transfer it all to a sheet of parchment or baking paper on a large wooden chopping board or a flat counter in your kitchen…
Cover the VERY VERY hot mass of sugar and nuts with another sheet of baking paper and use a rolling pin to flatten the brittle out. I like to make it pretty thin, but other like a thicker brittle. Do this very quickly as the sugar will harden in seconds.
Remove the top sheet of baking paper immediately after rolling (note the sugar strands I have in the photo here), then slice with a pizza cutter as the brittle is cooling.
Let the brittle cool completely and remove the pieces and store in an air tight container. I served the little slivers with tea or with an ice-cream plate with dulce de leche ice cream, dulce de leche and leche flan for serious sugar overload… They were excellent. You must use raw peanuts for this recipe as roasted ones will burn.