Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Salted Peanut Brittle

Don't be scared (like I was, at first) by the thought of sticky sugar disasters. This recipe is a lot easier than you think, I promise. 

I've tried my hand at many different sweets in the past, to varying degrees of success, but this, I think, I've nailed. It's taken a while though *flashbacks to horror stories of burnt, bitter sugar lumps and caramel welded onto saucepans* but, if you're patient and sensible, you can crack this too (no pun intended). Best part is, you don't even need a sugar thermometer! 

This brittle makes a wonderful gift, and is extremely easy to make in large quantities. It's my Nan's favourite, and the gift I give to her for Christmas and Birthdays, and she raves about it for weeks! This sugary-salty treat is great for people (like her) who aren't that into chocolate, and even for those without much of a sweet tooth, as the salted nuts balance out the toffee taste well. It takes less than 10 minutes to make from start to finish, and uses only two ingredients, which you most likely have lying around your kitchen anyway. All you need apart from sugar and nuts is a good eye!

You can, of course, use any kind of nut you want, salted or unsalted, but as I say, the salt provides a wonderful contrast to the crisp caramel. Alternatively, you could use a different kind of nut and sprinkle the surface with sea salt when still warm, which I imagine would look very fancy.

wipe down the sides of the pan with a damp brush to avoid crystalising 

Salted Peanut Brittle
200g caster sugar
200g salted peanuts (or any kind of nut)

1. In a stainless steel pan (a pan that's silver in colour will make it MUCH easier to see what stage and colour the caramel is at, which is key), gently heat the sugar, swirling the pan often to avoid sticking. 
2. At first, the very edges of the sugar will start to melt and bubble a little, keep swirling the pan, moving uncooked sugar out to the edges. DO NOT STIR!! Stirring will cause the sugar to crystalise and you'll have to start over. Once again. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES STIR THE SUGAR. Just swirl it, baby. Wipe down the sides of the pan with a dampened pastry or silicon brush to avoid crystalising or burning.
3. After a while the melted sugar will start to darken. At first to a light honey colour, then slightly darker, until you get a lovely caramel tone. This will happen slowly at first, but will speed up as the sugar continues to heat up. You still may well have some bits of unmelted sugar in the middle, and possibly some lumps. Still don't be tempted to stir, just tilt the pan until they fall to the outer edge and put the pan back on the heat, they'll melt soon enough. Work over a low-medium heat to ensure your sugar cooks evenly, and bits don't burn before others have a chance to melt.
4. Once all your sugar is melted you'll be left with a lovely pan of caramel. Here's where it gets serious. Keep the pan over the heat until the mixture reaches a very dark golden colour (see pics). Leave your sugar a moment too long and you'll end up with a burnt bitter mess, take it off too soon and it won't set. Use your judgement, my advice would be, let it go a tad darker than you think it needs to go, but you definitely don't want it to be brown, and much less black! Swirl occasionally to avoid burning.
5. Once your caramel has reached the right colour, remove the pan from the heat immediately and stir in the nuts. Work quickly, as the sugar will continue to cook and darken, you don't want it to burn! Once all the nuts are stirred in, pour the mix onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof, non stick paper, or a silicon mat. Please don't use foil, you'll never be able to get your brittle off if you do.
6. Let the brittle cool completely and break into shards once fully set. Store wrapped in more greaseproof paper in an airtight tin or box (if you don't the sugar will begin to melt again after a few days in the air).

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