Doin’ some hard crack

January 15th, 2007

One of the distinct memories I have of Mother is of a conversation I overheard when I was very young. I think the conversation was with Aunt Nita, and I think it took place in the kitchen at the Calvert’s house, but I can’t be sure; all I really remember is the topic: peanut brittle. They talked about how hard it was to get the candy to just the right texture, and how many ways it could go bad. One of the women, and I don’t remember whether it was Momma or Nita, said she just didn’t think she would ever try making it for fear of messing it up. I’ve always loved peanut brittle, and every time I have some I recall that conversation in the back of my mind… although I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to anybody about it.

Late last year I happened to see a video at the New York Times about making candy. One of their food editors showed how to make peanut brittle, and it couldn’t have been easier: Cook a cup (or two) of sugar until it’s fully melted and browning (about 300 degrees, the “hard crack” candy stage). Then throw in peanuts and a pinch of salt; mix it up and pour onto a greased cookie sheet to cool. That’s all there is too it.

Over the Christmas holiday I decided I would put aside that old conversation and make myself some peanut brittle. I started off with a small batch, made from just one cup of sugar. It was pretty good, except I didn’t add enough peanuts and I cooked it too long with the peanuts in it; the candy had a slight burnt-peanut kind of flavor. The second batch I made with two cups of sugar. I added more peanuts and poured the candy onto the cookie sheets as soon as the peanuts were well coated. This batch was near perfect, so I made a third batch and then, after breaking up the candy, packed the peanut brittle into candy tins.

Everybody who tried my peanut brittle liked it, including Dad and Wendy. It’s just about all gone now, and I learned that next time I need to line the candy tin with wax paper instead of paper towels. The last few pieces of candy in each tin are sticking to the paper. I pull it off the best I can and keep eating.

Emboldened by my peanut brittle success, I’ve decided that I’m going to try making more candy; next time it will be another kind of candy I love: English butter toffee, like you find in a Heath or Skor candy bar. Toffee sounds harder to make, so I think this time I’ll buy a candy thermometer (last time I just eyeballed it). And instead of topping it with sliced almonds, I’m thinking of using chopped walnuts or pecans.

I’ll let you know how it turns out.

6 Responses to “Doin’ some hard crack”

  1. Leigh Ann Says:

    Yummy! My brother the Galloping Gourmet!

  2. LeLe Says:

    Your post reminds me of a David Letterman show from years back. Probably 20 years ago. A guest was complaining about his teeth. He went on and on and on… and then Dave offered him some peanut brittle! It was funny. If I remember right, the guest was not amused.

  3. Sue Says:

    ‘LeLe’ didn’t write the above comment, I did.

  4. Jim Says:

    Yeah, that has to be old, because Letterman hasn’t been funny in at least 20 years.

  5. Kay Says:

    You are so talented.

  6. I worked with you at Singer-Link Says:

    I remember making candy with my mom when I was little. You can’t go wrong with the Joy of Cooking.