Breaking brittle: Trotsky candyland


When I lived in Iceland, I was more inclined to be experimental in everything I did. I expanded my baking horizons but also dabbled in candy making, which is a fairly basic enterprise but requires patience more than anything. The desire to see the transformative magic of chemistry happen faster leads one to do stupid things like raise the temperature on the stove too high. The desire not to stand at the stove stirring a slowly changing sugar concoction for what seems like hours sparks impatience, shifting from one foot to the other, arm stirring away, growing numb, watching the candy thermometer like a hawk. When will the temperature ever reach the hard crack stage?

Part of the creative challenge of adapting traditional candy recipes for different countries is, as always, the lack of availability of certain ingredients. This can lead to interesting substitutions or searches for entirely new recipes for the same things. Recently, an old friend in Iceland became nostalgic about the very American concept of peanut brittle candy. I told him I would experiment with making some.

The recipe I have generally used calls for corn syrup, which is unavailable in Sweden and Norway. Instead I used vit sirap, which seems to have worked fine.

Later I found a much more basic recipe, requiring only sugar and water (a preferable solution, actually). I shall try this as well. Meanwhile my first peanut brittle attempt in years seems to have been successful enough that people actually ate it. Now I can make a new batch and send it to the friend who reminded me of it in the first place.

Another challenge is breaking the brittle into pieces. I think an icepick would be the best solution for this, but I am lucky just to have a knife (the fact that I seem to eschew a lot of extraneous material possessions means that I just don't have redundant and rarely used tools). Being a random sort of girl, mentioning the word "icepick" also makes me think of the band Trotsky Icepick and then Lev Trotsky himself. None of which has anything at all to do with peanut brittle (except that brittle is best shattered by the same kind of weapon with which Trotsky met his match).

Peanut brittle
2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup (or some approximation)
1 cup water
2 cups raw peanuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons baking soda

Heat and stir sugar, syrup and water in heavy pot until sugar dissolves. Add salt. Cook on medium to soft ball stage (234 degrees on candy thermometer). Add peanuts at 250 degrees. Cook to the hard crack stage (290). Stir often. Remove from heat. Quickly stir in butter and baking soda. Beat to a froth for a few seconds. Pour into well-buttered pans (a 15-1/2×10-1/2-1 pan works well). Let it cool and break up into jagged pieces when cold (this is where the icepick would be really handy).

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