Reprinted with permission from Basic to Brilliant, Y'all: 150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them Up for Company by Virginia Willis, copyright 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. For more about Virginia, please visit www.virginiawillis.com. (Helene Dujardin 2011)
“Mama would start making candy,” says Virginia Willis. Mama ramped up Christmas celebrations with peanut brittle and divinity, white nougat made with corn syrup, sugar, egg whites, vanilla and nuts. Mama also made weekly pound cakes to keep up with company.
In the South, peanuts are traditionally used for making brittle for gift giving at the holidays. Mama always has a tin on hand for company. Try a health-food store or grocery store with a robust health-food section for the raw nuts. I prefer using raw nuts because the nuts toast in the hot sugar; dry-roasted nuts can become too dark and taste burnt in the final brittle.
- 2 Cup sugar
- 1 Cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 Cup cold water, plus more for brushing the pan
- Pinch of fine sea salt
- 3 Cup unsalted raw peanuts (Spanish or blanched), cashews, almonds, or macadamia nuts, or a combination of nuts, coarsely chopped
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the baking sheet
- 1 Teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 Teaspoon baking soda
Butter a rimmed baking sheet or marble slab, or line a rimmed baking sheet with a silicone baking liner.
In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Continue cooking, without stirring, until the mixture reaches the hard-ball stage on a candy thermometer (250°F to 266°F) swirling the pan occasionally; wash down sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in water to prevent crystals from forming. Stir in the nuts and continue cooking, stirring frequently to prevent the nuts from burning, until the mixture is light amber and the nuts are golden brown, about 5 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat; stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and the vanilla. Carefully stir in the baking soda; the mixture will foam up in the pan. As soon as it is combined, pour it onto the prepared baking sheet or marble slab.
Using an oiled offset spatula, quickly spread into an even layer about ½ inch thick. Slip the oiled spatula under the hot candy to loosen the edges and bottom. Let stand until completely cool, 45 to 60 minutes.
Break the brittle into large pieces, and layer between pieces of waxed paper in an airtight container. Store at room temperature up to 1 month.
Brilliant: Short Recipe Chocolate-Dipped Nut Brittle
Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Combine 6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips and 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening, in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave, uncovered, on medium-high for about 1 minute. Remove and stir with a rubber spatula. Some chips may not have melted, so microwave again in 10-second intervals, stirring after each interval, until the chocolate and shortening are smooth and just melted. Let cool slightly. Dip the cooled brittle in the melted chocolate and shake off the excess. Sprinkle with additional chopped nuts, if desired. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate until set.