Christmas Candy Countdown – Peanut Brittle

December 17, 2008

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I have a long, passionate love affair with peanut brittle. This was the Christmas candy in the Gleason household as I was growing up. Each year my Dad would make a couple of batches, and would work very hard to get the candy as thin as possible by stretching it using buttered fingers. I’d try to help, but invariably I’d end up burned. But the results were always delicious.

As an adult I continued my Dad’s tradition, but I don’t really get too caught up in trying to keep the brittle super-thin. Sure, I spread the candy out as I put it on a sheet pan, but that’s as far as I go. I was always more concerned with just getting the candy to set up right. Each year, it was almost a certainty that one batch of peanut brittle just wouldn’t work. I’d burn it, undercook it…something would go wrong. Until 1999, when my manager at Sprint – Janice – told me a few weeks before Christmas about how she made peanut butter in the microwave. I called her a filthy liar, because that’s what she had to be…but the next day she e-mailed me the recipe, and lo and behold it had the same ingredients as mine, but the timing and steps were different. Easy. So I tried it.

Son of a biscuit. It came out perfect. And it’s kept coming out perfect every single time I’ve made it over the past 9 years. Probably fifty batches of peanut brittle have come out of my microwave, and each one of them has been consistently fantastic. It doesn’t stick to my teeth, it’s the perfect consistency and yet still has the buttery, roasted peanut flavor that makes this one of my favorite candies.

Here is Janice’s original recipe. Of course, you can find microwave peanut brittle recipes everywhere these days, but in her honor – and in penance for calling her a liar – I’m reproducing the recipe here.

Janice’s Microwave Peanut Brittle

  • 1 Cup raw Spanish peanuts
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Light Corn Syrup
  • 1/4 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Tsp Butter
  • 1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Tsp Baking Powder
  1. Combine the peanuts, sugar, corn syrup and salt in a microwave-safe bowl. This will be a sugary mess, but don’t worry…it’ll all come together.
  2. Microwave the candy on high for 2 minutes, then stir
  3. Microwave the candy on high for 3 minutes, then stir
  4. Microwave the candy on high for 3 minutes, then add the butter and vanilla and stir
  5. Microwave the candy on high for 1 minute, then check the candy. If it’s amber-colored and you can smell roasted peanuts, you’re done. If not, microwave on high for up to an additional minute (I go in 30 second increments). 
  6. When the candy looks amber colored and smells like roasted peanuts, stir in the baking powder and then pour onto a buttered cookie sheet. Spread the candy using a silicone spatula, then allow to cool.
  7. Break the candy up and then try to resist eating it all.

I generally make 6 batches of this stuff and use half of it to take to work for treats, then the other half at different family gatherings on Christmas. It’s fantastic.

Note that if you have a particularly strong (or weak) microwave, the last 2 minutes of cooking – step 5 – may be longer or shorter. Once you’ve made this recipe once or twice you’ll know exactly what to look for in terms of color, consistency and especially smell.

Source: Janice, who is not a filthy liar