We might be off sunning ourselves at Centre Parcs, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t get a second recipe this week. If there’s one thing I’m dedicated to, it’s baking. I made this chocolate peanut brittle last Friday night, even if it was wayyyyyy too hot to be stuck in a tiny little kitchen with a saucepan of molten sugar. Sometimes I don’t think these things through.
I’m always a bit scared when it comes to making any sort of caramel or candy, and this time was no different. But peanut brittle actually turns out to be pretty easy to make, as long as you have a thermometer to hand. You definitely don’t want to eyeball this. Accuracy is everything!
If you’ve ever made caramel or toffee before, then the process of heating up sugar will seem pretty familiar. This is the sort of peanut brittle that is a bit more thick and crispy than the more flat stuff you can get, which is all down to the addition of some bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). This gets added at the very last step, and makes the caramel go all foamy and voluminous – so make sure you use a decent sized pan!
If you’re scared of burning your sugar (it’s happened to me so many times when making candy) then don’t be. The initial heating of the sugar is foolproof, as you are going to add some water and golden syrup (or light corn syrup) in with the sugar to keep the sugar from burning. It basically means that you can almost leave it to get up to soft ball stage (115°C) all by itself. Give it a little stir occasionally just in case, and you can guarantee that there will be no burnt sugar in sight.
That’s what I like.
Once you’ve added the peanuts and butter, things get a little more intense, as you will need to keep stirring your caramel until it gets up to the hard crack stage (150°C). It is very important that you get the caramel up to this temperature, otherwise it will never set as solid as you need. Peanut brittle – the clue’s in the name.
You can definitely swap out the peanuts for another type of nut if you like – I feel like pistachio brittle could be a good shout, and I’m all up for giving almond brittle a go. But the thing that makes this peanut brittle superior to all other brittles? The generous coating of dark chocolate on the bottom. Yes! Chocolate always wins!
Once the brittle has set hard, turn it over and smother it with melted chocolate. You can use whatever chocolate you want (maybe not white though guys) – I used Green & Blacks 70%, mixed with a little Lindt Excellence Dark that was left over from the fudgy chocolate brownies I cooked up last weekend. Both my favourite chocolate bars in one.
- ¾ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 150g (¾ cup) caster sugar (US granulated sugar)
- 150g (½ cup) golden syrup or light corn syrup
- 25g (1½ tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 200g (7 oz) shelled un-roasted peanuts
- 150g (5.3 oz) plain or milk chocolate (bittersweet)
- Line a large baking sheet (cookie sheet) with baking parchment or a silicone baking mat. Set aside for later.
- In a small jug or bowl, mix the bicarbonate of soda, vanilla extract, salt, and one teaspoon of water. Set aside for later.
- Put the sugar, syrup, and 240ml (one cup) of water into a large saucepan. Heat on medium, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 115°C / 240°F on a sugar thermometer. This is called the 'soft ball' stage. Once it reaches this temperature, add the butter and peanuts, and continue to heat, stirring constantly so as not to burn the mixture. Once the mixture reaches 150°C / 300°F, which is the 'hard crack' stage, remove from the heat and immediately stir in the vanilla mixture. The caramel will foam up and increase in volume, which is why you need a large saucepan.
- Pour the caramel peanut mixture onto the baking sheet, and spread out with a spatula or wooden spoon until about a ¼ of an inch thick. Leave to set at room temperature for an hour or so, until cool and stiff enough to pick up and turn over.
- Break the chocolate up into pieces and melt in the microwave, stirring every 20 seconds so as not to burn the chocolate. Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Once the chocolate has melted, spread it out evenly over the flat side of the peanut brittle. Leave to set, either in the fridge or at room temperature. Once set, break apart into largish chunks.
- The peanut brittle needs to be stored in an airtight container in a cool place to keep it from going soft. Put baking parchment between each layer of the brittle to avoid it sticking together. It should stay good for up to a month if stored correctly.