Sunday, October 11, 2009

Honey. Ah, sugar sugar

I am the candy girl!

As I may have mentioned recently, I have been on something of a candy-making kick. No idea why, just that I've never made any before and wondered if it was something I was going to be good at. I'm good at certain types of cooking, and need improvement on other kinds. For example, regular cooking - good. Baking, not so much. I think the reason is that I'm not what you would call a precision-oriented person. Generalities are my comfort zone. So, since candy-making is one of those fields of cooking that falls into the precision category, I was pretty sure I would be terrible. To my surprise, I'm actually doing OK. Not stunningly wonderful, but OK.

My initial guide into this endeavor was my old Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, which is, sadly, not the most accurate cookbook in places. From this book I attempted caramel. It turned out fine. Then I used an internet recipe to try homemade marshmallows. They got pretty good, but I decided I don't really ingest marshmallows enough to make them worth my while. Finally, I got Jane Sharrock's Who Wants Candy , which I suspect will make life much easier on the candy-making front.

So today's experiment was peanut brittle. I'm not going to post the recipe, because it is hers. I will, however, give you the thoughts of a novice candy-maker during the brittling process, along with some visuals.

Phase I - laying out your essentials. I have learned, through hard experience, that when you are doing time-sensitive stuff, it really is better to have everything all ready to go. I don't necessarily go to the extent of having premeasured amounts out in separate bowls (except for stir fry, but that is another story), but at least I get everything out on the counter.

Phase II - this is kind of fun. I'm making candy!

Phase II - Paying attention. Things happen kind of fast in this phase, so you have to focus. I can do it for a little while, but it's tough to maintain for any length of time. Here is the butter going in, the last step before...

Phase III - OMG! Will I still be alive when this candy is done?! The temperature is only at 250 F - it has to get to 280 F. Sigh. OK. Patience. I'm stirring, I'm stirring... It's still at 250 - when will it end? When!

Phase IV (Seemingly 2 hours later, but really about 10 minutes later) - Final stage. Things are happening quickly again. There is some micromanaging of the heat to be done, peanuts to stir in, then some baking soda - both of which have to be evenly distributed. Then the mixture needs to be spread onto two baking pans to cool. You would think it would just sort of spread out, but that is not the case. You need to spread it around. It attempts to clump up. That would probably be fine, but I try to get it even-ish anyway.

Phase V - waiting to try the brittle! And you really do have to wait. It is roughly as hot as the sun's molten surface. Really - and sticky as well. I'm waiting, I'm waiting...

Phase VI - enjoying your peanut brittle! It is crunchy and buttery and delicious. It is not overly sweet, has a little saltiness and bitterness going for it. Yes, not bad for a first try. I give the recipe most of the credit, of course.

The candy chronicles will continue!

Unless I lose interest and move on to something else. :)

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