Following in the footsteps of my man, Alton Brown, ...
How does peanut brittle work? Basically, it's a long period of patient vigilance punctuated at the end by frantic mixing and spreading.
You must just about reach the "hard crack" phase (temperature) of the caramel.
This is what gives the brittle.
The baking soda is the key to being able to eat the candy and it being pleasurable. This ingredient reacts with heat to create carbon dioxide which lightens (adds air bubbles to) the candy so that it can be broken down by your teeth.
How can can you help guarantee the result?
Choose the right peanuts by tasting them ahead of time. If they're rancid, don't buy them (uh, well, don't put them into the candy anyway). Make certain you follow the steps carefully, especially the last one of stirring in the butter, baking soda and vanilla.
2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup water
2¼ cups raw peanuts*
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
* Note: Nesya says she likes to use 1¼ cups raw Spanish peanuts and 1 cup raw peanuts, or all raw Spanish peanuts, but that it’s important for taste for at least half to be Spanish. The raw peanuts cook in the candy.
1. Grease one or two half-size baking sheets with butter and set aside.
2. In a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat combine sugar, corn syrup and water. Cook to 234° (soft ball).
3. Add peanuts and salt. Stir constantly. Cook to 300° (5° under hard crack).
4. Remove from heat and quickly stir in butter, baking soda, then vanilla (all this must be pre-measured and ready at hand). Pour at once onto buttered cookie sheets, spread with spatula and/or tip pan to fill in.
5. Break into pieces when cool.
Other "retro" holiday goodies to check out include divinity, fruit cake, iced sugar cookies and chocolate fudge. Stay away from the "quick" versions that aren't very tasty (especially in fudge recipes) and make the making of holiday treats part of the family holiday schedule itself!