I know everyone makes fun of recipes that start with long, drawn-out intros about life and love and cooking and family and the smell of cocoa powder and blah blah blah. But in the case of my dad’s perfect peanut brittle recipe, which he’s been kind enough to share with me, I feel like I wouldn’t be honoring him without a bit of backstory.
(I think you’ll like it. And I will spare you any rambling about the scent of peanuts.)
You should know that my dad is an amazing cook and baker. He’s the guy who still uses his stack of dog-eared, hardcover cookbooks, each one with notes scribbled in the margins about a little more of this or a tweak to the cooking time of that. He will spend hours preparing a holiday dinner — no help, thank you very much — and beams as he describes just which special brand of cinnamon he uses, or detailing his trek out to one special bodega in Astoria, Queens, that carries the special pepitas or rare cumin powder he knows he needs.
This peanut brittle recipe is perfect, however, not because of any special peanuts (Planter’s will do) or magical equipment (though he does like his Silpat a lot), because it’s one that’s been carefully refined over twenty years, by combining ingredients, tips, and instructions from no less than 10 cookbooks.
So yeah. Perfect.
I know, I’m supposed to jump right to the recipe here. But stick with me, because this part is important to me.
Three years ago, my dad was run over by a taxi while crossing the street. He suffered a serious spinal injury, and has been confined to a wheelchair ever since. We thought he’d never walk again. And yet, what he’s accomplished since then is nothing short of remarkable.
That includes how hard he worked to be able to return to the kitchen — first, just to pour himself a glass of water or take something out of the fridge. Now, he’s cooking again.
Two Decembers after his accident, when he was finally able to stand and steady himself long enough to make a batch of peanut brittle just for my daughters at Christmas, it brought me to tears. My dad just isn’t my dad if he’s not in the kitchen.
This year, he’s promised my girls that they can come and make it with him. I think it will be a new annual tradition for them.
I bet it will taste the best it ever did.
Paul Gumbinner’s Perfect Peanut Brittle Recipe
Be sure not to use salted peanuts. My dad called me three times to make sure I included that here, so heed his words! He always talks about how people will make his recipes but change the ingredients and can’t figure out why it tastes different. Therefore…unsalted peanuts. Planter’s are fine, and easy to find. And as with anything, good butter is always better but your call.
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
1 stick (4 ounces) butter, unsalted
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 ounces dry roasted peanuts, unsalted
1. Combine sugar, corn syrup, water, and butter in a large saucepan.
2. Stir over high heat until mixture turns golden. Note: Once the color starts to develop, you want to watch it very carefully and remove promptly, being mindful that it will continue to cook in the pan after the heat is off.
3. Remove from heat. Stir in the salt, then the baking soda, then the peanuts. Combine quickly so the mixture doesn’t harden
4. On one rimmed baking sheet coated with butter (or use a Silpat silicone cookie sheet liner), spread the mixture with a spatula, as thinly as you can and as widely as you can — ideally the mixture will cover about 90% of the pan. It will thicken quickly, so you have to move!
5. Cool for about 30-45 minutes. Break up with your hands into bite-size pieces.
You can store in an air-tight container like a gift tin and it will last for a month or more. But if it lasts in your home for a whole month, invite us over so we can help you out.