Special Note: Prayers for everyone touched by the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., this morning. I’m so thankful for the teachers, who fought their own fears to protect the lives of hundreds of children. You are in our thoughts and our hearts. 

When I was a kid, my grandaddy would make huge baking sheets full of peanut brittle – dry-roasted peanuts suspended in shards of molten sugar, corn syrup and butter. It had the kind of smell, like bacon sizzling or a pan of freshly-baked brownies, that sneaks inside your nose and tugs until you’re powerless to do anything but head straight for the kitchen.

But WOE be unto the child who wandered into the kitchen while he was standing over that big bubbling pot of sugar and corn syrup. For you were liable to get swatted.

When you make peanut brittle on the stovetop, you’ve got to keep an eye on the candy thermometer and pay attention to the color of the candy. It’s serious bidness.

That’s why I make it in the microwave. It’s easy, quick and every bit as delicious.

You do need to hustle to pour the mixture onto your baking sheet while it’s still loose – it’s easier to spread that way – but even if your candy has started to cool and get thick, it’s all good. You can still spoon it onto your pan and press it into place with the back of a spoon. It will be a little thicker, but that’s not bad.

I found this variation for Popcorn Peanut Brittle in “Southern Living,”and if you love snacks like Crunch ‘N Munch and Fiddle Faddle, you’ll love this. Just stir a cup of popped popcorn into the candy mixture right before you pour it onto the baking sheet.

No candy thermometer (and definitely no swatting) required.

Popcorn Peanut Brittle

This candy is really sensitive to humidity, so make it only on dry, sunny days.

From the “Southern Living 1,001 Ways to Cook Southern”

Makes about 1 pound

  • 1 cup popped popcorn
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dry-roasted or shelled raw peanuts
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  1. Butter a 15- x 10-inch jellyroll pan, or line the pan with a Silpat®. (Don’t line it with wax or parchment paper, since they can’t handle this kind of heat.)
  2. If you haven’t done it already, pop the popcorn, and set aside.
  3. To Make the Brittle in the Microwave: Combine the sugar, light corn syrup, and salt in a large glass bowl. Microwave on HIGH 5 minutes, add peanuts, and microwave 2 more minutes with 1,000-watt microwave. (Microwave 4 more minutes if using a 700-watt microwave.) The mixture should be golden brown.
  4. Quickly stir in remaining ingredients, and pour onto your prepared pan. Shake the pan to spread thinly. (If your candy has already cooled to the point where it’s thick and sticky, spoon it onto the pan, and use the back of your spoon to press it down into place, like working with a sticky pan of Rice Krispies squares.)
  5. Cool until firm, and break into pieces. Store in an airtight container.
  6. To Make Brittle on the Stovetop: Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and salt in a medium-size heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture starts to boil. Boil without stirring 5 minutes or until a candy thermometer reaches 310°. Add peanuts, and cook 2 to 3 more minutes or to 280°. (Mixture should be golden brown.) Remove from heat, and stir in butter and remaining ingredients. Pour mixture onto a metal surface or into a shallow pan. Allow to stand 5 minutes or until hardened. Break into pieces. Store in an airtight container.
VARIATIONS:
Classic Peanut Brittle: Leave out the popcorn.
Pecan Brittle: Substitute 1 cup chopped pecans for peanuts.
Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Brittle: Prepare peanut brittle as directed, minus the popcorn. Melt 2 (2-ounce) chocolate bark coating squares; dip peanut brittle pieces into melted chocolate. Place on wax paper, and let harden.