A Small Batch Christmas — Peanut Brittle

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I often tell people that cooking and baking aren’t  talents you are born with.  Cooking and baking are skills you learn through practice, error and more practice.  Just because a recipe didn’t turn out doesn’t mean you can’t cook or bake. There are a lot of crappy recipes out there, even when they were written by a famous “chef”.  Even when the  recipes are perfectly written, a person often needs to make it multiple times to learn and perfect the techniques given.  Don’t forget, that even the best cook or baker in the world can have an off day where nothing quite goes right.

I made this recipe for peanut brittle 4 times before I got it anywhere close to right.  The first time I tried I cooked the sugar in a pan that was too big and misread the recipe and added too much water so it never caramelized.  The second time I caught the water mistake but still cooked it in too big of a pan over what I discovered was way too low of heat.  The third time I used the right amount of water, the right sized pan, and turned up the heat.  The problem this time was I got distracted for just one second and the sugar went from caramelized to burned.  The fourth time I made it, I got it just about right, according to the picture it could have been a little more caramelized but it still tastes like good peanut brittle should.

A few points to remember about making peanut brittle

  1.  Pay attention — the time between having perfect brittle and a brittle mess is very short.
  2. This is very hot, melted sugar.  It can burn you and burn you badly so pay attention to what you are doing.

Peanut Brittle

softened butter for greasing the pan

2 cups white sugar

1 cup roasted peanuts

1/3 cup water

1/2 tsp salt, if the peanuts are unsalted

Use the butter to grease a pan with a low rim.  Put the sugar and 1/3 cup water in a small pan over low heat.  Cook until the sugar dissolves and becomes a light brown, caramel color. Watch the sugar mixture carefully.  It can go from caramel to burnt in a heart beat.  Don’t stir the sugar mixture.  Stirring the sugar causes it to crystallize, which isn’t good.  When the sugar mixture is ready, stir in the peanuts and immediately pour it into the prepared pan.  Let the brittle cool completely at room temperature, then break it into pieces. It will store indefinitely in at room temperature in a covered air tight container.

 

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A Small Batch Christmas — Fudge

472The first time I made fudge the traditional way, I got out my candy thermometer and carefully brought the chocolate mixture to the proper temperature and kept it there for the required amount of time.  I watched the mixture spread out in creamy, chocolatey swirls in the pan.  I was so exited to cut into it!  I could hardly wait for it to set!! After the required amount of time to set, I pulled it out of the fridge and set it on the counter. I was ready to cut into it and enjoy the fruits of my labor, Only to have the fudge go “thunk” when the tip of my knife hit the surface.  Yep, my fudge set so hard I couldn’t chisel it out of the pan with a jackhammer.  I eventually had to throw the fudge away pan and all.

Fortunately, for all of you guys, I have an absolutely fool proof recipe for fudge that will never fail you.  I should know, I tested it three times. LOL!  The recipes comes to you courtesy of Christina Lane at her absolutely awesome blog, Dessert for Two.

Christina Lane's 2 Ingredient Fudge

3/4 cup, 7 ounces, sweetened condensed milk

1 1/2 cups, 9 ounces, semisweet chocolate chips,

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted, optional

Instructions

Line a 6″ round cake pan with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray (I didn’t use the the foil. I used a 6 inch spring form pan.) In a small saucepan over VERY low heat, add the condensed milk. Stir in the chocolate chips. Slowly let the chocolate melt into the condensed milk, stirring constantly.  Once everything is smooth and melted, stir in the almond extract. Pour the fudge into the prepared pan, and sprinkle the slivered almonds on top, pressing them lightly so they stick, if using.  Place the pan in the fridge and chill for at least 4 hours. Lift the fudge out of the pan using the foil, and then cut into slices and serve.

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

On Thanksgiving morning I woke up early even though I worked a late shift so I decided to make myself a good breakfast.  I remembered seeing a pumpkin pancake recipe in my new cookbook, How to Bake Everything.  I decided to make pumpkin spice pancakes with cranberry syrup, homemade sausage and eggs.

The pancakes turned out to be the best I have had in a long time.  They were incredibly thick but still fluffy.  The pancakes were a little more dense then normal because of the pumpkin.  I tinkered with the spices a just a bit.  In my opinion, the problem with most pumpkin pancakes is just not enough spices.  I also substituted allspice for the ground cloves.  These pancakes are going to be on the menu for a long time.

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

3/4 cup flour

1 TBS brown sugar

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp ground cloves or allspice

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup canned pure pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling

1/2 cup milk

1 TBS canola oil

3 TBS lightly beaten egg

Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium low heat.  Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, spices and salt in a medium bowl.  In a small bowl, combine the pumpkin, milk, egg and canola oil.  Add the pumpkin/milk mixture to the dry ingredients.  Stir until just combined.  Some lumps in the batter are fine.  When the pan is hot, spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Ladle about 1/4 cup of batter into the skillet for each pancake.  Cook, undisturbed, until bubbles appear on the top of the pancake, about 2 to 4 minutes.  Gently, lift the pancake and check if the pancake is light brown on the bottom.  When the pancake is ready, flip the pancakes over and cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Serve with syrup.