This post marks Day 14 of Miss Ginsu's 2007 Advent Calendar. To click into other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.
Back in the dark days of '01 after the dot-com bubble burst, Miss Ginsu was left out on the street (not that there was much space out there with all the other dazed and ruined coders, systems engineers and venture capitalists).
Luckily, your tiny, pig-tailed heroine was kicked to the curb just in time for the Christmas season (ho-ho-ho) and was able to find temp work as a See's Candy girl at the mall.
"Oops! These ones expired yesterday! Darn. Guess I'll have to work my way through another tasty box of Nuts & Chews..."
Yes, the ensemble was silly and standing around on concrete floors is murder on the feet, but the pay wasn't bad, and the job offered all the expired chocolates I could eat. And gosh, they're actually really good. Grandma See didn't use any preservatives, and neither do the current See's Candy elves. Thus, we white-garbed choco-chicks spent a lot of time checking expiration dates and rotating stock.
Did I gain some weight? Yeah, most likely. But I also gained an appreciation for fresh chocolates that aren't filled with weird waxes, colors and fillers. I also learned about the wonders of buttery-crisp peanut brittle.
I'd always considered nut brittle one of the candies of a bygone age. I assumed it was something my grandmother and dad appreciated. I'd probably never understand its charms. But boy howdy! See's peanut brittle changed my tune. That stuff is addictively tasty.
Since I live on the East Coast now, and See's is a decidedly West Coast thing, the only cheap, reliable way to make my tastebuds dance is DIY brittle. The recipe below is based on one I found in a sweet (ha!) little cookbook by Robbin Gourley called Sugar Pie & Jelly Roll.
I used pecans in this one, but you can use whichever nut speaks to you. (After all, talking nuts deserve to be boiled in hot sugar, right?)
It's not quite as awesome as See's (I'm still working on that...), but it's pretty darn great. My coworkers all said so, and because I know they can be cold, cruel beasts when presented with inferior sweets, that positive commentary stands for something.
Almost as Awesome Nut Brittle (Makes a full cookie sheet)
Make sure you have an operational candy thermometer before you make this recipe. "Close enough" counts for a lot of things, but you really do want accuracy for activities like structural engineering, brain surgery and candy making.
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup light corn syrup
2 cups sugar
3 cups pecans, cashews, walnuts or peanuts
1/2 Tbsp baking soda
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. Pour water, syrup, sugar and salt into a large saucepan* and bring to a boil.
2. Add nuts, stirring occasionally and scraping down the pan edges.
3. Cook to 296°F on a candy thermometer.
4. Remove from the heat and add baking soda, butter and vanilla all at once. Stir thoroughly.
5. Pour onto a greased greased baking pan. Use a heat-proof spatula or spoon to spread quickly to 1/4-inch thickness.
6. When cooled, break into small pieces.
I recommend a large saucepan for this recipe because the hot sugar-nut mix froths a good bit when you add the baking soda. Trust me... you don't want boiling sugar frothing up and burning a hole in your hand.