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Peanut Brittle and Hokey Pokey Problems

Asked by eveyfaerie73. Answered on 28th October 2010

Full question

Hi guys It's that time of year again, I'm trying out recipes for gifts for you-know-when in December. My boyfriend absolutely adores Peanut Brittle. We're totally broke (poor but happy :) )so last Christmas we made each other gifts. I decided Nigella's brittle would be the perfect gift of love, wrapped up nicely in a pretty jar with a ribbon. Unfortunately, I ran into some difficulties which almost ruined Christmas. I tried to make Nigella's recipe on page 244 of Nigella Christmas 4 times! 4 times! 4 experiences of hope and love mired by stress and frustration. The first time is the only time the texture was anything like brittle - and only because I burnt the sugar. Again and again and again I tried to make the brittle, but the next 3 times it turned out like the caramel peanut goo inside a mars bar. How can I get it to set? How do I not burn the sugar? I call on you and your talents to help me make this Christmas the best ever. If I can make this brittle be brittle I know that the spirit of Christmas will live in our hearts forever. Please don't make me have to resort to pound shop presents again. Help me Nigella team, you're my only hope! With much love and respect, Nigella's super duper Irish fan, Eve

ive tried to make your honey comb (i think you called it hokey pokey!?!) about 8 times, every time i make it it never sets hard, its always quite sticky, almost like toffee once set! please do you have any suggestions as to what i can do. thankyou.

Our answer

The Brittle and Hokey Pokey recipes are similar and both rely on boiling sugar and syrup to a high enough temperature to remove almost all of the water. This what chefs refer to as the "hard crack" stage, resulting in a firm candy with a good "snap". Once the sugar and syrup mixture is boiling you need to watch the saucepan very carefully. All pans are different and the cooking time for the candy will be affected by the thickness of the base of the pan and also its diameter, a larger pan will take less time to cook. Also do not stir the pan when the mixture is boiling, as this can cause the sugar to crystallize and give a grainy texture.

The boiling sugar should turn a deep amber colour when it reaches the correct stage. Too pale and the candy will not set, too dark and the sugar will have burnt. If you feel the outside edge of the boiling sugar is turning too dark too quickly then you can swirl the pan gently once or twice to even out the boiling sugar mixture but do protect your hands from splashes and again, do not stir. Watch for a wisp of of smoke as this is also a signal that your sugar has reached the correct stage. If you are still unsure about how far to cook the sugar then use a sugar/candy thermometer - the hard crack stage is 150-154c/300-310F (and most thermometers have the various stages marked on them). This should give consistent results and is helpful if you want to make slightly larger quantities. Also leave the candy to set in a cool, dry place and store in an airtight container. If it is humid the moisture in the air will dissolve some of the sugar and the candy will turn soft.

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