there are some things you can do ahead of the holidays to reduce last minute rushing, it’s true, but in the case of a few goodies, fresh is WAY better.
like homemade nut brittle. it keeps for a while, but it’s best when very fresh.
almost every year i make nut brittles for holiday giving—they’re not everyone’s favorite, but we don’t know those people who snub them, apparently. because each year i make a LOT of nut brittle and each year i seem to run short and leave someone wanting.
last sunday was the day—i ramped up with a batch of peanut brittle to get started, in case i’d lost my mojo. but nope—that batch came out great.
well, i DO have the dead-easiest, no fail recipe. i mean that—i just googled easy peanut brittle recipes and there isn’t one with as few ingredients or as easy a method as this one, which i ripped from a magazine in 1983. i can’t remember if it was in an ad or in a recipe article, but here it is:
1 cup peanuts, raw or lightly roasted, with or without salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter NOTE: this is the original amount but i always cut the butter in half with absolutely no fallout; in fact, the full amount makes it rather greasy IMHO
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (not in the original recipe but it adds just a bit of complexity)
First, prepare everything ahead so you can work fast when you need to: measure out all the ingredients, set out potholders where you can reach them, and line a baking sheet with parchment or silpat (foil will also work, but it needs to be greased).
Put all the ingredients in a skillet (for me, a stainless skillet works better than a nonstick one) and heat over medium high, stirring gently until mixture begins to turn clear and brown—a light tan is not what you’re going for, wait it out until you start to see a richer brown—5 to 6 minutes. Once that happens, you have to work fast—the mixture burns easily. AND IT’S VERY HOT; USE CAUTION AND DON’T LICK ANYTHING. Pour the hot mixture over the parchment and quickly spread it out as thinly as possible. Allow to cool and then break it up.
that’s it! seriously, you could make some right now if you have the stuff in the house. then stand back and accept praises with as much dignity as you can muster with brittle crumbs all over your face.
this recipe is easily doubled (i always do), but i don’t recommend tripling it because it’s hard to work fast enough to spread that much brittle while it’s liquid.
and it works well with other types of nuts too—even mixed nuts. higher fat nuts do brown more, so it’s better to use UNroasted ones. i didn’t; i had roasted ones in the house and guess what? these batches ARE darker and the peanut brittle police still haven’t shown up (but they are disappearing just as fast as the golden batches).
okay, now i’m just warning you—the pecan one is just to DIE for, so you might need to make two batches and hide one where only you can find it. just today i was thinking that maybe next year i would try some improvising with the pecan brittle. or maybe next week . . . i’ll keep you updated.
anyway, four double batches total took me maybe an hour or so; i’m telling you—easy and fast. that made enough to fill around ten chinese food cartons—a generous amount.
if you’re going to make a LOT, be sure to keep your kitchen ventilated; in my old kitchen, cooking more than this amount on one day would cause the humidity to rise to the point where the brittle started getting wonky. just sayin’—you probably have a much nicer kitchen than my old one anyway, haha.
once the brittles were done and taste tested, i made a big batch of these glazed pecans. if you think that brittle is good, well, these are crack. but i like to make both.
we had decided to gather for our office christmas party on wednesday evening, so i started preparations for that on monday. our gang is pretty easy-going, but i like to offer homemade food when people come over.
we have a variety of dietary needs to consider, but the main concern is that the food be yummy, right? so i thought hard about what kind of cake to make. i’m getting the gluten free baking under control for myself, but i’m still pretty novice at vegan baking and i don’t have cause to do a lot of it. i have an old apple cake recipe that our family enjoys quite a lot and remembered that it did not call for dairy, only eggs. so i tried my hand at a gluten free, egg-free version.
the result was not too shabby; on the outside, it looked pretty close to the original—a festive top, perfect for the holidays (though we never limited ourselves by calling it a christmas cake).
and inside? while not quite as flavorful as the original, it wasn’t a flop either, and was enjoyed by all, more or less. i’m just happy that everyone at the table could eat a slice and no one was left out.
once i had a cake squared away, all that was left to do on party day was make some gluten free dough and prepare the toppings (david purchased regular pizza shells for most of our guests).
this time, i tried the GF dough recipe from america’s test kitchen. of all the recipes i’ve tried, this one had the best rise, texture, chewiness, and crispiness—most like my favorite traditional doughs. it was also very easy to work with. it performs extremely well as a base for toppings, where most GF crusts fail.
it does lack the depth of flavor that good pizzeria doughs develop from longer rising times and using a starter, but i think i can work on that. the texture and structure is harder to come by in a recipe so this one is a keeper for now.
with an array of vegetable and cheese toppings (as well as homemade sauce), everyone put together their own dream pizza.
lots of happy people around the table—lillian and her husband, erica, doug, and barb (of course!). it was a really nice evening; i am so happy to be part of this team and to be able to relax and celebrate with them at this time of year.
today i relaxed for an extended morning with my knitting and enjoyed the feel of stone soup fingering yarn with my coffee. tomorrow, i plan to relax even more and have a whole day of knitting—probably on my birches cardigan, so i should have progress to share next time.
happy holidays to you and yours—merry knitting everyone!