“Microwave Magic” was the title of the wood-grain folder where I found Mom and Dad’s peanut brittle recipe–in a collection of recipes by the home economist for West Florida Gas (why the gas company created an electric microwave cookbook is probably a reminder of what a phenom the microwave oven was in the 70s).
I found the hole-punched folder buried under a plastic bag jammed full of loose recipes in their kitchen drawer. I was instinctively skeptical of the peanut brittle recipe. The whole collection was loose leaf, sketchier than a bad church cookbook, and we’re all accustomed to slick books with alluring photos. I must have momentarily forgotten that some of the best recipes in the world are on smudged, hand-written 3-by-5 card and in community cookbooks. Besides, I’ve been eating and loving Mom and Dad’s peanut brittle for years. I just never knew they nuked it.
As it turns out, it’s about the easiest, no mess, f00lproof peanut brittle I’ve ever made. The equipment is straightforward—a 2-quart Pyrex measuring cup, some measuring spoons, a couple of measuring cups, a rubber spatuala, and a pizza pan. And the technique was utterly simple. Microwave peanuts, sugar, corn syrup and salt on high power for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring once at 4 minutes. Stir in another a little butter and vanilla; microwave another minute. Stir in baking soda, pour onto pizza pan, spread, cool, break up.
Why is peanut brittle so addictive? It could be because they’re like chips—you can endlessly pick at all the little shards, and eat a half bag without ever eating a whole chip. It could be that shatter-glass crunch and its simple clean favor. Or the fact that it’s both sweet and savory. In any case, when there’s peanut brittle in the cookie jar, I’m a hopeless picker.
Mom asked me if I wanted to take some peanut brittle home with me. There was a time I would have said yes. Instead I asked for a couple cups of raw peanuts. Why take home a few pieces of brittle when in about 20 minutes, I can have two pizza pans filled with the stuff?