The microwave is a very useful tool for cooking, especially when you want to warm leftovers, reheat this morning’s coffee, or melt things like butter or chocolate. But most of us would never think of it as a tool for true confectionary. After all, anyone who has ever tried candy making knows that the process is all about precision timing and exact temperatures and is super finicky and fussy. Too much humidity in the air and your candy won’t set, look away from the pan for just a second and it will burn or boil over. And there is the ever-present fear that you could really burn yourself badly.
Here is a candy recipe that solves all these problems. And it does it by using the microwave!
I first was made aware of this recipe when I was entering my husband’s family recipes into my digital recipe files. Amidst the recipes for gelled “salads” and biscuits, sheet cakes and pot roast, was a tiny card marked “Munching Peanut Brittle.” It had no attribution. The instructions called for it to be made in the microwave. I was intrigued and meant to make it, but then I got distracted by the rest of the project and it left my mind.
Until the pandemic. And then, suddenly, for some reason, I remembered the recipe and pulled it up. Microwave peanut brittle. How could it even work? I had to try.
Turns out it’s about the easiest recipe imaginable, and once I tweaked it a bit for today’s high-powered microwaves and adjusted some of the flavorings, it became one of those recipes I couldn’t stop making. It takes less than ten minutes of active time, and the results are always perfect.
The baking soda is what gives it that “munchable” texture: it makes the mixture foam a bit and traps air so that the brittle isn’t dense or hard but easy to bite and totally satisfying to chomp on. The key is really to stir in the baking soda at the last moment and then pour out onto your pan, and let it flow like lava. Don’t touch it! You can, however, tilt the sheet pan to help it settle if you want.
You can use this technique to make brittle with any nut or seed that you like. Regular roasted peanuts are great, but honey roasted might be my favorite version. You can also try toasted pine nuts or toasted sesame seeds, or even toasted flaked unsweetened coconut, or a mix of nuts and seeds. Or try coating the finished brittle in melted chocolate.
Makes about a pound
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup light corn syrup
- Generous pinch fine sea salt
- 1 cup roasted salted peanuts (or honey-roasted, or other nut or seed)
- 1 tsp. unsalted butter
- 1 tsp. vanilla paste
- 1 tsp. baking soda
Line a cookie sheet with parchment or a silicone mat and spray with nonstick cooking spray.
Mix the sugar, corn syrup, and salt together in a 3-quart microwave-safe glass bowl.
Put bowl into microwave, uncovered, and cook for 4 minutes on full power. Remove from the microwave very carefully and stir in the peanuts, ensuring they are all fully coated. Return to the microwave and cook for an additional 3 minutes. Add the butter and stir well to combine, then return to the microwave for 1 more minute. Remove from the microwave and carry to where your prepared sheet pan is.
Stir in the vanilla and baking soda gently. The mixture will foam up. As soon as all the ingredients are fully combined, pour it carefully onto the prepared baking sheet, scraping it out of the bowl with a heat-safe silicone spatula, and let it settle into a level sheet. Do not spread it out with the spatula or you will deflate the mixture.
Let cool at room temperature for an hour, then break into pieces and store in an airtight container. Supposedly it will last up to a week, but it has never lasted more than a couple of days in my house. You can also freeze it for up to two months.