When I first moved to Massachusetts for college (or “uni,” as I have now been conditioned to call it) back in 2007, I quickly discovered that many things I’d assumed were American turned out to be just Californian. For example, people in New England ate Twizzlers instead of Red Vines (both are weird – I mean who even eats licorice anymore – but Red Vines are obviously superior). The most obnoxiously inescapable song my senior year of high school never even made airwaves out of state (it was called “I Wear My Stunna Glasses At Night,” I hated it at the time, and now that I’ve looked it up I can’t stop listening to it). The famously cheap $2 wine at Trader Joe’s cost (shock, horror) $3 instead. And there was no See’s Candies.
I don’t spend a lot of money on sweets or baked goods, because generally I know I can make them better and more cheaply in my own kitchen, but See’s will always have a special place in my heart. So many options! So many free samples! And best of all, their peanut brittle, which, enormous peanut butter fiend that I am, I completely adore. My dad used to send me a box during finals every year to help get me through. And while I’m sure that it, too, could be made better (or at least as well) and more cheaply at home, I’m really not set up for candy-making in my current kitchen.
Enter this cookie brittle. It’s got that same caramel-y, sweet and salty taste, and that great, satisfying crunchiness, mixed with the buttery texture of a really nice peanut butter cookie. Plus it’s dangerously easy to make. And it’s a nice change from the endless gingerbread and sugar cookies that you get this time of year.
Peanut Cookie Brittle
(Adapted from Maida Heatter, via Shauna Sever)
225 grams (8 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons flaky sea salt (see note)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped, separated
Note: the amount of salt you need is going to depend on a few things. If you just have table salt, you’ll probably need closer to 3/4 teaspoon. If your peanuts are salted, you won’t need quite so much either. And of course you might like your cookie brittle a little less salty than I do. Or a little more salty. Just taste your batter and you’ll be sweet.
1. Preheat oven to 175 Celsius (350 Fahrenheit). Line a 10×15-inch rimmed cookie sheet with baking parchment. If you don’t have the right size sheet (I didn’t), you can fold some aluminum foil into a wall to dam in your cookies – basically using the foil to bring one of the sides of the cookie sheet closer in. That’s what you see in the photo above.
2. Add the butter and both sugars to a mixing bowl and cream until light and fluffy, 2 minutes or so. Beat in the salt and vanilla.
3. Add the flour and mix until thoroughly combined. Mix in a generous 1/2 cup of chopped peanuts. Your batter should be quite thick and doughy.
4. Flour your hands and transfer the batter to your prepared cookie sheet. Pat down into a thin, roughly even layer, then sprinkle with the remaining chopped peanuts.
5. Cover the dough with a piece of baking parchment or wax paper. Use a rolling pin (I used a cylindrical, smooth glass, which worked fine) to press the peanuts down and to smooth and even out the dough. I found myself not rolling the glass so much as using it to brush over the dough, almost like filing it down. Make sure you’re changing directions frequently to get the whole sheet as even as possible.
6. Remove the baking or wax paper. If you like, sprinkle a pinch of flaky salt over the cookie. Then bake, turning halfway through and checking frequently, until golden all over. This should take about 20-25 minutes depending on your oven. These are really best nice and crunchy, so don’t under-do it. To get the middle right, I did find I had to slightly overbake the edges. Worth it.
7. If you want even bars, let cool for 5 minutes and then cut. Otherwise let cool completely and break up with wild abandon. I obviously recommend option #2.