Peanut Brittle Heart

At a shul in the East Village one night last week, there was a PEN Author's Evening for Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes From A Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change. Most of the sobering discussion focused on what we as individuals could do to shake things up, and it all culminated in a grand finale. Conceptual artist Anne Charlotte Blanchot of Ebullition Design worked with caterer Patricia Catenne of Quintessencia to create a dessert called "Broken Planet." A beautiful round of peanut brittle painted with chocolate continents was shown to the crowd. "Zees is what happens if we don't take care of the earth!" our French hostess cried, and smashed it to pieces with a mallet.

It was dessert as performance art: dramatic, entertaining, and delicious. The peanut brittle's salty-sweet taste is very much on trend. I thought a similar concept might work for Valentine's Day. Simply pour the molten brittle into a buttered heart mold or paint the brittle with a chocolate heart, let it harden, and clobber it to pieces at the dinner table. If you're single, it should be cathartic; if you're doing it for your significant other and he or she doesn't laugh, you should effect radical change immediately.

Peanut Brittle Heart
Adapted from Patricia Catenne of Quintessencia

2/3 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 pound (1 pint) excellent-quality roasted salted peanuts, skin off*
2 tablespoons salt
3 oz. (1 bar) semisweet chocolate

Butter a large heart mold or a large square of parchment paper and a rolling pin.

Stir water, sugar, corn syrup and butter in a large heavy saucepan over high heat until sugar and butter dissolve. When the butter is completely melted, turn down the heat and affix a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Make sure the end of the thermometer is near the bottom of the pan but not touching it. Let the mixture boil until it becomes golden brown and the candy thermometer registers 295 degrees, about 20 minutes.

Turn the heat down to medium-low and remove the thermometer. Add baking soda and salt; stir briskly for a few seconds until the mixture foams. Pour the peanuts into the mixture, and immediately turn the whole thing into the heart mold or onto the parchment paper. (You do not need to stir it first; the candy is already molten.) Quickly spread out the brittle in a thin, even layer using a buttered rolling pin or spatula. Then, ignore your peanut brittle heart until it turns cold and hard.

Break up the chocolate and melt it in the microwave for 1 minute 30 seconds, taking it out once to stir it. Paint a chocolate heart on the brittle and let it dry.

To serve, smash the heart into pieces with a mallet. Enjoy!

* Use a brand like Bentzy's or other freshly roasted nuts sold by the pound.


Chef MC said...

This recipe sounds delicious. And since I fall into the single camp on Valentine's Day, after I make it tonight and smash it I will: a)throw some shards from a tall Manhattan rooftop at those who have broken my heart; b) dip some in the finest chocolate and mail them to those I want to seduce; c) Pour myself a glass of champagne, turn on my favorite song, toast my fabulous life and savor each remaining morsel!

joy said...

Can you use bitter chocolate?