If not for peppermint bark, many of us would not have homemade gifts to share with our friends at Christmastime.
It's the simplest of candies to make: Melt white chocolate in the microwave, throw in some crushed peppermint and spread on a cookie sheet to cool. Break it into pieces, place it in a colorful tin, and you have a lovely gift.
This year, surprise your friends with an equally simple but different candy: peanut brittle.
The old-fashioned way to make peanut brittle is to cook sugar, corn syrup and water until the temperature reaches "thread stage," and after you add peanuts, it's cooked to the "hard crack stage."
We've found an easier way, thanks to Rozelle Garrigus. She called to say she makes the best peanut brittle in the microwave, and it turns out perfect every time. She invited me to come and make peanut brittle with her.
It's a simple recipe, but it does take concentration. It's best to have someone read the recipe while you stir and pour. Garrigus gets help from her husband, Leo.
"Time is of the essence," he said.
Leo sometimes helps when they make batches to take to gatherings at their church, Tates Creek Christian.
The Garriguses, who are both 83, have been married 63 years. They've lived in several states over the years. Two of their children, Debbie and Danny, and their grandchildren and great- grandchildren live out of state. Son Ron lives in Lexington.
Rozelle begins making peanut brittle by spreading butter over a ceramic cutting board.
"Use your fingers. God made fingers to work," she said.
Never spread the candy on an ungreased surface; it will stick.
Leo Garrigus uses a spatula to lift and move the candy as it hardens. He learned this after he had to chisel it off a cutting board one time, he said.
Here's how the Garriguses make peanut brittle.
In a 2-quart Pyrex bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar and ½ cup white syrup (measure accurately.) Microwave on high for 3 minutes, 40 seconds.
Remove from microwave and add 2 scant cups (cups not quite full) dry roasted salted peanuts. Punch them down into the mixture. Do not stir.
Return to microwave and cook for 2 minutes, 30 seconds. Remove from microwave and add — but don't stir —1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon butter. Microwave for 1 minute, 30 seconds.
Remove from microwave and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon baking soda. Stir the mixture. It will foam. Immediately pour mixture onto the buttered surface. Drag the bowl along to make sure the mixture is flat. Using a spatula, lift the candy and scoot it around, so it doesn't stick to the surface. Let the mixture cool until completely hardened, about 45 minutes. Break into pieces.
It's best to store peanut brittle in a tin, but Rozelle Garrigus said, "the fellas eat it up so fast, I've never been able to store it."