The Davenport, located in Spokane, Washington, is a stunning historic hotel that opened in 1914. In its turn of the century glory, it was known as the most modern hostelry in the United States, boasting air conditioning, a pipe organ, a central vacuum system, housekeeping carts and accordion ballroom doors. This landmark hotel shut down in 1985, but local entrepreneurs, Walt and Karen Worthy bought the hotel in 2000 and gave it a top-to-bottom renovation, restoring it to its former glory.
You can now walk the balcony overlooking the elegant main floor and imagine what it would have been like to waltz into one of the grand ballrooms next to the dapper top hats and sophisticated floor length gowns of the 1920s.
Along with the echoes of nostalgia, The Davenport also carries some signature items that help secure its renown. One of these is their homemade soft peanut brittle. I still remember the first time I tried it. Wrapped in a pretty box with an elegant bow, I was sure I was not going to be impressed with anything but the wrapping, as I don’t really like traditional peanut brittle. I was so wrong! It was one of the best candies I had ever tasted. It is 100,000 times better than traditional peanut brittle. Thus began my hunt for the recipe.
I did a little research, found a basic recipe, then adapted it. Trial and error is the only way I ever make my way around the kitchen. I share with you what I’ve learned – what to do and what not to do. I now make this every Christmas and all of my mistakes will hopefully save you time and money!
Once you start making soft peanut brittle, be ready, people will ask you for it every year.
Here we go!
First, you need to know that this recipe is all SCIENCE. While I can’t explain why it works the way it does, someone much smarter than me could. What I can tell you is that if you don’t follow the directions to the letter, it will not turn out. So there’s that.
Going with #1, don’t plan to do anything else while you are making this recipe. All of your attention is needed or it may not turn out. There have been times where I sat and watched the thermometer for an hour, then walked away to check social media or work on something else, and when I came back the temp. had skyrocketed and the batch was ruined. This is an “all in” baking activity.
Third, The Dav (what locals call it) turns out the hot candy mixture onto marble to let cool. This is genius and it scientifically works. However, most of us don’t have cold marble lying around the house, so we have to make due. Cookie sheets or granite cutting boards/slabs work well.
- Gather the ingredients into bowls so everything is ready.
2. Boil the sugar mixture with a candy thermometer and watch it carefully. Like I said, this is going to take some babysitting. It takes forever for it to reach the temperature, but there can be a sudden spike and if it goes over then your mixture is ruined. I’ve done this so many times it’s ridiculous. Lesson learned.
3. Meanwhile, cool the baking sheets and/or granite in the freezer while you are boiling.
4. Using a double boiler, melt the peanut butter mixture. Make sure there is enough water to last the entire time it is cooking or the peanut butter will burn. I may or may not have burned an entire quadrupled batch one year.
5. After you mix the sugar mixture and peanut butter mixture, you are going to lay it all out onto your baking sheets. I put these in the freezer for quick cooling, but DO NOT LET THEM FULLY HARDEN IN THERE, or you will have hard peanut brittle which isn’t even half as good as the soft. It defeats the whole purpose of this recipe! You just want to get them to a stage where they are back to room temp, then pull them out. **This is very important**
I’ve found the very best method is to freeze the sheets, then place them outside where it is cold to let them set. I couldn’t do this because of our puppy who keep going in and out this year, so I opted for the freezer.
6. Break them into pieces and put them in airtight containers.
The Davenport Soft Peanut Brittle Recipe
Recipe courtesy of kristagilbert.com
- 2 c creamy peanut butter
- 1-1/2 c sugar
- 1-1/2 c light corn syrup
- 1/4 c water
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 2 c peanuts…raw or roasted
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp vanilla
- In a double boiler over hot water, place peanut butter to heat while preparing syrup.
- In a large saucepan combine sugar, corn syrup and 1/4 cup of the water. Cook over high heat to 275 degrees on a candy thermometer.
- Lower heat to medium, add butter, stirring until melted.
- Add peanuts, cook stirring for about 5 minutes or until candy starts turning brown and reaches 300 degress on the therometer.
- Remove from heat, stir in baking soda that has been dissolved in a teaspoon of water.
- Add vanilla.
- Working quickly, fold in the warmed peanut butter, while stirring gently.
- Working quickly, pour candy mixture onto a well greased marble slab or a cookie sheet.
- Spread as thinly as possible. Cool the mixture as quickly as possible.
- When cold …break into serving size pieces.