Thursday, December 20, 2007

A first attempt at Peanut Chikki

Rich roasted peanuts trapped in a shell of complex (salty-sweet, caramel, smoky) notes- peanut brittle or peanut chikki is my all-time favorite candy. I first tried making chikki when I was still in middle school. I only remember that the episode was a messy one, and now, many many years later, it is time to give it another shot.

Although chikki can be made with refined white sugar, it is more commonly made with that flavorful brown sugar that Indians know as jaggery or gud or gool. Jyotsna's essay All About Gur Things is a beautiful look at the art of making jaggery- my favorite sugar in the whole wide world. In his book On Food And Cooking, Harold McGee explains that brown sugars are sucrose crystals that are coated with a layer of dark syrup from one of the stages of sugar refining. It is the syrup that gives brown sugar a more complex taste than the one-dimensional sweetness of sugar. The supermarket variety of brown sugar is simply ordinary refined sugar coated with a thin film of syrup. Once I knew this, I stopped stocking my pantry with brown sugar altogether. Now I simply mix regular sugar with molasses to make up brown sugar whenever it is called for in recipes. Unlike the fake supermarket brown sugar, jaggery is described by McGee as a whole sugar, crystalline sugar still enveloped in the cooked cane syrup that it emerged from.

Many of us from Western India probably associate chikki with a popular vacation destination called Lonavla. This hill-station is a cool refuge from the blistering heat of the plains and I remember taking many trips there with my family. I think it is almost illegal to visit Lonavla without trying one of the dozens of different kinds of chikki sold there; and if you want to maintain your social life, it is necessary to buy several little string-wrapped boxes for friends and neighbors and co-workers as well. Abodh's essay on Chikki at Lonavla tells you "everything you wanted to know about the Lonavala chikki and didn't know whom to ask"! (This blog has some great little essays and pictures about life in Bombay, like this one about Bhaji Galli or vegetable lane, plus Abodh rescues stray dogs from the streets of Bombay. What a great cause).

Looking through various recipes, I could see that chikki is a pretty minimalist food that calls for, basically, sugar and peanuts. The sugar can be white sugar or jaggery or a combination of the two. I chose all-jaggery. The peanuts can be roasted or not. They can be crushed or not. I chose to roast and skin the peanuts, and chopped half of them and left the others whole (or in halves, actually). Some recipes add some ghee, others don't. I did add some. Some recipes add cardamom and some don't. Again, I chose to add a little bit. The final variable is the ratio of peanuts to jaggery. For the first pass, I decided to go with a 1:1 ratio. The ratio would really depend on individual preference. For breaking up large lumps/slabs/mounds/dheps of jaggery, Anupama's tip is an excellent one. The recipe describes how I made chikki this time, followed by notes on what I would change the next time I make it.

Peanut Chikki

peanChikki

1. Roast 1.5 C peanuts in either a skillet or microwave. Skin the peanuts and coarsely chop half of them. Set the peanuts aside.
2. Lightly grease a baking sheet (or some other flat surface) and keep it ready.
3. In a medium-sized heavy saucepan, add 1.5 C chopped jaggery and 1 T ghee. Heat on medium-low heat until the jaggery starts to melt.
4. When the jaggery melts and the syrup starts to form threads that snap when cooled, take it off the heat. My idea was to heat the jaggery syrup to 300F (hard crack stage that is best for brittle). But around 250-260F, the syrup was getting too dark, clearly forming threads and had to be taken off the heat before it scorched. This is most likely due to the fact that jaggery has different caramelization properties as compared to pure sugar. I think.
5. Off the heat, add peanuts, a pinch of cardamom, mix well and pour onto the greased surface. Spread into a sheet using a spatula.
6. Break into pieces once it is cooled. Store in an air-tight container.

Lessons learnt:
1. I will coarsely chop all of the peanuts to meld the taste of nut and jaggery in every bite.
2. I will use more jaggery than peanut- about 2 C jaggery for every 1.5 C peanuts.
3. I have to standardize the temperature at which jaggery forms a brittle.
Perfect or not, this chikki was crunchy and thoroughly enjoyable!

Love your chikki? Adore that brittle? Here's more:
Peanut Chikki from Chachi's Kitchen
Peanut Chikki from Vindu
Coconut Chikki from A Whirl of Aromas
Dry-fruits Sesame Chikki from Cooking Pleasures
Til Wadi from A Cook @ Heart
Video: Peanut Brittle from Mark Bittman
Cashew Brittle from The Wednesday Chef
Popcorn Brittle from Culinary in the Country

I'm going to make another dessert tonight, and if it works out, I'll post about it. The two main ingredients are lemon juice and condensed milk. Care to guess what it is?

33 comments:

  1. I love peanut chikki.
    Never made them athome. When ever i am in India i buy them always

    ReplyDelete
  2. thank you for the recipe. have always wanted to try this. i love saffron in any chikki.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Looks delicious Nupur, my first time here...nice blog! I love chikki, with anything...thanks for the recipe

    ReplyDelete
  4. looks lovely. my mom always says chikki is good for health cuz of the proteins in the peanuts and the iron in the jaggery :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ah! 'tis the season for chikki :)
    Chikki consumption peaks in Gujarat this time of year, since it is a winter/ makar sankranti staple. The joy of 'Uttarayan', as Makar Sankranti is called there, lies in spending all day up on the roof, soaking up the soft sun, flying kites, and tucking into tons of chikki, and being warmed by a dozen cups of masala chai. (If you want more 'nutrition' - there's usually the other seasonal special 'Undhiyu' being served)

    Infact this time of year, you see special 'chikki gud' being sold by the kiranawalas (grocers). Chikki gud is darker and softer than regular gud (and retains its form in the drier winter - it tends to get gooey in the moister summers/monsoons) It forms a syrup more quickly, and tempers to a perfectly shiny chikki. I've seen Rani brand 'Gur Balls' in some Indian grocery stores in the US, which is the closest approximation of chikki gud I have seen here. (the lighter coloured 'dheps' are ubiquitous)

    The kannadigas make what they call 'kadalekayi heppu' (kadallekayi=peanut in kannada), which has a softer and more brittle ('khasta') texture than chikki - the peanuts are usually left unskinned and whole there.

    For a lovely flavour variation, add some saunf (anise, fennel seeds) to your chikki - it tastes really good :)

    This has turned out to be a reallly long comment...hope that okay :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. is that what it's called? i simply adored the stuff when in india just never knew what it was called. you are my hero!

    ReplyDelete
  7. OOOh!I loove chikki, my childhood favourite( we call it seppi) ...haven't had it for such a long time..years probably...thanks for the recipe :-)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Crush the peanuts and use sticky jaggery from the Indian store . The syrup when dropped in cold water will be a perfect brittle round . I'm sure you can make a perfect chikki next time with the help of these hints

    ReplyDelete
  9. Yup Lonavala is synonymous with chikki. It has been ages since I bit into a piece of chikki, rajgira chikki is my favourite. I remember my friend in Bombay makes it at home using 'chikki gul', which is different from the jaggery we use in cooking. Thanks for the recipe, will make it for the holidays. The cross-stitch looks very pretty, nice presentation.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Dear Nupur !!!

    Don't believe that I havent announced this yet !
    Just wanted to let you and all who are reading this know that...
    I'm your biggest fan !!!
    Been a secret admirer of your blog & your cooking since past many months ... and i mean it!
    Tried many of your recipies and they turned out just fab !
    Congratulations Nupur... on this lovely collection of recipies :)
    Wishing you all the best in all that you do... and also sending lots a love to your darling Dale !!! Let him know he is popular too !!!

    Cheers,
    Leena Ajgaonkar :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Chikki is by default always made with jaggery, at least in gujarat:) we used to amke a lot of this during makarsankranti, or kite-flying day:) your first attempt looks like a success Nupur:)

    Your dessert tonight sounds interesting..a curdled pudding, maybe?:D

    ReplyDelete
  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  13. What a deep, rich hue that Chikki has! Beautiful!

    Mamatha

    ReplyDelete
  14. Love Chikki with gur than sugar.. It has been years having some chikki.. thanks so much/

    ReplyDelete
  15. We make them into little balls. With a little patience, they are quite easy. About sugars, brown or raw, anything that sounds natural isn't natural anymore. I don't brown sugar at all. I substitute with light jaggery.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Ohhhhhhhhhhh !!! !Maganlal chikki .. isn't that the name? Lonavla is famous for this.. errr.. I mean.. maganlal fom Lonavla is famous hehehe!!!
    Isn't there a chikki gul? a somewhat stickier variety?
    This chikki looks awesome!!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Dessert.. hmm... ~scratch~ .. ~scratch~ ras malai? chanar payesh? sandesh?
    Shows how lousy I am at guessing.. ur hint does not speak of milk at all..

    ReplyDelete
  18. have'nt tryed making at home your looks delecious Nupur have to try once

    ReplyDelete
  19. Chiki is my favourite too. Love it.. never tried making it. Great recipe nupur...maybe someday i'll try it too.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Looks great Nupur! I'd be curious to know what temperature you settle on for making this with jaggery - I really like the idea of using it in a brittle. I've swapped in jaggery for part of the brown sugar in baking recipes when I've run out of brown sugar and hadn't noticed any difference. I made that buttercrunch toffee recently and was thinking it my be interesting to swap jaggery for the brown sugar in it. I'm assuming it would behave about the same as the brown sugar(?) - maybe not.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I made chikki yest and was about to post it..but i make chikki with sugar since we make peanut balls with jaggery and this needs to be different for me....but seeing ur snaps, i think i must try this way too

    ReplyDelete
  22. we add ginger powder to our chikki...your looks very tempting

    ReplyDelete
  23. Cardamon? That's a fabulous idea! Never thought of trying that!

    ReplyDelete
  24. yumm..i loove chikki...i used to buy from a nearby store everyday while going to school without my mom knowing ;)...i did get caught...that is a whole big embarassing story ;)..the chikki looks very very good nupur :)

    ReplyDelete
  25. Wow -- this is totally new to me. I've never had much luck making candy of any type -- to me this looks delicious!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Wow - not bad for the (almost) first attempt - mine looked nice till I tried to pry it out of the thali. I had poured it off too soon...

    In the North we call it moongphali ki patti, and tis the season to eat it. As suggested saunf is a great addition to it.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Nice looking chikkis. I am guessing you can mix and match different kinds of nuts in this recipe. I am an almond girl myself :)

    Your dessert for tonight - Rasgulla?

    ReplyDelete
  28. First and only time I had chiki was on our trip to Bombay from Lucknow when I was 10 years old. In Lucknow we used to buy what is called 'laiya'(wheels of caramelized puffed rice) from the thela walla, much to the consternation of my mom since all kinds of dirt and flies gathered on these delectable forbidden treats. Well, we were very excited when Mom bought us chiki at one of the stations(I can go on about station food, maybe a blog idea, unfortunately I don't have a blog). Alas, right after that we came to Canada and I never really had the chance to taste it again. Thanks Nupur, your blog brought back the memory of that trip and I will be making chiki this holiday season, tell my children yet another story of my childhood, and maybe capture a moment of all those years ago.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Happy Cook, it is easy to make at home if the craving strikes and you are far from India :)

    Bee, I'm afraid the subtle taste of saffron would be quite lost in these caramelized flavors. But if you have lots of saffron on hand, why not? :)

    Namratha, welcome to One Hot Stove! Thanks for stopping to say hi :)

    Nags, absolutely! A great snack for instant energy and leaves other junky snacks far far behind!

    AA, your comment made my day! True, winter is the best time for this energy-rich calorie-rich food. Your really brought the season to life with your words. I know about chikki gud but had to make do with the regular stuff for now. The addition of saunf sounds so interesting, and is very new to me. Thank you for taking the time to pen down your thoughts. Hope all is well with you!

    Meeta, well, it is called "chikki" where I come from, but has different names in different regions/languages, I guess. It is easy to make, especially for certified daring bakers ;)

    Sunita, yes, chikki has such a close association with childhood :) Good to know that it is also called "seppi"!

    Leila, thanks

    Namita, I was never much of a fan of rajgira :D something about the little bits getting stuck in my teeth! Yes, I would have used chikki gul if I had access to it for sure, but the regular stuff works as well. The cross-stitch is hand-made by a dear friend's MIL, isn't it gorgeous?! Hope all is well with you, Namita. Enjoy the holidays!

    Leena, Umm...are you sure you are at the right blog?! Thank you for the sweet sweet words, and I truly think you are too kind because I don't deserve them at all. As for Dale, that popularity is going straight to his little head :D

    Mansi, oh yes, kite-flying is very big in Bombay too. Such fun to see them dotted in the sky. Curdled pudding...LOL...mmm...so appetizing :D

    Mamatha, yes, that caramel color is so jewel-like :)

    Kalva, me too...I totally prefer jaggery in chikki!

    Suganya, sure...it is either made into slabs or balls. To my palate, brown sugar (or sugar+molasses) tastes a bit different than jaggery. Have not really tried using jaggery in non-Indian dishes yet.

    Manasi, no, no, no, stay tuned for the correct dessert :) and yes, there is a chikki gul, but I don't get it where I live. Regular gul works too!

    Sagari, it is not that difficult...do give it a try :)

    Seema, yes, do give it a try!

    Cathy, oh, really?? See, I have to start getting more adventurous with jaggery! It does have a deep taste of its own, and I am afraid it might overwhelm the buttercrunch toffee...still, worth a try :) I still don't know why it started to scorch while I was making this stuff at 250-260F :( have to give it another try!

    Easycrafts, do try it, chikki with gul is tastier, IMHO. and certainly healthier :) since you are getting valuable minerals along with that dose of sugar.

    Shankari, ginger powder?! That sounds very different and delicious. Thanks for the suggestion...I will definitely try it.

    Kaykat, yup, the cardamom adds a subtle taste that is delicious.

    Rajitha, LOL you must share the details of that story with us sometime! Illicit out-of-bounds foods always taste better, right?!

    Lydia, candy-making is really easy and fun. You've got to give it a try! You are such an accomplished cook...this is going to be too easy for you.

    Anita, yes, judging the syrup is tricky business :) I am so glad to hear of the saunf suggestion...never would have imagined it. And I can see how delicious it would be.

    GM, Oh, yes, the sky is the limit with how nutty you can get ;) almonds would be delicious.
    No rasgullas..sorry! :)

    Bulbul, the laiya sounds delicious! I would love to hear about "station food" (I love it myself). You might not have a blog, but I have one...so if you want to do a guest post about it, drop me a line! Or start a blog :) Would love to read more from you.

    ReplyDelete
  30. hi,i've been reading ur blog for past few days,its really worth reading.keep up the good work.tell me how 2 make chikki with white sugar.

    ReplyDelete
  31. My dad and husband love peanut chikki.. me not so much but didn't know it was so easy to make. I must buy a candy thermometer but then may be tempted to make a lot of sweets, eat them and consequently gain (more) weight. :)

    ReplyDelete
  32. how do u roast peanuts in microwave how to do it can u explain the entire process.........ur site is amazing i tried lots of things from ur site and thaey came out yummy

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for taking the time to say hello!