The famously loved peanut chikki. It may look like a peanut brittle, but it is in fact not at all brittle. For one the ratio of the nuts to the jaggery is more and it is not hard like the brittles usually are. And secondly, the chikki is made with minimally processed sugarcane juice called the jaggery
I love the crisp yet chewier version called the chikki. There are quite a few places in India that are known to make the best tasting peanut and sesame chikki. Lonavla is considered the most famous one with the best tasting chikkis. With the latest trends landing into those otherwise very traditional artisanal domains of chikki making, we now see chikkis made of cashews, quinoa, pistachios and what not!
I am a little traditional as far as chikki is concerned. I love the two basic ones, that grandma used to handout as a treat in winters. The ones made from real “desi” Jaggery with either toasted sesame or peanuts.
The term “desi” can mean a variety of things – from something from the “des” ( native place) , or someone from India is a desi, or something that is unadulterated and probably organic is also desi. The unadulterated and organic does not apply when we refer to “desi” while talking about humans even though humans are made of organic matter after all.
So back to the jaggery of the desi kind. That is the only kind that will help you make a delectable chikki. Not the chemically processed and preserved mounds of Jaggery. So talk to your grocer and ask him/her to reveal the real jaggery. Chances are they will have a few boxes of it somewhere. The label should read “Desi Gur” or something to that effect. Made from the sap or the juice of the sugarcane or the date palm, the “gur” or jaggery is full of nutrients that the ultra processed sugar just can not provide. My friend Sangeeta has some more details on the health benefits of jaggery in this post on Jaggery Pancakes.
If you are unable to find Jaggery, chances are you know it by some other names like the Panela, Piloncillo, Raspadura or Rapadura. The Brazilian Pé-de-moleque is made by mixing roasted peanuts with melted rapadura. The mixture is then stirred over heat until it mixes well and begins to crystalize. And then allowed to cool down after spreading it out on a metal plate or stone surface. Once the mixture cool, the Pe de Moleque is broken into small pieces. The whole process is similar to making the Peanut chikki in India.
Peanut or sesame chikki is traditionally eaten on the day of Makar Sankranti that falls on January 14th every year (with some exceptions). Makar Sankranti marks the transition into the warmer days and is considered a harvest festival in India.
So this Sankranti, I wanted to make the peanut chikki at home that the, finicky and snobbish about all things sweet, husband would like. So as usual, the best person to teach me about what he likes is of course his mom. So after a frantic phone call from my side, much calming words from mother in law’s side, many happy chuckles from the father in law ( he is always pleased when I try and make traditional sweets) I set to work. Turns out I really did not need to worry. Because the only important step in the whole process was the right kind of jaggery – and that I had. I also made the process quicker by using the microwave to toast the peanuts. Easy Peasy!