Let me start by giving a big speech so I won’t be accused of stating that we must eat unsweetened sweets or cut sugar entirely of our lives. For the love of all gods. The thing is, as time goes by, I keep learning that our palate is always evolving and adapting. And that we can, and should, eat much less sugar and salt that we normally do. And that’s not just because rumor has it that it’s not good for our health, but also because too much salt or sugar stops us from really tasting food and we end up not even realizing what we’re eating.
I won’t argue. There’s no accounting for taste and I’ll let each and every one of you sweeten their lives as they please, and that’s why the peanut Brazilian candy is sugar free or sugar full. You’re choice. Mine is no sugar, but that my taste and it’s also because I made it quite “seasoned”, filled with spices that make me go crazy. But, well, if you need a sweeter sweet, go for it. If you can, choose a good kind of sugar, like a brown one, and don’t overdo it. Go easy and try it little by little to see how much sugar is enough sugar for you. You might be surprised. And do not forget the spices for they will make all the difference.
Let’s get down to business. June is that time of the year that we, Brazilians, love so much just because we get to eat loads of yummy “festa junina” treats. I’ll explain, we are Brazilians and we have an urge to party, so, we took the Portuguese midsummer tradition of celebration Saint Anthony, Saint John and Saint Peter to mark the beginning of harvest and we also party in June, even if it’s winter. Well, the important thing here is that’s a super fun and delicious tradition with loads of special treats. Last weekend was the festas juninas parade (junina -> June) and I got super jealous with all the pictures my friends were posting on social media. How do I respond to that? By eating a lot of popcorn – and you can get the non-fat homemade microwave recipe here – and deciding to try to make some paçoca (a peanut candy), in a creamier version, because that’s how I like it. It’s a compromise between peanut flour and peanut butter filled with flavor.
Shall we go to the recipe?
Paçoca – Brazilian peanut candy (sugar free or sugar full)
250g unsalted peanuts
Spices mix: cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, ginger, cardamom and nutmeg (about three cloves, one tablespoon of cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of the rest)
Pinch of salt
30g brown sugar (optional)
Let’s start by toasting the peanuts. No, I really don’t advice you to get pré toasted salty peanuts. The best thing here, is, actually, to start from scratch. We just want to heat them up a bit so we’ll have its natural oils to loosen up. About 10 minutes on a 350°F will do the trick.
If your peanuts have that thin shell around them, wait for it to cool a bit and, with the help of a clean napkin, rub the grains in order to peel them. If you’re like me and bought peeled peanuts, just skip to the next step.
I use a food processor, because I have one. But you can use a regular blender that’ll work out just fine. Toss the peanuts on the food processor (or blender) with the spices, the salt and vanila. I use a mix of spices that I make and it’s my go to spices for about anything, including coffee. I do a ratio of 1 teaspoon of cinnamon for half a teaspoon of ginger, cardamom, black pepper and nutmeg. Here, I like to add two or three cloves and a few drops of my homemade vanila extract. If you’re team sugar, add the sugar. Mix it for about 1 or 2 minutes (it’ll depend on the power of your food processor). Stop every once in a while and stir a bit with a spatula. It’ll help the mixture to beat evenly, and it’ll also allow you to supervise the texture. Be careful! We’re not making peanut butter.
The consistency will depend on your taste. The traditional paçoca is quite grainy. For that you want to stop blending when you can still see chunks of flour but, if you make a ball with it, it’ll keep. I like to get a tiny bit creamier than that, so I keep blending until I have play dough texture. Just before it turns into cream.
Now you get to the fun part. I like to spread the dough on parchment paper and let it rest on the fridge for about 5 minutes. I find it makes it easier to work with, but you can play with your paçoca straight from the blender.
Now, just shape it as you like. If you have cookie molds, you can use them to create cute shapes or, you can just do like I do and make dices or mini balls. Be creative and enjoy.