Walk into any Dominican colmado (corner store) and in some corner you will find a jar full of Dulces de Mani y Ajonjoli (Peanut and Sesame Candies). Like many a thing, its popularity endures not despite its simplicity, but because of it.
You would think that by now, flooded as we are with imported, sophisticated candies, these would have disappeared. This is — fortunately — not the case, judging by the many brands competing for the nostalgic market.
Chain supermarkets, specialty stores, and airport shops now all carry these and other traditional Dominican sweets, in the past relegated to the big glass jar on colmado counters. Modern packaging, snazzy labels and nutritional content show that what once was a small cottage industry, has now joined modernity.
I have never bought any of these from a store, but I suspect that most of them find their way into the luggage of those trying to stretch just a bit more the sweetness of visiting “la tierrita“, or into the suitcase of the relative who knows that this will be a gift well-received. It sure beats travelling with fruits, prepared foods and even meats, and risk a hefty fine, and the stern look of a humorless custom agent unable to comprehend just how bitter homesickness is, and just how much a taste of home sweetens it. Not that I have met anyone who does that, no, not ever.
I hazard a guess that not many of our readers in our home country will even bother making these. Why, if after all they’re just a corner away, should the mood strike.
But if you find yourself craving a bite of this humble candy, while you reminisce of better, happier and simpler times, in a little piece of land where it’s alway summer, here’s our recipe.
- 1 teaspoon of peanut oil (to grease the baking sheet)
- 1/2 cup white cane sugar
- 3 tablespoons of water
- 1/2 cup of roasted lightly-salted peanuts or sesame seeds (see notes)
Grease a baking sheet.
Mix sugar and water and simmer in heavy saucepan over medium heat. Once it turns into a thick golden brown caramel, mix in peanuts or sesame. Remove from the heat and immediately pour carefully onto the greased baking sheet.
Once cool to the touch cut with a sharp knife into 1 inch [2.5 cm] squares. Store in a jar at room temperature.
A silpat works much better than an oiled sheet, if you have one, use it.
This is traditionally made with unsalted peanuts, but I loved the touch of salt, and I bet you will too once you try it.
I added a tablespoon of black sesame seeds to the white sesame for some visual interest.