There’s something about the combination of peanuts, sesame and five-spice that reminds me of my childhood. Growing up Asian in the Midwest gave me a skewed sense of food, where the authentic Chinese cuisine that my mom made clashed with the Midwestern meat and potatoes food of my friends. I often times had to sneak sweets into the house, and Halloween was always a huge treat for me.
Yet we always seem to have these peanut sesame candies floating around the house. They only came out when the guests arrived, but I loved their sweet deep crunch. Making them at home is a snap.
These candies are completely addictive. Don’t be scared by making the candy base first. The addition of the five spice, a traditional Asian spice blend found in Asian grocery stores or specialty stores, will initially turn the sugar syrup into an unappealing gray color but as the sugars caramelize you’ll get a lovely rich brown color that contrasts beautifully against the white sesame seeds. Using a candy thermometer is useful, but if you don’t you can drip a bit of the candy into cold water. Once it hits the hard thread stage, where the candy turns into hard brittle threads, you’re done.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes
Yield: 6 servings
3 cups white granulated sugar
¾ cup whole milk
1½ teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon five spice powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
⅔ cup Crunch Time peanut butter
½ cup white sesame seeds, divided
1. Place the sugar, milk, vanilla, five spice powder, and sea salt in a large pot (about twice the size of the amount of ingredients you are adding). Turn the heat to medium high and cook the ingredients until you reach 300˚F – the hard thread stage about 10 to 15 minutes. Be sure to stir frequently with a heat-proof spatula or wooden spoon for even cooking.
2. While the sugar is cooking, measure out the peanut butter and have it on hand for when the sugar is ready. Prep a 9 x 9 inch pan and spray the bottom and sides with a neutral flavored cooking spray. Sprinkle ¼ cup of the sesame seeds over the bottom and sides of the pan, making sure to evenly coat the entire pan with the seeds.
3. Once the sugar has reached 300˚F, turn off the heat, and carefully add the peanut butter. The sugar will bubble and steam. Quickly mix the peanut butter into the sugar, with the heatproof spatula. If the candy cools too much, it will start to get crumbly. If this happens, turn the heat back on medium low and cook until it starts to come back together. But if you work fast, this shouldn’t happen.
4. Scrape the candy into the prepared pan and pat down with the heat-proof spatula to fill the pan. Sprinkle with the remaining sesame seeds. Let it cool on a wire rack for 15 or 20 minutes or until it’s cool enough to handle, but still warm. Remove from the pan and cut into bite size pieces. If you forget and let the candy cool to room temperature, it will be rock hard and difficult (but not impossible) to cut. Just use a sharp knife and some muscle, and be careful not to hurt yourself!