Thursday, February 25, 2010

Candy (toffee), Ghana-style: Recipes #44 Groundnut "cakes and #45 Coconut "cakes"

Ghanaians use available ingredients to create simple candies, or "toffees." Here is a version of "peanut cakes" (recipe #44) and a similar "coconut cake" made with toasted dried coconut instead of peanuts (#45).

Recipe #44 Groundnut toffee (peanut cakes)

This relative of peanut brittle requires only 3 simple ingredients:  peanuts (dry roasted, unsalted), sugar and a little water.

The only equipment needed: a measuring cup and tablespoon, a rolling pin (or meat tenderizer or something similar), some waxed paper or sturdy plastic or paper bag (optional), a heavy 2-quart saucepan, a long-handled metal or wooden spoon for stirring, a flat glass surface like a cutting board or a baking pan,  a spatula, knife, or spoon, and a stove.

Measure out:

3/4 cup dry roasted unsalted peanuts
1/2 cup of sugar
2 Tablespoons of water

1. Coarsely crush the peanuts (easiest between 2 pieces of waxed paper or in a plastic or paper bag) with a rolling pin or other heavy object like a meat tenderizer.
2. Wet a glass cutting board or pan (like a lasagna or cake pan) with a little water and set aside.
3. Also wet (or rub a little margarine or butter) on the spatula, spoon or knife and set it aside, too.
4. Put the water and sugar into the saucepan and briefly stir it on medium high heat just until the sugar is mostly dissolved. Turn it to medium and let it continue cooking on MEDIUM WITHOUT STIRRING  it at all until the mixture turns brown (probably around 10 minutes). If crystals form you probably stirred it too long or your heat wasn't high enough.Turn the pan gently if the burner browns unevenly. Be careful once the mixture begins to brown so that it doesn't burn and turn into charcoal.
5. When it is a nice golden brown, remove the pan from the heat (turn off the stove) and quickly stir in the nuts.
6. Immediately turn the toffee onto the wet cutting board and use the prepared spatula or knife or spoon to press the toffee flat. It will be VERY HOT so do not touch it with your fingers.
7. As the candy cools it will harden. You can simply break it into pieces, score it while it is still warm into squares, diamonds or triangles and break them off when it is hard (top row in top photo, right), or take small spoonfuls of  the warm, but not hot candy, and roll it into balls (top left in photo above)

A yummy treat that will also keep well.

Recipe #45: Coconut "cakes" (toffees)

To make coconut candy (aka coconut "cakes"), you will substitute unsweetened dried grated coconut for the peanuts.  

Before beginning, preheat an oven to 350 degrees farenheit (medium heat). Put  3/4 cup dried, unsweetened flaked or grated coconut onto a cookie sheet and toast it in the oven, shaking the pan every couple of minutes. It will probably take only 4-6 minutes to lightly toast the coconut (it smells wonderful, by the way). Immediately remove the cookie sheet and set it aside. Follow the instructions above for making the carmelized sugar syrup, but instead of adding peanuts, add the toasted coconut, then follow the same steps of pressing it onto a wet platter or board to make the crisp "cakes" (the bottom row right in the top photo above). The candy on the left bottom row of the photo at the beginning of this post is made with fresh coconut and makes chewier toffees. I'll describe how to make them another day.

The day I cooked these I sent a batch of both types of candy with my husband to share with his students and colleagues at Penn State. No candy came home with him.

Special thanks to Katie Cochrane for her help in the kitchen and with the camera this week.


yoshi3329 said...

I love it! thank you so much for this!

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Fran said...

Thank you, Shevonne. Anything that gets the word out about African cuisines has my support. Happy to participate.

Fran said...

If you're interested in the interview I did for, it's posted at

Sylvia said...

I think the best way to eat toffee is on top or ground into some sort of chocolate. Absolutely divine! I never knew how to make it homemade.. your pictures have given me a lot of insight!
Cigar Ratings

Unknown said...

Is this the type of brittle that is less hard than traditional American style brittle?
Thank you!

Fran said...

I don't think it is very different from traditional American peanut brittle. Perhaps you're referring to "peanut chews" in which you do not cook it as long?