Unless you’re allergic to peanuts, you’ve probably snacked on peanut brittle at one point or another in your life. Personally, I’m not that big a fan of the stuff: I find it tooth-achingly sweet – almost hideously so – and there aren’t enough peanuts to keep me interested. Unless, of course, we’re talking about panocha – that is a totally different story all together!
Panocha takes its name from a confection made with toasted wheat flour and piloncillo (cones of dark brown sugar) eaten during Lent in the Hispanic communities of the Southwestern United States. However, as with many things imported to the Philippines during the time of the galleon trade route from Acapulco, Mexico, the dessert evolved at the hands of local cooks. Its present form is that of a dark brown disc of muscovado sugar candy whose surface is studded to the hilt with roasted peanuts with their skins on.
Unlike peanut brittle which is pretty much a saccharine affair with all the white sugar used in it, the flavour of panocha has a slightly fruity character due to the molasses used. As the peanuts are kept whole, it is a much crunchier, more crumbly snack. Wedges of the stuff broken off from a disc bought at the local market or sweet-maker make a perfect snack to crunch on with a mug of creamy, unsweetened coffee.