this post on Flavors of Brazil, I mentioned that the name pé-de-moleque was applied to different things in different regions in Brazil. What the word means in Rio de Janeiro or Belo Horizonte is not the same thing as what it means in Recife or Fortaleza. What it means in all southern and central regions of Brazil is a sticky, chewy candy that is very similar to North American peanut brittle - intensely sweet and full of caramel flavors and packed full of roasted, unsalted peanuts.
Whether to use peanuts with or without skins is entirely up to the cook - I've seen it offered both ways, and a quick search of online recipe shows just about equal numbers called for peanuts with skins and for those without. I think that the version with skins is more visually in the end, but it's really a minor detail. Have it your way.
RECIPE - Pé-de-moleque, Southern Version
2 cups roasted, unsalted peanuts (with or without skins)
1 cup water
600 gr rapadura (3 cups dark brown sugar may be substituted)
unsalted butter to grease cookie sheet
Generously grease a cookie sheet with softened butter. Reserve.
If using rapadura, cut it into small cubes. Place the rapadura or sugar in a deep, heavy saucepan, and add the water. Stir to mix, and heat over high heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar is dissolved and the liquid begins to boil. Stop stirring at that point and continue cooking until the syrup reaches the hard ball stage - 250-265F or 120-130C (click here for an explanation of cold water test for sugar syrups). Add the peanuts, remove the syrup from heat, and stir briefly with a wooden spoon to coat the peanuts with syrup. Continue stirring the mixture slowly until the syrup begins to thicken and become opaque.
Pour the thickening mixture onto the cookie sheet, and spread it with a rubber spatula. Let it continue to cool, and when it is beginning to harden, cut it into pieces of whatever size you desire with a sharp knife dipped in boiling water. Let it harden completely, then break it into the pieces you have cut. Let them cool completely, then put them in a wax-paper lined cookie tin or plastic container.
Keeps for up to one week.
Recipe translated and adapted from Mdemulher Culinaria.