Makar Sankrant marks the holy harvest festival in India. This is the one celebration that is based upon the solar calendar and marks the transition of the Sun’s journey from the South to the North (from the Tropic of Capricorn into the Tropic of Cancer). Therefore it usually falls around January 13-15th depending upon the year. Traditionally, the Indian calendar is lunar based.
In Maharashtra, Makar Sankrant is always synonymous with eating white sesame seeds & the more the better! This auspicious festival also coincides with my father’s birthday, so we always have lots to celebrate in my family ☺. The Marathi word for sesame seeds is “til”.
My Til Chikki (Sesame Seed “Fudge”) is both soft & chewy. We love eating this especially during Makar Sankrant but also enjoy it throughout the year because it can be made in a snap. If you buy already toasted white sesame seeds, then this dessert comes together in absolutely no time.
Now I use Silpat for making this dessert – it’s basically a nonstick silicone based liner but you can also use wax paper lightly sprayed with cooking spray (Pam) as a good substitute. Sesame seeds are available in large quantities at any Indian grocery store or market.
TIL CHIKKI (White Sesame Seed “Fudge”)
2 cups white sesame seeds
½ cup dark jaggery (or you can use dark brown sugar), to taste
½ cup honey, to taste
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of ground allspice
pinch of ground cardamom powder
micro pinch of salt, to taste
First, line a baking tray with silpat (nonstick silicone baking mat) or a piece of wax paper lightly sprayed with cooking spray.
In a large non-stick pan on medium low heat, toast the sesame seeds until they are golden brown. Keep stirring the sesame seeds continuously so they brown evenly but do not burn them. Also, the sesame seeds have tendency to sometimes pop & jump – so be careful! Once the sesame seeds have nicely browned, quickly remove them from the pan & set aside until needed.
Now to the same pan on low heat, combine the jaggery with the honey & spices (nutmeg, allspice, cardamom powder & salt). Let cook until the jaggery has completely melted & then add in the toasted sesame seed. Mix well to combine all of the ingredients making sure the sesame seeds are evenly distributed.
Then very quickly & carefully, transfer the hot sesame seed mixture to the lined baking tray & spread out evenly (an offset spatula works well for this task). Next, smooth out the top of the chikki -- I use a rolling pin so it is very smooth.
Now simply let the chikki set for about 15-20 minutes & then cut into squares or diamond shaped pieces.
Store in an airtight container and don’t forget to share with family & friends.
You can add some coarsely chopped peanuts or coconut flakes to the recipe as well.