Shilpa of Aayi’s Recipes is continually making me envious by her beautiful parade of cakes, and no wonder: she has a keen interest in cakes and cake-decorating, and has greatly expanded her talents by studying the subject hands-on with local masters. Despite her self-criticism of the final outcomes, she manages to astound me- and the rest of her readers- with her exquisite attention to detail and gorgeous design. Each time I view the latest one, I find myself wide-eyed in disbelief that she has just begun this hobby!
Let me be honest with all of you: I have never attempted to develop any skills with complicated frosting/icing work; instead, I seem to prefer finding myself in awe at weddings, birthdays, and other occasions when one of these beauties stands before me- silent and breath-taking to behold- and for now, that’s fine with me! I’m far more interested in churning out edible ladoos and burfis to tell you the truth… So, you’ll have to excuse this little attempt with its rather messy frosting, and slightly-off-center arrangement of nuts…
This is a beet cake. Apparantly, any recipe for carrot cake can be made with beets instead (is it just me or are there other people contemplating gajar halvah at the moment?), and I do find myself wondering if turnips, rutabagas and radishes would work as well- maybe not. What I do know is that for several years I have been searching for the perfect carrot cake recipe: one that would recall the good old days before the low-fat revolution of the 1980’s took place, one that is like the many slices that I’ve purchased and didn’t regret spending $3-4 dollars on, one that is sinfully-rich, moist, and flavourful, one that screams out: “chilly nights are upon us in Wisconsin”, “mulled cider or wine is in order”, and “tonight would be a great night to sit near the burning hearth”… But really, despite these very subjective images that I tend to connect to a fork-ful, this cake is enjoyable at at any time of the year, and in any weather. And thus far, this particular recipe is the best I’ve found, and yes…I would pay $3.50 for a slice!
I have changed a few things with the original recipe. Mostly the spicing. (I also reserve the nuts for the filling and exterior and I greatly-disliked the icing recipe that accompanied the original cake recipe and thus found a much better one elsewhere to use). There are some of you that dislike cinnamon-flavoured sweets, but I assure you: if I am able to acquire a taste for cinnamon-infused savories, then it stands to reason that… well….what can I say? I played with the original author/creator’s spicing, so you can too! (But Pel is still thinking that his formula beats all others!)
Beet or Carrot Cake
(inspired by this one from Burt Wolf’s Menu Cookbook)
3 1/2-4 C shreds of peeled beets or carrots
1 C brown sugar, firmly-packed
1 C ghee (hee-hee… ghee makes this cake most decadent with a rich, browned-butter flavour, but vegetable oil (soybean, corn, canola, peanut) is the more usual choice. Don’t reduce it: this is divided by at least 20 slices of cake- so splurge a little!)
1 t vanilla extract
3 1/2 t ground cinnamon (I use a mix of true/Ceylon and cassia/Chinese cinnamon)
2 T chopped crystallized/candied”stem” ginger
1/4 t ground cardamom
1/8 t ground cloves
1/16 t ground nutmeg or mace
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1 C raisins, soaked in hot water for awhile and then chopped*
1 1/2 C all-purpose flour/maida (I suppose half-ata would be just fine)
1 1/2 C raw walnuts, pecans or hickory-nuts halves (I used pecans this time, but walnuts are most traditional)
ghee/oil for roasting nuts and greasing pan(s)
Icing-frosting (recipe below)
0)Pre-heat oven to 350 F/175 C. Grease and line the bottoms of 2 8″-9″ round cake-pans, or one 9″ spring-form pan with parchment-paper (use the bottom of the pan as a guide and cut to fit). Grease the top of the paper as well. I’ve tried it without the use of the paper: the cake tends to stick!
1)Roast the nuts in ghee/oil over med-low flame, stirring constantly until nicely-roasted and fragrant. Remove and drain. Reserve intact halves for decorating. Coarsely-chop the remainder for filling.
2)Mix the beet or carrot shreds with the sugar in a large mixing bowl and set aside for 30 minutes.
3)Add the ghee and mix well.
4)Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each.
5)Add the vanilla, spices, baking soda and powder and mix thoroughly. Add the raisins.
6)Add the flour in four parts, mixing just well-enough between each to blend. I try not to exceed 100 strokes of the spoon total.
7)Pour the batter into the pan or pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. (about 30 minutes for two 9″ pans, or 40-45 minutes for one 9″). Place on a rack and allow to cool completely.
8)Meanwhile, prepare the cream-cheese frosting/icing:
1/2 C butter, at room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 t vanilla extract
1 pound of confectioner’s/powdered sugar (plus more if needed)
A)Cream (beat well until fluffy and pale) the butter and cream cheese. Add the vanilla; add sugar little-by-little until stiff enough to hold a peak. (If you add too much, a sprinkle of milk will cure it)
9)Remove the cake(s) from the pan(s) and paper. If you baked a single, thick cake: carefully remove it from the pan and paper; slice it horozontally in half to form two layers/rounds.
10)Place one layer on a cake plate. Spread about 1/3 of the icing over the top. Sprinkle the chopped nuts over this and gently press them into the icing.
11)Place the second layer over the first. Press this layer gently, but firmly atop the other. Spread the remaining icing over the top and sides of the cake. Decorate the surface with the remaining nut-halves.
12)Chill for a few hours if you wish (I prefer it chilled), slice and serve with hot tea or coffee.
*I’ve also seen and eaten cakes that contain fresh/canned pineapple and/or coconut- very good. Other dried fruits might be nice too- instead of raisins- like apricots, prunes, etc.)
**P.S. Today is my birthday. I’m really quite old now… I would like to extend warm gratitude to my dear friend, June, for not only allowing me to photograph parts of her kitchen, but for the wonderful time I had at a dinner recently had there.)
Well, no…actually I was just browsing through one of my cookbooks and came across this recipe for steamed buns with a sweet red-bean filling(ma yung bao, for those interested). I recall making them a few years back for one of my ex’s, but perhaps you know how things like food become associated with past moments and people, and how you can find yourself “forgetting” certain dishes for awhile…well, I see no need to deprive myself of these any longer. Time goes on. Time heals all wounds, and, as my granny used to say, “Time wounds all heels…”
Unfortunately, granny wasn’t Chinese, so Confucious, you need not worry dear- your position is safe! But grandma-ma did take a Chinese cooking class several years ago, though I don’t think she was able to use her new-found skills much, as grandpa was a sworn “meat-n-potatoes”-kind-of-guy, but… I think she would have loved these! Truly. Perfect with tea, or an anytime-little-treat. Travels well too.!
Ma Yung Bao
(Chinese steamed buns filled with sweet red-bean paste)
For the red bean paste:
1 C adzuki/red chori (more info here)
3 lumps of gur/jaggery, crushed- or any sugar of your preference to taste
a pinch of salt
1) Take the adzuki/chori, rinse them in a few changes of water, then cover well with water and soak for 4 hours or so (this step can probably be skipped). Place beans and water to cover an inch or so in a pressure cooker and cook (at 15 lbs of pressure) for 10 minutes. Allow to cool and the pressure to fall.
2)Then, remove the cover and bring to a gentle boil and evaporate as much water away as possible, stirring gently now and then. When it begins to catch, remove from heat.
3)Puree the beans in food processor until a smooth paste is achieved, or, if you like, you may take small portions and bang away in a mortar-and-pestle or sill-batta to achieve a paste.
4)Return the paste to a pan, set it over low heat and add the sugar and salt. Stir frequently until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely*. This can be stored for a very, very long time in the refrigerator without spoiling.
5)Alternatively, sweet red bean paste may be purchased in a can, but I’ve tried it and trust me, this is way better and not too difficult.
For the buns**:
1 t active dry yeast
1 T sugar (some recipes use more- up to 1/4 C)
1/4 C lukewarm water
3 1/2 C all-purpose flour/maida
1 T solid fat (I used ghee, but Chinese recipes traditionally use lard)
3/4 C lukewarm water
1)Dissolve the yeast and sugar in 1/4 C of water. Set aside.
2)Rub the fat into the flour until crumbly and well-mixed, then add yeast mixture and remaining 3/4 C of water to form a slightly sticky dough. Adjust with flour/water as necessary.
3)Turn out onto a floured work-surface and knead for 5 minutes. Dust more flour if it is too sticky. At the end it should be smooth and springy. Set in a large bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and place in a warm place to rise for about 2 hours- until it has doubled in size.
4)Punch the dough down and re-cover it for about 30 minutes to rise and double in size again. At the end of this return the dough to the work-surface and knead 5 minutes again.
5)Take the dough and roll it into a long “log” about 2″ wide. Cut this in half, and then cut each half into portions that, when rolled into a ball, will be about 2″ in diameter. I didn’t do this… I just pinched off balls of dough; you get a feel for the appropriate size.
6)Take each ball of dough and flatten them between your palms and then roll out to about a 4-5″ circle, dusting top and the rolling surface with a pinch of flour.
7)Place a heaping tea-spoon of filling in the centre.
8)Then, make pleats along the outer edge as shown, pinching each to seal; gather the set of pleats and pinch while turning and slowly releasing the dough as you go. It takes some practice; I didn’t really get it right until the last few were produced, but no matter how they look, they’ll taste fine in the end!
9)Set these on grease-proof/waxed paper, laying the damp cloth gently over, to rise for 30 minutes or so.***
10)Line a steamer tray (or heat-proof plate within a steaming apparatus) with a damp cloth and place the buns within, leaving ample room around each to allow for furthur expansion during steaming. Steam for 15 minutes.****
11)Remove the steaming container from the steam underneath (carefully to avoid steam-burns) and allow the buns to cool and the remaining steam to escape before lifting the lid. (A sudden temperature change will cause the buns’ surface to crack). Then remove and serve. These can be made ahead and re-heated in the steamer for a few minutes if you wish, though I find they are still delightful at room temperature.
Here are pics of the rolling and filling:
*Some recipes for this paste require heating a small amount of roasted sesame-seed oil (3 T) in a pan before adding the paste, and also adding preserved cassia blossoms (2 t) as a flavouring, but I am unable to locate this in my city.
**This seems to be the preferred dough for this, but when I made these previously, I used a “quick” method that incorporated baking soda or powder instead of yeast. Some writers even suggest ready-made, refrigerated ”Parker house roll” dough (such as Pillsbury brand) as a quick substitute, but you know me…
***Some recipes invert them- pleats down- after this point.
****Some recipes brush the buns with roasted sesame-seed oil.
Oh! And before I forget…I discovered a very good way to use spent coffee-grounds and the juice from salted cucumbers! It’s my own little invention. [assumes a smug expression]
Take a large spoonful of moist coffee-grounds, add some juice that was squeezed from salted cukes, and a little yoghurt…voila!
A chemical-free, energizing facial-scrub! Just be careful not to get any in your eyes, as it doesn’t feel very good. (I know this from experience, perhaps.)
…Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see
It’s getting hard to be someone but it all works out, it doesn’t matter much to me
Let me take you down, ‘cos I’m going to Strawberry Fields
Nothing is real, and nothing to get hungabout
Strawberry Fields forever…
Summer has now officially begun- astronomically speaking- for those in the northern hemisphere: we have just passed through the longest day of the year, when the north pole is most oriented toward the sun. On the eve of the 23rd of June, the Midsummer’s Eve festivals of nearby Door County, in tandem with the lands of Scandinavia, kick off the night with bonfires, grilled food, and plenty of alcoholic drinks to wash it all down. The merry-making continues again on the 24th- Midsummer’s Day. I have never attended these myself, but I’ve heard tales…and I imagine that, since these two dates fell across the weekend this year, this pagan holiday dating from pre-christian times was especially riotous…
But I celebrated in my own way: on Saturday I went strawberry-picking, with a good friend and my mother, at a local “pick-your-own” strawberry farm. (We also scavenged their nearby asparagus-field for any last remaining stalks. I know we’ve heard enough about that vegetable, but it is so much better than what is available in the supermarkets, and it’s season is so short…so, those without access, please forgive my enthusiasm)
The field director… a nice woman who keeps track of the picked rows with a flag-system.
Diligent strawberry-enthusiasts at work…
The plant flowers and produces the berries right next to the ground; straw keeps the berries from touching the damp soil and decomposing, which they do quite quickly after reaching their prime. (Wild strawberries also grow in Wisconsin, and though more difficult to pick, I have had the pleasure…)
Only that darker-red one in the center would be picked now- though it would best after another day or two on the plant; the remainder ripen one-by-one; therefore the flag-system keeps a rotation going until the season ends…
Our final cache about to be tallied by one of the sons: just under 25 lbs. Enough to have a few now and the rest preserved for special treats throughout the coming year…
I admit, though, that I am quite fond of strawberries, as if you hadn’t guessed… and to kneel on the ground to search the plants for the low-growing fruit, is small consequence for the reward: beautifully ripe, sweet berries with just a hint of tartness left in them at their peak. Already there are plans for jam and strawberry short-cake, but, this year, I’d like to try something new with a few of them: a strawberry syrup with which to make cool sodas for the hot days ahead, to drizzle over ice-cream, pancakes or waffles…or to flavour coffee drinks or even hot cocoa when cool nights eventually return. And I suppose alcoholic refreshments could be [clears throat] uh…concocted with it as well…
So, that’s what I did…
(with by-products of seedy pulp and a thick puree)
5 C fresh strawberry puree (rinse well, remove calyx, puree in a blender or food-processor or pass through a coarse sieve)
2 C water
1 3/4 C sugar (more if you like it sweeter; I don’t)
pinch of salt
pinch of citric acid
1)Place the puree, water and sugar in a saucepan and, over low heat, slowly bring to boil. Stir, lower heat and maintain a gentle simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat, cover and allow to cool until warm.
2)Pass this mixture through a fine wire sieve into another pan; this will remove the seeds and some of the pulp: you will have about 1/2 C of fiber-rich, sweet solids remaining in the sieve. This can be chilled and eaten by small spoonfuls…I thought of making a halvah with sooji rava, but… I didn’t.
3)Now, take the strained mixture and return it to the stove; again, bring it slowly to a boil, then remove from heat. Pour this hot mixture through a triple-layer of cheesecloth (I lined a large colander with the cheesecloth set over another pan). Allow this to drip through for about 4 hours. Give the contents in the upper chamber a stir and allow it to drip for another hour. At this point you should have about 1 1/2 C of thick puree that will no longer offer any liquid. This seedless, thick puree can be used for flavouring a cheesecake, making strawberry ice-cream, used as a dessert-sauce, halvah-making, etc… (I promptly froze it)
4)To the potent syrup now twice-filtered- you should have a little over 4 C- add the salt and citric acid. Store in the refrigerator.
5)To compose a strawberry soda, place a small amount in a glass; fill with carbonated water and ice-cubes. How shall I compare thee to a summer’s day!
I’d like to thank these two lovely people for such a nice time… 🙂 ; behind them is the over-blown asparagus-field that we attacked next! We found enough for a few last dishes of the season- then it’s farewell to the beloved spears until next spring…
This pastry is a very standard recipe with little variation, and can be found in many places- online and tucked away in recipe files- to be brought out and utilized for something impressive, fairly-quick and easy, a few hours before company is expected. There is nothing healthy or nutritious about it- save the nuts; it is a total, melt-in-the-mouth carbohydrate and butter fest…
When my sister and I were young, my mother would make this -once in a great while. We always loved it, but it was my mother herself who would slowly nibble her way through most of it. Though it has been a few years since she has made this (that I know of), she still has an unquenchable sweet-tooth, so I thought I would make this and set aside some just for her. She appreciated it very much! (though I am sure her waistline didn’t!) 😀
This pastry is not made of French “puff-pastry” (pâte feuilletée) as the name would suggest(multiple layers of dough and butter)…I don’t even know if it truly is Danish in origin- it might be, but it is very common in my area of the U.S., and once in a while will show up on dessert trays of large gatherings. It is composed of three layers: 1) short-crust pastry (pate brisee), 2) choux pastry (pate a choux), and 3) butter-sugar icing or sometimes cream-cheese icing, plus almonds.
Danish Almond Puff Pastry
makes 16, 1″x 3″ pieces
1 C All-purpose flour
1/2 C unsalted butter, chilled and firm
2 T cold water
Step one: Pre-heat oven to 350 F. Cut the butter into the flour using a pastry-blender or fork, until the largest “grains” are the size of peas. Dribble the water over the surface and, using your hands, gently press the water into the flour/butter mixture (most of it will come together, but by no means knead it!). Press this gently into two long rectangles- 3″ X 12″- on an ungreased baking-sheet. You can use a knife to gently tap the sides to straighten them.
1 C water
1/2 C unsalted butter
1 t almond extract
1 C flour
Step two: Bring the water and butter to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the almond extract and immediately turn off the heat. Add the flour all at once and stir quickly until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure each is well-blended until the next is added. Spread this mixture over the two short-crust rectangles. Bake for one hour- to one hour 15 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 2 hours or so.
2 T unsalted butter, softened- room temp
1 1/2 C confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
1-2 T water
2 handfuls of chopped or sliced roasted almonds
Step three: Cream the butter until fluffy. add 1/2 C of the sugar, mix well, then add remaining cup. Add the vanilla extract and enough water to make a spreadable consistency (be careful not to add too much, if you do, adjust with sugar). Spread over the top. Sprinkle with almonds and lightly press them into the surface. Allow an hour or two for the icing to set before cutting into 1″ X 3″ strips. Serve with coffee or tea.
I think it would be interesting to experiment with this recipe, not only in various flavourings- I have made a peach version (slice carefully through the choux-pastry layer and spoon in peach preserves; replace the top)- but also to incorporate whole-wheat flour somewhere for added fiber and nutrients. The butter content can’t be fooled with: these are age-old formulas to achieve definite textures. In lieu of this, it is best made for special occasions or the bulk given away to neighbors…
Some of my food-blogging friends and I have had discussions of yoghurt-cheeses and their appearance in several cuisines, including America’s- where cream cheese/Philadelphia cheese and “neufchatel” (though this does not resemble the true French cheese of the same name) are made in a very similar way… It is delectable when paired with fruit- there is no debate of that- but the “chocoholic” in me is continually searching for new ways to express itself, and I am certain that in no way could I be the first to dream up this concoction…
Chocolate, as a bitter drink, was well-known and used by the Aztecs back to antiquity, as was vanilla. The conquering Spaniards combined this with their passion for cinnamon-flavoured sweets (an assertion of the Moorish influence and Arab trade with India) and milk. It is not difficult to see how Mexican-style chocolate was born, and indeed, all other chocolate confections “born” afterward…
In this recipe, I have combined chocolate with a touch of vanilla, and the familiar combination of cardamom and cinnamon- prevalent in Indian coffee and tea preparations- with the milk-become-yoghurt-become-chatta sweet known as shrikhand in Gujju and Marathi -cinnamon being the tie that binds the hands across the world to create this delectable fusion. Mexican drinking chocolate often contains ground almonds as well, so… an appropriate accompaniment, to my mind, had to be freshly-fried almond pooris; I make a final bow to shrikhand’s origin by gracing the chocolate shrikhand with roasted chiroli-nuts…
Resist if you must!
I extend a big thank you to Madhuli of My Foodcourt for her assistance in helping me name the chocolate shrikhand.
Chocolate Shrikhand with Almond Pooris
4 C yoghurt (I used homemade 3%, but any richness may be used)
1/3 C sugar, more or less to taste (I used raw cane/ turbinado)
1 oz bittersweet chocolate
1/4 t ground true/Ceylon/soft cinnamon
the seeds of two cardamom pods, ground
1/2 t pure vanilla extract
1 T chiroli-nuts
1)Tie the yoghurt in a double-thickness of cheesecloth and suspend it somewhere, with a bowl underneath, to drain most of the whey for at least 3 hours; some, like me, prefer the texture be a little thicker and therefore let it hang longer 5, 8, 10 hours… I leave it up to you. This plain cheese is called chakka.
2)Empty the contents into a bowl, and add the sugar, mixing well. Allow it to stand for an hour or more to dissolve the sugar, then pass this mixture through a wire sieve for maximum smoothness.
3)Melt the chocolate in a small, metal dish over hot water, or use the microwave (keep a close eye on it to avoid scorching). Take a spoonful of the sweet-chakka and mix it with the chocolate, add this to the bowl. Take another spoonful and mix it with any chocolate that still clings and again add. Mix the chocolate with the sweet-chakka thoroughly. Taste for sweetness and adjust if necessary.
4)Add the final flavouring of ground spices and vanilla; combine well.
5)Chill this mixture well for at least an hour to allow the flavour of the spices to marry with the others.
6)Heat a little ghee/oil in a small pan and fry, stirring continuously, the chiroli, until lightly roasted (mine are a bit too dark) and fragrant. Remove to a cloth or paper towel to absorb excess oil and cool.
7)Serve the chocolate shrikhand in small bowls, sprinkled with chiroli, and freshly-made almond pooris (below) on the side.
2/3 C Ata (Indian whole-wheat flour) plus more for dusting
1/3 C ground raw almonds
tiny pinch of salt
oil for deep-frying
1)Mix the flour, almond-meal, and salt together well, then add enough enough water to form a soft, yet workable dough. Knead for 10 minutes, replace it to the bowl and cover with a damp towel to rest for an hour or so. (or place in a plastic bag)
2)Heat the oil over a medium-low flame. Divide the dough into into 8 equal portions, and taking each, roll into an ball and flatten into a patty, with your hand, onto a floured board. Sprinkle some more flour over the top and roll thinly into a 5″ round. Set each on a plate, overlapping the next, and keep covered with a damp dish-towel. Take each poori and gently set it on the surface of the hot oil (hold it with both hands loosely and rest the center, then release the sides. (if it sinks, the oil is not hot enough). Fry for a second or two, and using a pair of tongs or other utensil, push the edges gently under the oil until the top surface changes colour; it should puff up. Turn to the other side, fry until golden, turn back to the other side for a few seconds. Lift out the poori and place in a cloth or paper-lined bowl, leaning against the side to allow excess oil to drain and cover with a lid. Serve immediately.
NOTE: An Umrikan acquaintance just tasted this; although the pooris are now stale and should have been re-fried, still, she didn’t find it sweet enough…..so perhaps you may add more sugar than I did to the shrikhand, or shake sugar over the pooris as they come out of the oil…..I found the light sweetness quite refreshing however…and the whole crispy-soft combo addictive. Anyone who makes this, feel free to give me your input…
And what about those black, bat-like creatures? A nut! Known in Hindi as singhara, in Bengali as paniphal, in Sinhalese as ikiliya, in Chinese as ling or ling jiao, in German as singharanuss, in French as chataigne d’eau a deux cornes, in Japanese as hishi or tou bishi, in Nepalese as singadaa, and in English as water caltrop, bull-nut or singhara-nut; the latin botanical name is trapa bicornis, although other species of the genus are similar and are also known by these names. Hard to believe it’s vegetable eh? Nature is more fascinating than fiction…
The winners? Well… Richa (As Dear as Salt), Anita (a Mad Tea Party) and Linda (Out of the Garden)answered correctly the name of the nut. Congratulations! But, there is a hidden code in the exclamation marks in the title of the post. The marks follow what is known as the Fibonacci sequence. Each member of the sequence is formed by adding the two preceding it. And, also, each adjacent pair, as the sequence continues, approaches a particular relationship known as the golden ratio or divine proportion…this fascinating number is represented by the greek letter, phi; it appears all over nature- in the path of Venus across the heavens, in plants, animals- even in the human body! Using the measurement from our feet to the top of our heads, the golden ratio appears at our navel; also the wrist is at this marking point between our elbows and tips of our fingers…the list goes on! The Fibonacci sequence itself appears in nature as well. Good example? The spiral pattern of gobhi/cauliflower and the seeds at the center of sunflowers follows two such interlocking sequences. Also strands of DNA appear to form this pattern as well…
So, who noticed this cryptic code in the title? Two people…. The Cooker, and Anita (a Mad Tea Party)….great job both of you!!!
Obviously there is only one common element in both sets, and that is Anita…
Congratulations and a serious sashtaang pranam.. [bends down and touches her feet]
This is really a recipe for 7-cup barfi, a very popular Indian sweet with many different known formulas, all centering on the use of 7 cups of various ingredients. I like this one because every cup is a different thing, and I added another cup because I felt that the nuts, which are often included in the recipes, should be given their own cup; in short, I felt bad for them… 😦
Sort of… 🙂 the whole truth is that I was experimenting with my favorite 7-cup recipe and botched a batch that needed remedying: I had left out a cup of moong flour, not because I was out of stock- I wasn’t, but because I felt it a bit redundant to use two different bean-flours in one sweet. Plus, I wanted a nice, green-free colour…
So, to summarize: I had increased the nuts to one cup and omitted the moong flour. It didn’t work. Sue me. When the mixture was poured into a thali I had pools of unabsorbed ghee floating about. Ghee is far too precious of a substance to not be occupied somewhere… so, after staring into the pools for a while, looking at the room reflected in the depths, I thought of a possible solution: I roasted an eighth, non-legume ingredient (7th if the nuts aren’t counted- apparantly nuts don’t absorb ghee as well as starchy flours do!) and dumped the thali-contents back into the pan to re-heat and marry it to the new addition. Thankfully, it worked out splendidly, and I shall have no need now to keep searching for the best 7-cup barfi recipe out there, because the best one has 8 cups! 😉
Here is an interesting excerpt from Wikipedia’s entry for the number 8 and its significance to Buddhist thought:
The Dharmachakra, a Buddhist symbol, has eight spokes. The Buddha’s principal teaching — the Four Noble Truths — ramifies as the Eightfold Noble Path. In Mahayana Buddhism, the branches of the Eightfold Path are embodied by the Eight Great Bodhisattvas (Manjushri, Vajrapani, Avalokiteshvara, Maitreya, Kshitigarbha, Nivaranavishkambhi, Akashagarbha, and Samantabhadra). These are later (controversially) associated with the Eight Consciousnesses according to the Yogachara school of thought: consciousness in the five senses, thought-consciousness, self-consciousness and unconsciousness-‘consciousness’ (alaya-vijñana). The ‘irreversible’ state of enlightenment, at which point a Bodhisattva goes on ‘autopilot’, is the Eight Ground or bhūmi. In general, ‘eight’ seems to be an auspicious number for Buddhists, e.g., the ‘eight auspicious symbols’ (the jewel-encrusted parasol; the goldfish (always shown as a pair, e.g., the glyph of Pisces); the self-replenishing amphora; the white kamala lotus-flower; the white conch; the eternal (Celtic-style, infinitely looping) knot; the banner of imperial victory; the eight-spoked wheel that guides the ship of state, or that symbolizes the Buddha’s teaching). Similarly, Buddha’s birthday falls on the 8th day of the 4th month of the Chinese calendar.
Also, an octopus has eight arms, a fallen 8 is a symbol for infinity, and 8 this will be after it is made and gone! 😀
- 1 C ghee (don’t you dare use anything else!)
- 1 C sugar (I used white, but any dry sugar of your choice will work)
- 1 C milk
- 1 C raw almonds, skinned (soak almonds in hot water for an hour to easily remove the skin)
- 1 C coconut, shredded (fresh, frozen or dried will work)
- 1 C semolina
- 1 C besan
- 1 C brown rice flour (will white rice flour work you might ask? Possibly… probably. I like the added nutrition and fiber of brown rice, in certain cases.)
- 1/2 t cardamom, whole seeds (elaichi)
- a few strands of saffron, crushed
- a pinch of salt
1)Blop two spoons of the ghee in a large cooking vessel (I used a wok) and set it over medium-low flame. Smear a bit of ghee on a thali and set aside.
2)Combine the sugar with the milk in a small sauce-pan and set it over low heat, stir occasionally until it just comes to a boil and the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and sprinkled the crushed saffron threads and the salt over it and set aside.
3)Simultaneously, add the nuts to the hot ghee and fry, turning constantly, until fragrant and golden-brown. Remove to a bowl.
4)Fry/toast the coconut in the same pan, using the ghee that remains in the pan which was used for the almonds, turning constantly, until it is golden and fragrant (use caution when roasting coconut; it will go from tan to black quite quickly!). Remove to a separate bowl.
5)Roast the three flours separately in turn, using the same pan, until each is golden and fragrant. Remove these to rest in a bowl together (be sure to remove as much as you can from the pan before roasting the next).
6)Crush the cardamom seeds in a mortar, add the toasted coconut and crush this to a coarse paste.
7)Pick out a handful of the most beautiful, evenly-coloured roasted almond halves from the bowl and reserve these for decorating. Add the remainder to the coconut in the mortar and crush to a coarse paste.
8)Add the remaining ghee from the cup to the pan (as well as any ghee that clings to the bowls you used for the almonds and coconut)and set it over med-low heat; add the roasted flours and mix well. Add the milk-water mixture and continue heating and stirring until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan and moves as one mass. Add the paste from the mortar and mix well.
9)Turn out onto the thali and pat it down well until quite smooth using a metal spatula. Score the surface into diamond shapes using a dull knife. Press an almond-half into the center of each diamond and allow to cool. (place any nuts that remain after decorating in a small bowl and hide it in a cabinet to secretly munch later)
10)When cool, use a sharp knife to cut all the way through the score-marks. Serve with tea, coffee or cooling drinks.
Amazingly, this melt-in-the-mouth sweet seems to be impervious to humidity… so try it now; don’t procrastin-8!