November 27, 2011

Bolo Sans Rival/ Le Gateau Sans Rival/ Sans Rival Cake (Cashew Meringue Cake With Cardamom & Saffron French Buttercream) : Daring Bakers Challenge, November 2011

C
all it by any name (Bolo, Gateau or Cake) you like, this is a dessert that is supposedly without a rival – Sans Rival!
Catherine of Munchie Musings was our November Daring Bakers’ host and she challenged us to make a traditional Filipino dessert – the delicious Sans Rival cake! And for those of us who wanted to try an additional Filipino dessert, Catherine also gave us a bonus recipe for Bibingka which comes from her friend Jun of Jun-blog.
I was pleasantly surprised when I saw this month’s Daring Bakers challenge. Though the Gateau Sans Rival is of French origin, and it is a much loved cake not only in the Philippines but also here where I live in Goa. Here, the Bolo Sans Rival as it is known (Bolo is Portuguese for “cake”), is a traditional Christmas time favourite though I understand not  too many people make it at home these days.




What’s a French cake doing in India, or Goa to be precise?
Goa used to be a Portuguese colony and considering that the Portuguese were here for over 400 years, its natural that they influenced the Goan Catholic cuisine to a very large extent. The Portuguese brought along a lot of their food/ ingredients on their voyages to Goa and when these were used up, they looked for locally available substitutes.
So if recipes required almonds or walnuts originally, these were replaced by cashewnuts which were available in plenty. So the French Gateau Sans Rival (an almond daquoise) became the Bolo Sans Rival (a cashewnut daquoise) in Goa.
It seems that the Goan Bolo Sans Rival recipe calls for almond extract, probably to provide a whiff of nostalgia by hinting at the almonds in the original version of this cake. I also understand that here, this cake is sandwiched with a simple buttercream, and not the French buttercream of the original.
It is especially interesting to note that both places, the Philippines and Goa, are rather warm and highly humid which is not exactly good news for meringue or buttercream. Yet this cake continues to be a festive tradition here.
Here is a detailed video explaining how to make a Sans Rival cake.




Catherine, this month’s host also gave us the option of trying out an additional challenge recipe, another Filipino favourite called the Bibingka. I couldn’t make it before the DB deadline but I’m going to try it sometime soon. As coincidence would have it, Goa is famous for a dessert called Bebinca which is however more like the Indonesian Kek Lapis.
I made only the Bolo Sans Rival and since this cake has an Indian touch to it, I decided to make a cardamom and saffron buttercream. I made some very small changes to the given recipe. I halved the original recipe and added only a touch of cocoa to provide some colour contrast to my yellow buttercream.



Once I halved the recipe, I realised I didn’t have the right sized pans to bake my meringue in. So what I did was to spread out the cashewnut meringue as four 6” circles on parchment paper and bake them. I later realised I could have piped out the meringue into circles instead of spreading it out, for neater circles!
I also halved the buttercream recipe but found it wasn’t quite enough even though this cake requires very thin layers of it, so I had to make some more. So if you make a half recipe, you might just need a little more than the recipe of buttercream. Please note that both these recipes are for a 6” cake (half the original recipe).
Bolo Sans Rival (Cashew Meringue Cake With Cardamom & Saffron French Buttercream)


Ingredients:

5 egg whites, room temp
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tbsp cocoa (optional and not traditional)
1 cup finely chopped and toasted cashewnuts
About 1/2 cup not so finely chopped and toasted cashewnuts, for decoration


Method:

Note: You will need to make four layers, each 6” in diameter. You might need to bake in 2 batches. Be sure to use fresh parchment paper and cooled pans/ trays for each batch. If you have 6” pans use them. I didn’t so I used cookie sheets.
Cut out parchment circles (or squares) large enough to comfortably accommodate 6” meringue circles and which will sit properly on your baking sheets. On the underside, draw the outline of a 6” circle to guide when you are piping the meringue circles. Grease/ butter the side of the parchment pieces that you will pipe the meringue on. Keep them aside.
In a large clean, dry glass or metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites on medium until foamy (about 2 minutes). Sprinkle with cream of tartar. Gradually add the sugar, a couple of tablespoons at a time, continuing to beat now at high speed until stiff shiny peaks form. (about 7-10 minutes)


Fold in finely chopped nuts, without deflating the meringue. Divide the meringue into four equal parts. Use a bit of meringue to stick the parchment pieces to the baking sheets. Spread/ pipe each meringue portion on each sheet into a 6” circle. in pans, evenly to edges. If doing batches, use fresh parchment paper and cooled pans for each batch.


6. Bake 160C (325F) for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the meringue from the baking pans while still hot; allow to cool slightly. Peel off the parchment paper while it is still warm, it is difficult to remove sometimes when they have completely cooled.
My meringue circles were still a bit soft so I left them in the warm oven after I had switched it off, to crisp them.  When cool, trim edges so that all 4 meringue layers are uniformly shaped. You have to be careful here, as the meringue can crack/ break sometimes. Keep aside or store in an airtight container, separating the layers with parchment paper till you are ready to assemble the cake.

Cardamom & Saffron French Buttercream
(Adapted from the Daring Bakers challenge recipe)


Ingredients:

3 egg yolks, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup water
1/4 to 1/2 tsp saffron threads
4 pods cardamom, powdered
140 gm unsalted butter, room temperature


Method:

In a largish bowl, beat the egg yolks at high speed until they double in volume and are a lemon yellow colour.
Put the sugar, water and saffron threads in a heavy pan and cook over medium heat, stirring the sides down only until all the sugar is dissolved and the syrup reaches one-thread stage (112C/235F).
With the mixer on high, very slowly pour the syrup down the sides of the bowl with the yolks in it, until all has been added. Be careful as the very hot syrup could burn you if it splashes from the beaters.
Continue beating on high until the mixture is ROOM TEMPERATURE (about 15 minutes). Still on high speed, beat in the soft butter a tablespoon at a time. Add the powdered cardamom and beat till mikxed. Refrigerate the buttercream for at least an hour, and whip it smooth just before you use it.


Assembling the Bolo Sans Rival:

Set one meringue circle on cake board/ plate with a dab of butter cream to hold it in place. Spread a thin layer of buttercream and then place another meringue circle on top. Repeat with the other two layers and buttercream and finish by covering the top and sides with a thin layer of buttercream.
Decorate the sides of the cake with the coarsely chopped cashewnuts and refrigerate till serving time. The cake is easier to cut when it is cold. This cake keeps well in the freezer. If you freeze it, remember to move it to the refrigerator an hour before serving.
Verdict:
An interesting cake and was a hit with everyone who had a slice. The crunch of the crisp and nutty meringue with the soft, creamy buttercream was nice. My daughter’s response was “What’s not to like about meringue and buttercream?”, and that’s from someone who loves both! For me, it was a chance to try my hand a local traditional favourite and I’m glad I did. Did I feel it was “Sans Rival”? I don’t think so though it was pretty good, though many of my fellow bakers might not agree with me.
I found the cake easy to make since I’m comfortable with making both meringue and French buttercream. This cake also has the advantage of being a “make ahead” cake and so is a great dessert to serve to company.
Though the recipe says this serves six people, we found it so rich that it served 10!
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November 21, 2011

Vegetable Paella (Spanish Saffron Flavoured Tomato Rice)

S
ome good friends of ours are good friends of ours arre back in town for a short visit and were coming over for dinner. I was wondering what to cook and as I kept narrowing down the options, I just realised that I was getting into a sort of rut with my menus. At some point, I seemed to be revisiting to the same old lot of trustworthy recipes. Not that this is a bad thing, especially as they have always been reasonably well appreciated by my dinner guests and family.
Still, I wanted the excitement and adventure of something new on my dinner menu.  While it is most definitely not a good idea to mete out the “guinea pig” treatment to one’s guests, I knew I could experiment on these friends of ours to some extent. I ran my new menu past my husband just to make sure he didn’t think I was heading for Disasterville!
I decided to serve a rice dish for the main course, and chose to make vegetable paella. In a country where there are so many different types of pulavs (pilafs), biryanis, khichdis and other rice dishes, a Paella might seem like just another tomato rice. Well, it is and it isn’t.




Paella is a Spanish saffron flavoured tomato based rice dish with vegetables and meat or shellfish. The Paella traces its origins to Valencia and gets its name from the "paellera", a round flat pan with two handles in which it is cooked and served. The paellera ensures that the rice can be cooked uniformly in a thin flat layer.
The original Paella is supposed to have been a labourers’ meal which was cooked slowly over an open fire using meat like chicken, rabbit, duck or snails which were available in and around the fields they worked in. It was served as a communal meal where everyone used their spoons and ate out of the paellera.
A paella is very flexible sort of dish to cook so, if you don't have the exact ingredients, you can always substitute something similar or something more to your personal taste. It also is a good way to use up what’s left in vegetable bin in your fridge.  What is distinctive about a Paella is the saffron that flavours and colours the rice, and the round and short grain rice that is used to make it.
Traditionally the Bomba variety of rice, which is grown in Calasparra, is used to make Paella. This is a short grain rice which absorbs a lot of water when cooking and stays firm without becoming mushy. I have seen a lot of recipes which call for using Basmati rice in Paella. My personal opinion is that this is doing a disservice to the Paella and the Basmati rice. I would suggest using a short grain or else medium grain rice for making Paella.
If you do not have saffron on hand, you can use turmeric powder. It is a rather poor substitute in this dish but it will give your Paella good colour, if not the flavour of saffron.




While cooking Paella, the rice is usually not cooked separately but added along with the stock after all the vegetables and meat have been sautéed. Paella is also never finished in the oven, traditionally though you will find some recipes that cook it this way. Here, I have deviated slightly by cooking the rice in vegetable stock first and then adding this to the sautéed vegetables. Since I used a medium grain rice, I found this an easier method to ensure that my Paella did not end up mushy but nice and moist.

Traditionally, Paella is a stand-alone dish and not served with anything but perhaps wine though many serve it with a green salad on the side. We are South Indians, and are not used to weating our rice preparations "dry" and without some sort of sauce-like gravy or something similar to accompany it. Actually we are the happiest if there's some sort of yogurt, plain or otherwise to go with our rice.

Since I was serving something non-Indian, I thought I'd keep with that plan and serve some Tzatziki with the Paella. Does Spanish rice and Greek yogurt sound like too much of fusion? If you are Indian, you would know that the flavours would be a perfect complement.

Vegetarian Paella


Ingredients:

1 cup medium grained rice
2 to 3 cups vegetable stock (depending on the variety of rice used)
¼ tsp saffron threads (or 1/4 tsp turmeric)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 tsp garlic paste (adjust to your taste)
1 medium red pepper, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cups cubed eggplant
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1/2 tsp flaked red chillies
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 1/2  tsp cumin seeds
1/2 cup puréed tomatoes
Salt to taste


Method:

Put the rice and vegetable stock in a large pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer and let the rice cook, stirring occasionally. The rice should be well cooked and moist, but not mushy or sticky. Add a little more vegetable stock while cooking, if needed.
In the meanwhile, place the saffron threads in a small bowl and pour a little hot water over it and keep aside for the colour and flavour to release.
Then heat the oil in another pan and turn the heat down to medium. Add the cumin seeds and sauté for about half a minute. Then add the chopped onion, garlic, chopped peppers and eggplant. Sauté until the peppers are almost tender. Add the chopped olives, pepper, chilli flakes and cook for about half a minute.
Add the puréed tomato and cook for a couple of minutes. Salt to taste. Add the saffron (with the water), cooked rice and mix everything together gently. Adjust for salt once again as needed.
Serve warm with lemon wedges, a salad, plain or seasoned yogurt and crisps for a more complete meal. This recipe serves 4.

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November 12, 2011

Ying’s Best One-Dish Meals : A Review And A Spicy Sesame Pad Thai

I
am an ardent fan of one-dish meals, most especially when I’m doing the cooking which is most of the time! One-dish meals means less preparation work, cooking in pot and so no worries about side dishes and far less work later in terms of clearing and washing up. When they’re cooked at home, one-dish meals are usually also a great way of serving up healthy, comforting and satisfying meals even to children who fuss over their food.
Show me someone who doesn’t like cooking one-dish meals and I’ll show someone who is glutton for punishment (assuming this person doesn’t routinely deal with a hungry, impatient family, never ending daily chores and has a retinue of help in the kitchen and around the house!)




So I was quite interested when the cover of one of the books Sellers Publishing sent me for reviewing read Ying’s Best One-Dish Meals – Quick & Healthy Recipes for the Entire Family. A slim hardbound book with beautiful photographs, Ying has compiled over 50 healthy one-dish meals that are easily put together easily without much effort. Her book is all about cooking healthy, filling and tasty meals for the family, with a twist on the usual fare without spending loads of time and effort in the kitchen, or resorting to processed foods.
Ying’s Chinese heritage and her extensive travels have influenced her cooking. This shows in her recipes which are a fusion of Asian and Western ingredients and techniques, and the dishes make for interesting flavour combinations. Her recipes in this book are categorised for easy use into chapters that are appropriately titled as Meals in a Wok, Meals in a Pot, Meals in A Hurry, Global Inspiration and Desserts in a Flash!



Some examples of the recipes you can find in the book are Happy Family Stir-Fried Rice; Pan-fried Tofu Salad with Green Tea and Honey Dressing; Spicy Sesame Pad Thai; Pasta with Spinach, Pine Nuts and Olives; Spicy Edamame Bean Stew; Cous-cous with Pine Nuts, Cranberries and Grapefruit; Orange Quinoa and Sweet Potato Salad; Chocolate and Mango with Toasted Almonds and Green Tea Ice-cream.
She also includes information and tips on saving time by planning ahead, planning meals, getting organised and stocking up the pantry. There’s also a useful table on cooking different types of grain.
Though the recipes I have listed are vegetarian, about 3/4 the recipes are non-vegetarian but can be adapted quite well if you’re vegetarian like me. I found the recipes concise, well presented, very doable, as most of the ingredients are easily available or can be substituted at a pinch. Ying also provides nutritional and serving information for each recipe. You can see some of the recipes in her book here. 
About Ying Chang Compestine:  
Ying is an award-winning author, former food editor with Martha Stewart's Body + Soul magazine, and a regular contributor to Cooking Light, Eating Well, Self, and Men's Health. She has also authored many children's books, cookbooks, and novels and is the spokesperson for Nestle Maggi and Celestial Seasonings.



I chose to try out Ying’s Spicy Sesame Pad Thai. Pad Thai is supposed to have originated in Bangkok for busy office workers who had very short breaks from work and needed nutritious and delicious food which was cooked up very quickly.
Pad Thai translates as “Thai style frying” and is a stir-fried rice noodle dish usually with roasted peanuts, sprouts, tofu, garlic chives/ green onions, egg, meat, etc., and a sauce which is a perfect balance of salty, spicy, tang and sweet. It is usually served with slices of lemon and other table accompaniments like soy sauce (or fish sauce), red chilli powder/ flakes, sugar, green chillies in vinegar, etc.



 This Pad Thai is very simple and uses sesame seeds instead of peanuts. This recipe doesn’t seemt o have a “sweet” component to the sauce and I’m not sure if that was a conscious omission. She doesn’t add sprouts to her Pad Thai (perhaps because a lot of homes outside South East Asia wouldn’t have them on hand) or tofu. I chose to add tofu to my Pad Thai.
The sauce can be made ahead and that makes this dish very easy to cook and you can use any kind of noodles, not just rice noodles. Though a little different from the usual peanut variation of the Pad Thai, we found the sesame flavoured version lighter and just as good.

Spicy Sesame Pad Thai


Ingredients:

For the spicy sesame sauce:
1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2-3 fresh green chillies (jalapeño/ Serrano), seeded and minced
1/4 cup sesame tahini *
1/4 cup soy milk
2 tbsp palm sugar (or brown sugar/ honey)**
1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

8 ounces wide rice noodles, fresh or dry***
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup julienned red peppers
1 cup julienned green onions****
Salt and pepper to taste*****
2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds, to garnish


Method:

To prepare the sauce, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and green chillies and sauté for 1 minute. Add tahini, soy milk, lemon juice and palm sugar. Cook, stirring constantly until the sauce is hot and the tahini has melted, 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet. Drain and rinse with cold water to prevent sticking. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bell peppers and green onions and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Str in the noodles and sesame sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving dish. Garnish with sesame seeds.
This recipe serves 4.
Author’s note:  
To save time on a week day, make the sauce in advance. It will last up to a week when refrigerated in a sealed container. This sauce also goes well with other types of noodles.

My notes (see the recipe above):
*I made my own tahini. You can make your own by soaking 1 cup of white sesame seeds in water for about 15 minutes (This reduces the bitterness). Drain the water and then toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium heat. Do not brown. Cool the seeds and then coarsely powder in a mixer/ blender. Grind/ Blend further to a smooth paste adding about 1/4 cup of oil, bit by bit. Bottle and refrigerate for upto 3 weeks.
**As far as I know, the sauce for Pad Thai should be a balance of salt, sweet, tang and spicy. There didn’t seem to be a “sweet” ingredient in the list so I used palm sugar. You may use brown sugar or honey for the hint of sweet.
***I use cup measurements, and to my mind 8 ounces of flat noodles (I used Thai rice sticks) should be about 2 to 2 1/2 cups (U.S. measurements)
****I used spring onion greens. As mentioned earlier I also added cubed tofu to my Pad Thai.
*****I preferred to use red chilli flakes to pepper.
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November 9, 2011

Black & White Wednesdays : Wild Okra, Pears And Some Cookies

A
lot of people feel that black and white photography is a thing of the past and the stuff of old albums full of ancient family photographs. But if the photography of people like Ansel Adams and Richard Avedon to mention two, touches you like it does me then you know that it is possible to see "colour" in black and white.
I am trying to develop my black and white photography skills, and also extending it to food photography. Broadly, there are two ways of taking black and white photographs. One is the old-fashioned way of shooting in black and white using the “Monochrome” mode on the dSLR. The other way is to shoot in colour and then convert the images to black and white (or sepia) using software, which is perhaps the way most people shoot these days.
While there is absolutely nothing wrong in using software to convert colour images to black and white/ monochrome/ sepia, I believe that learning to shoot in black and white/ monochrome helps to train one’s eyes and thought processes to understand the play of light, use of shadows and textures that would produce the best black and white images.
I am still a long way from shooting in “Monochrome” and getting it right, and I am working on getting a lot more practice in this direction. Having said all this, I have to tell you that all the images in this post were shot in colour, converted to black and white/ sepia, and adjusted for contrast with filters applied using software!
Susan, (The Well-Seasoned Cook) has a weekly Wednesday post dedicated to black and white food photography in the blogging world. I enjoy being there just viewing the gallery which has some rather interesting food photography. I have been meaning to join Susan with a few of my photographs and am finally doing just that today!

Wild Okra
(These were growing wild along the roadside just off the beach in town)


[Lens : EF-S55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS (at focal length of 179.0 mm), Aperture : f/7.1, Shutterspeed : 1/160s, ISO : 100]


Pears In A Basket

(A selection of small Himachali pears)


[Lens : EF-S55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS (at focal length of 90.0 mm), Aperture : f/5.6,  Shutterspeed :  1/50s, ISO : 100]


Bartlett Pears

(A study of 3 Bartlett pears)


[Lens : EF-S55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS (at focal length of 146.0 mm), Aperture :  f/5.0, Shutterspeed : 1/50s, ISO 100]



Thumbprint Cookies

(One of the first types of cookies I ever baked with my then toddler. This still is among her favourites over 10 years later!)


[Lens : EF100mm f/2.8 Macro USM, Aperture : f/3.2,  Shutterspeed : 1/30s, ISO : 100]



No-bake Pinwheel Cookies


[Lens : EF100mm f/2.8 Macro USM, Aperture : f/5.6,  Shutterspeed : 1/25s, ISO : 100]





(Jam filled cookies rolled in coarsely chopped walnuts)
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November 2, 2011

Celebrating 4 Years Of Blogging With Some Balushahi/ Badhusha (Sugar Glazed Flaky Pastry Rounds)

L
ast week, this virtual kitchen completed 4 years. I will not bore you all with the usual stuff I write every blog birthday, beyond saying that I never imagined I would be still be writing here for 4 years or come to enjoy blogging so much. So good or bad, this kitchen, the food in it and I are here to stay as long as it takes.
I must also say a big thanks to all of you who keep me inspired and motivated with your friendships, encouraging e-mails and comments here, even though I don’t always manage to reciprocate by visiting those of you who have blogs. I always answer e-mails though. This post and the Balushahis are dedicated to all of you. I would package and send them to you all if I could but am sharing them with you virtually instead.
Celebrations are always sweet, and though both my virtual and real kitchens are diverse, I thought it would be fitting to go Indian with this blog birthday. India is well known for its cuisine and the variety of mouth-watering sweets that can be found all across the country. I know there are some people who feel they are too sweet (I might occasionally agree) but to quote my husband, “Sweets (and desserts) are meant to be sweet!”




Balushahi (or Badusha/ Padusha as it is referred to in the southern states of India) is a sugar glazed deep-fried flaky North Indian pastry that resembles a doughnut. I know many people call it an Indian doughnut, but that’s doing the Balushai an injustice as it is nothing like a doughnut, except possibly in its appearance. A doughnut is soft and spongy while a Balushahi is flaky.
Balushahi, or Badusha is as well known in South India as it is in the North and some might argue about my saying it is North Indian in origin. In fact, I remember it from my childhood as a sweet which wasn’t made in my home but occasionally came in specially wrapped boxes which were brought by some family or friends when they came visiting us. It would also make a rare and very unusual appearance as “bhakshanam” (sweets made and distributed for special occasions like marriages and other ritualistic ceremonies).
I do not have recorded historical facts to support my conviction but three things about the Balushahi tell me that it must have come into North India, possibly with the Mughal invaders or tradespeople, and then moved down to the South. I understand that the Balushahi is also very well known in Pakistan and Nepal.
The first indication is the name itself. Dishes which have “shahi” which comes from the Persian “Shah” meaning royal, invariably have their origins in Mughlai cuisine which is a style of Indian cooking that came with the Mughal invaders or tradespeople from Persia. The “Shahi” cuisine is also incredibly rich usually, and the Balushahi is nothing if not rish considering the ghee in it! Also, the deep-fried pastry dipped in sugar syrup is reminiscent of sweets from the Middle East.
Second, this is a sweet made with refined flour (maida). Traditionally, most sweets in the South are made with rice or rice flour because wheat is not grown in the South but in the North.
And third, is that Balushahi is usually garnished with pistachios and/ or almonds. Now, both these nuts used to be rarely found in the South where cashewnuts and groundnuts (peanuts) are more common. In fact, the version of the sweet which we call Badusha in the South is usually not garnished with nuts at all but covered in a thick white dry sugar glaze, whereas the Northern version is glazed with a shiny transparent sugar glaze.
I have also seen the Badusha (the South Indian version of the Balushahi) made as a less rustic looking pastry with pretty fluted edges, but this version that I'm making is the rustic looking one. This video demystifies making Balushahis (the recipe is different).




I always thought making Balushahi at home would be time and effort consuming. Actually it is far from that, as I discovered. There are a couple of important things to remember, that is all. Do NOT to overwork the dough or you will not get the characteristic flaky texture of this sweet. The other thing is to keep the temperature of the oil on the lower side, while frying the pastry discs, so as to ensure they’re well-cooked inside without becoming too dark on the outside.
The choice of fat in this recipe is ghee. I understand some people make it successfully with unsalted butter too but butter would never give the Balushahi the nutty taste and fragrance that ghee does. Ghee is nothing but clarified butter and can be made at home (the best option) or bought from the store.
Balushahi/ Badhusha (Sugar Glazed Flaky Pastry Discs)


Ingredients:

For the pastry dough:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup ghee
1/2 cup yogurt, lightly whisked/ beaten
5 pods cardamom, powdered

Oil for deep-frying

For the syrup/ glaze:
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 tsp lemon juice

For garnishing:
4 or 5 each of pistachios and almonds, finely chopped


Method:

Place the flour, baking powder, baking soda, powdered cardamom and salt in a big bowl. Whisk them together to mix. Add the ghee to this and rub it in until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.
Add the whisked yogurt and using a fork, lightly mix everything together until it clumps together. Using your fingers, bring the mixture together and lightly knead it into a dough. The dough should be on the stiffer side, but moist enough to be rolled into a ball. The dough will also not be smooth (like pastry dough) which is fine. Do not overwork the dough , as this will develop the gluten and you will not get the flaky texture in the finished Balushahi.


Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for about half an hour. In this time make the sugar syrup. Heat the sugar and water in a pan till it comes to a boil. Add the lemon juice and simmer the sugar syrup, stirring frequently, until it reaches a 2-string consistency. Take it off the heat
Now take the dough and divide it into 12 equal pieces, each about the size of a lime. Lightly roll each piece into a ball (remember not to overwork the dough), flatten slightly and using your thumb, make a depression in the centre. Do not push through and make a hole like a doughnut, but make a deep enough depression. This will fill out somewhat when they’re being deep-fried. The edges of the dough/ pastry discs will look uneven/ cracked which is how it should be, as this ensures they cook well during frying.
Heat the oil in a wok so that it is just hot but not smoking. (There should be enough oil in your wok to completely submerge the dough discs.) The pastry discs have to be fried at a low heat for about 15 minutes so they’re cooked through without burning on the outside. You can test if the oil is hot enough by dropping a very small bit of dough into it. If it stays at the bottom and bubbles start rising up from it without the dough bit browning, then the oil is hot enough.


Once the oil is the right temperature, turn down the heat and carefully slide in the flattened dough discs into the oil, 4 or 6 at a time, depending on the size of your wok. They will stay at the bottom and once they’re somewhat cooked will rise up a bit in the oil. Now turn each one over to cook on the other side. Cook them until they’re done (will take about 15 to 20 minutes or so) and uniformly deep golden brown all over. Remove them from the oil and allow to drain on paper towels for a few minutes. Do break one after frying to check the inside is cooked and not raw. Repeat with the remaining dough discs.
Dip the fried dough discs in the hot syrup or about 30 minutes, making sure they’re well coated. If the syrup has cooled and thickened, just warm it up a bit. An easier way of ensuring the fried dough discs are coated well in sugar syrup is to place them in a tray and pour the syrup over them.


After about 30 minutes, take them out of the syrup and place them on a rack to drain the excess syrup. Then sprinkle the chopped nuts on top and let the sugar glaze dry out and set completely. Serve at room temperature.
This sugar syrup forms a thick shiny glaze, but Balushahis are also made with if you would prefer a sugar glaze like the crusty kind doughnuts are dipped in, then leave out the lime juice when making the sugar syrup in the first place.
Then cook the sugar syrup remaining after dipping the Balushahi till it is a little thicker (soft ball stage). Dip the already coated (and dried) Balushahis in this hot syrup till well-coated and let them dry out on a rack. Once they have cooled the sugar coating will dry to a white colour.

The finished Balushahis should have a sugar coated crisp outer layer and be flaky and soft on the inside. This recipe makes 12 Balushahis/ Badushas.

 
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