August 27, 2013

Bolinhas de Coco (Goan Cardamom Flavoured Coconut Cookies) : Daring Bakers Challenge August, 2013 (A Cake & Two Cookies Part 2)

oa, being a former Portuguese colony, has been heavily influenced by the Portuguese way of life in various aspects of Goan life. This is most apparent in the cuisine of Goa, especially the Catholic cuisine. Whether it is in every day cooking, festive or celebratory fare or dessert you can see the Portuguese flavour in the dishes not just in their names but also the fusion of Portuguese origin dishes cooked with local flavour and spices. Yet these are uniquely Goan (and so Indian) in nature.

So when I was looking for recipes to present as a host of this month’s Daring Bakers challenge, other than the Mawa Cake and Masala Biscuits, I decided to pick a recipe from Goa as the Catholic cuisine here has a very wide variety of baked food.

My choice fell on the Bolinhas de Coco. Bolinhas are cardamom flavoured coconut and semolina biscuits (In India we call them biscuits and not cookies), and they contain no flour at all. They are a little crisp/ crunchy on the outside and soft and have a melt-in-the-mouth texture on the inside. The word “Bolinhas” comes from Portuguese and translates as “cakelets” but they are more of biscuits/ cookies than cakes. 

I chose this recipe for two reasons. While this is a biscuit/ cookie that is not particularly challenging to make, it uses ingredients that are not normally found in the average biscuit/ cookie. Also, baking Bolinhas de Coco involves a procedure for the dough which is very unusual and fdfferent from that of any biscuit/ cookie that I’ve ever seen.
Instead of flour that's ususally found in most biscuits/ cookies, these biscuits/ cookies are made entirely with semolina  (the coarse and gritty kind and not the flour)and fresh grated coconut. Also, the batter involves an overnight rest of at least 8 hours so that the semolina can soak up liquids and become really soft. Only then are the eggs added and the biscuits/ cookies shaped and baked.

Nowadays these biscuits/ cookies are rarely made at home because you can easily find them in small bakeries everywhere in Goa, and they're available all the year around. However, Bolinhas de Coco is a Christmas-time treat and a Goan Christmas sweet platter would be incomplete without them.
Bolinhas de Coco


2 cups fresh grated coconut, packed
1 1/2 cups semolina (the coarse kind, not the flour)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
A pinch of salt
2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or melted unsalted butter
2 eggs
8 to 10 pods cardamom, powdered


Run the grated coconut in your processor or the small jar of your blender a couple of times so that the flakes are smaller and uniform in texture. Do not grind into a paste. Keep aside.

Put the semolina in a pan and toast/ roast it, over low to medium heat, until it starts giving off an aroma, and looks like it’s about to start changing colour. This should take a couple of minutes. Do not brown. Transfer the semolina into a bowl and keep aside.                                              

In the same pan, pour the water and add the sugar to it. Place it on medium heat and keep stirring until the sugar dissolves completely. Once the sugar has dissolved, keep stirring the solution and let it cook for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat. The sugar solution should just begin to start forming a syrup but is still watery. Do not cook until it forms a thick syrup.
Add the toasted/ roasted semolina and mix well. Then add the coconut, salt and ghee (or melted butter) and mix well. Put the pan back on the stove, and over medium heat stir the coconut mixture until it is really hot and easily forms a thick clump. This should take about 2 to 3 minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and let the semolina coconut mixture cool to room temperature. Transfer this into a bowl or container, cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, ideally overnight. For really fluffy biscuits/ cookies, the overnight rest is recommended. 
The next day, take the dough out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Separate the yolks from the egg whites. Lightly beat the yolks with a fork to break them and add to the dough. Also add the powdered cardamom and mix well with a wooden spoon or fork.  

Whisk the egg whites by hand until frothy and add to the dough. Mix well till incorporated. You will now have a slightly moist and sticky dough. Refrigerate this dough for about half an hour so it firms up a bit.

Pre-heat your oven to moderate 180 C(350F). Line your baking trays with parchment or grease them well with some ghee or melted butter.
Take the dough out and pinch off walnut sized bits of dough. The dough should be firm enough to handle without difficulty. If the dough is sticking to your palms, lightly dust your palms with flour before shaping the dough. Roll the bits of dough into balls and then flatten them very slightly.  
Decorate the top by marking criss-crosses (3 equidistant lines one way and another 3 crossing them at right angles), with a table knife. Press down a bit but not too deep or right through the biscuit/ cookie. Use up all the dough this way.
Place the shaped dough on the baking trays leaving a little space between them. Bake in a preheated moderate oven for about 20 to 25 minutes until they’re a golden brown and done. Let them cool on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then transfer to racks to cool completely.
Store the biscuits/ cookies in airtight containers. They should keep for about 4 to 5 days at room temperature in a cool place. This recipe makes about 4 dozen Bolinhas de Coco.


Once the first part of the dough has been made it must be refrigerated for at least 8 hours. About 10 hours to overnight is even better, because this allows the semolina to absorb moisture and become soft. It also produces fluffier cookies.
If you can find fresh grated coconut, please use that as it gives you the best taste and texture. If you’re using frozen grated coconut let it come to room temperature before using it.
If using dehydrated shredded coconut or desiccated coconut, please look for the unsweetened kind.  Also rehydrate your coconut by adding about 1/2 cup warm water to 2 cups of dehydrated/ desiccated coconut and let it sit for about half an hour. After half an hour, drain off any excess water, if any and then use in the recipe. You should have moist coconut not wet coconut.

The other recipes that are a part of this Daring Bakers challenge: