Last 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.
Celebrating 4 Years Of Blogging With Some Balushahi/ Badhusha (Sugar Glazed Flaky Pastry Rounds)
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
For the syrup/ glaze:
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 4 or 5 pistachios almonds each of and , finely chopped
- 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.