Sweet Coconut and Cranberry Boondi

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This sweet is one of my favorites. It is made with a batter of Besan or chick pea flour that is fried then soaked in a sugar syrup. The basic part is the boondi (fried round balls of the besan batter) which you can turn into another sweet, the ladoo. Plain boondi can also be added to yogurt as a Raita.

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Sweet Coconut and Cranberry Boondi

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

1 cup besan flour

1/2 cup water

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

saffron strands or few drops orange food color

1 tsp cardamom powder

1/2 cup sweet coconut flakes

2 tbs raw pistachio nuts, crushed finely

1/2 cup dried cranberries or Craisins

Ghee for frying

1 large slotted spoon or Boondi spoon

Method:

Sift the besan and add the water. Whisk well so there is no lumps. Make sure it is a easily pourable thin batter.

In a separate sauce pan add the sugar and 1/2 cup water and allow to boil. Turn off the heat when it reaches one string consistency. (See pic) Add a few drops of orange color or crush a few strands of saffron into syrup. Set aside.

Add ghee in a frying pan and put on medium heat. Hold the slotted spoon over the ghee and pour a ladle of the batter into the slotted spoon and allow it to flow through. Move spoon around gently. Do not move spoon around too fast or else we get long threads instead of round balls. This will take some practice. Allow to fry to a light yellow and with another slotted spoon scoop out boondi and drop into warm sugar syrup. Continue with rest of batter.

Mix the boondi in the syrup. It should absorb most of the syrup. Add cardamom powder.( At this stage if you pack them into tight golf ball sized balls it becomes ladoo.) Add the dried cranberry, pistachios and coconut. It’s done. As it stills it will become more dry and soak up all the syrup. Serve slightly warm.

Other variations- Instead of coconut and cranberries you can add raisins, chopped dates, almonds, cashews etc.

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Zeppole Di San Guiseppe- For Father’s Day

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Don’t get scared reading the title of today’s post. Zeppole is an Italian pastry and this specific zeppole is made on the Feast of St Joseph on March 19 which is also Father’s Day in Italy. So it being Father’s Day here in the US and Feast Day for my husband’s family namesake I am making Zeppole Di San Guiseppe.

I am partial to Italian pastries, especially growing up on the east coast. In the town where I grew up there is an excellent Italian bakery—Di Mare’s Pastry Shop. (www.dimarepastry.com) Any birthday without a Di Mare cake would not be a birthday. It has been there since we moved to Old Greenwich, CT in the 70’s. This bakery is still going strong and always a destination when we visit home. Sometimes my kids and niece and nephew would visit there everyday during our stay for some of their specialties- Tiramisu cake, strawberry shortcake, Italian butter cookies, sfogliatelle, napoleons, pastries, etc. We would even try to bring back a box of their delicacies.

These Zeppole pastries are really a fritter of Pate a choux dough (used to make cream puffs) topped with a vanilla bean and lemony custard. There is nothing like a custard made with real vanilla beans. Splurge and get some, they will keep in your pantry for a long time. Many of you may not attempt this recipe but save the recipe for the custard—it is great! This basic custard can be used for other purposes like fruit salad, as a cake filling etc. or just by itself.

Zeppole di San Guiseppe

Ingredients:

For the Dough:

4 tbs unsalted butter

3 tbs sugar

Pinch of salt

250 ml water

1 1/4 cup flour

6 eggs

Maraschino cherry- garnish

For the Lemon Vanilla Custard:

1 cup milk

1 cup cream

1 vanilla bean

Zest from one lemon

6 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup flour

Method:

Make Custard:

In a sauce pan combine milk, cream, split vanilla bean an lemon zest. Bring to a boil. Remove the vanilla beans and scrape all the seeds into the milk and discard the pod. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a separate bowl until light and yellow. Add the flour and combine well. Take a cup of the hot milk mixture and whisk into egg mixture ( called tempering) then add all the egg mixture into the sauce pan with the milk. Return to stove and while continuously whisking, heat gently until thick. About 3-4 mts. Remove from heat and cover surface with plastic wrap so a skin doesn’t form and refrigerate.

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Now make the Dough:

Combine the Water, butter, sugar, salt in a sauce pan and allow to boil. Sprinkle in the flour and get ready to mix well until it forms a smooth ball and comes away from the pan.Remove from stove and with a hand or stand mixer, add one egg at a time incorporating into flour dough. Will be a thickish mixture. Ensure to beat out any lumps. Put into a piping bag and let sit for 15-2o mts.

Cut pieces of foil and grease lightly with oil. Using a star tip, pipe out circular mounds approximately 3-4 inches. Heat oil in a frying pan and when hot add the piped dough with the aluminum foil. Gently pull out the foil as it fries. Fry until golden and drain on a paper towel. Take this fritter and top with the cooled custard and garnish with a maraschino cherry.

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They look perfect!

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For Easter- Chocolate Nests

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I am posting this recipe before Easter if anyone wants to try making them before Sunday. I made these for a friend to practice it before making it. Sorry N. and N., you girls were the Guinea pigs! The both of them as well as my niece, M. will be making them for Easter and I will post their pictures when they are done.

These are soo cute as an Easter centerpiece and very easy to make. Enjoy!

Chocolate Easter Nests
Ingredients:

2 cups Chow Mein noodles ( these crunchy noodles can be found in the Asian section of any supermarket)
1 cup milk chocolate chips ( can use white/dark chocolate)
1/2 c shredded sweetened coconut
Few drops green food color
Egg shaped M&Ms
Cupcake/muffin  tray

Method:
Mix coconut with food color until uniformly mixed. Keep aside
Melt chocolate in the microwave at 30 sec intervals mixing in between. Should be smooth and melted. Do not overheat or the chocolate will separate. (Melt chocolate in small batches if making a large quantity)
Mix the noodles in a little at a time  into the melted chocolate and coat well. You may need more or less of the noodles. Place plastic wrap onto muffin tray wells and press chocolate mixture into it. Depress the center slightly. Rim the edges with the coconut and place in refrigerator for 15-20 mts until hardened. Remove from tray and place 3 eggs in center of nest. Makes about 10-12 nests. More if you use a smaller muffin tray  and shallower depth.

Variations- You can use white chocolate  instead of milk chocolate and color the coconut pink and put mini peeps in the nest. You can also use pretzel sticks instead of the noodles. This would make a nice Easter centerpiece if displayed on a large tray with scattered peeps and eggs.

Happy Easter!!