Sweet Khaaja

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This recipe is from my friends mom, Dr. K.R. She can make hundreds of these in no time.  It is a fairly easy sweet to make but I failed miserably the first time I made these and then actually saw aunty make this in person and figured out what went wrong.

A simple dough is shaped into long rolls, sliced, fried and drenched in a simple sugar syrup. The fried rolls absorb the syrup and changes the texture of the rolls and turns it into a sticky confection. A lot of Indian sweets follow this same pattern. Sweets like these are in a category of its own in Indian cooking. Maybe the equivalent of making cookies or fudge in western cultures.  Sweets play an important role in happy events and celebrations in India.  They are made to celebrate religious festivals, special occasions and given to friends and families as gifts.They can also be served as tea or coffee time snacks.They are fairly sweet so usually one piece will do.

So for Christmas, I offer you all a Khaaja. Have a great Holidays!

 

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Sweet Khaaja

2 cups All purpose flour

pinch of salt

1 stick Blue Bonnet margarine

1/2 c water

2 tbs rice flour

Oil for frying

Sugar syrup:

1 cup white sugar

1 cup light or dark Brown sugar

1.5 cups water

Method:

Melt the margarine and add 1/2 c water to it. In a mixing bowl add flour and salt and add the melted margarine. Knead into a soft and pliable dough for 5 minutes. Set aside.

Make the syrup by combining both the sugars and 1.5 c water. Bring to a boil and then shut heat down very low to keep warm.

Take the dough and divide into 2 sections. Take a section and roll out into a square as thin as possible. Sprinkle some oil all over surface except for one edge. Sprinkle rice flour onto oil and spread evenly all over surface. Starting at the edge with oil-rice flour mixture, start rolling into a tight swiss roll. When you come to edge that does’t have oil-rice flour mixture, smear little water and seal edges to roll. Now cut into about 1 inch sections. Then flatten them slightly with rolling pin.

Heat oil in a skillet on low flame. Add the khaaja pieces and fry slowly, once they start floating you can increase heat until they are golden brown. Remove from oil and add to warm syrup to coat.you can shut off the heat to the syrup.

Roll out the second dough ball as above and fry. When this batch is ready to remove from oil after frying, remove the first batch from sugar syrup and place on a tray and add the second batch to syrup. Served best when made fresh.

Tip: You can make these ahead of time by frying the roll pieces and then refrigerating them. When you want fresh Khaaja, place them on a baking sheet and warm them up in the oven and then place in warm sugar syrup as needed.

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Kerala Diamond Cuts

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Christmas time is always a nostalgic time and these diamond cuts always recreates memories of those long gone. My paternal grandmother would make these fired, crispy, sugar coated snacks when we would visit her in Kottayam over the summer. Being a diabetic, she would reserve some without adding the sugar coating. When my dad would visit us in Muncie he would ask me and my mom to make these crunchy snacks so probably reminded him of his dear mom too.  I make these every Christmas and this year decided to use them as favors.  The cumin seeds added to the sugar syrup makes it perfect. It is a great accompaniment with a cup of afternoon coffee or tea. There is a North Indian version called Shakara para but I think they add sugar to only the dough and no sugar coating on the outside like these diamond cuts.

Kerala Diamond Cuts

Ingredients:

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2  cup  powdered sugar

pinch salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cardamom powder

1 tbs ghee

Sugar syrup– 1 cup sugar and 4  tbs water, 1 tsp cumin seeds—combine together and bring t a boil and set aside

Method:

Combine the flour, salt, baking pdr, cardamom pdr, powdered sugar and ghee. Rub together to incorporate all the ghee and add water little by little to make a soft dough. Cover with a damp cloth and set aside for 20 mts. In the meantime make the sugar syrup and set aside.

Take sectioned balls of dough and roll out onto a floured surface into a fairly thin sheet. Use a knife or pastry cutter and make vertical strips and then cut on the bias diagonally.

Heat up oil in a frying pan and deep fry diamonds a deep golden brown. After frying all the dough, sprinkle the sugar syrup over the cuts and toss until all is coated and glistening. Spread out in a thin layer on a cookie sheet. I added some colored sprinkles due give them a festive flair. Allow to air dry, tossing intermittently. Once all have dried, transfer to an air tight tin.

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Seviyan

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This a quick and easy dessert or sweet when you have company that drops in for tea/coffee or dinner. Also a good potluck item when you want to take something to a friends house and don’t know what to take. This has saved me on a few occasions. My dad used to like this (as well as Bananas foster and pineapple upside down cake) when I would whip this up quickly after eating dinner.

SEVIYAN

Ingredients:

3 cups fine vermicelli

2 tbs ghee/butter

2-3 cups water

1-2 cups sugar (per taste)

2 tsp cardamom pdr

chopped pistachios and sweet shredded coconut

Method:

Heat a frying pan and add 1 tsp or so of ghee. Add the thin vermicelli and roast until a light golden brown color. Add the water and cook until the vermicelli is soft and most of the water is reabsorbed. Keep Stirring. When cooked add the sugar and cardamom powder. When you add the sugar it may get watery again so keep stirring until most is reabsorbed. Add ghee.  Add the nuts and coconut. Transfer to a plate or tray. Smooth out and garnish with more nuts and coconut. It will get firm as it cools. You can cut it into pieces or serve warm.

Seviyan

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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Unni Appam, A Tea Time Snack

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This snack is one of my daughters favorites. Unni appam ( means little appam) is a very traditional Keralean tea time snack. It is also made for special Hindu festivals.It requires a special pan with multiple round wells. I had one from India but the batter kept getting stuck to the bottom so found a non stick Ebleskiver pan. (Ebelskiver is a Danish round pancake.) It works perfectly.

Though traditionally made with rice soaked for a few hours and then ground, this entailed an extra step and more time than I had so used plain rice flour. It came out well.

Unni Appam
Ingredients:
2.5 cups rice flour
1.5 cups powdery jaggery (type of brown sugar)
1/4 cup water
2 tsp cardamom powder
2 tbsp Sliced coconut, diced ( or toasted coconut flakes)
2 tsp ghee
1 banana, mashed
Pinch of salt
Sugar as needed if you like it sweeter
1 tsp baking powder dissolved in little water

Oil as needed

Method:

Step 1:
In a small frying pan, add ghee and add sliced coconut. Brown well. Alternatively could substitute with toasted coconut flakes
Set aside.

Step 2:

Heat water and add jaggery to make a syrup. Allow to boil. Set aside to cool.

Step 3:
Combine rice flour, salt, cardamom pdr, cooled sugar syrup and toasted coconut. Add mashed banana and whisk thoroughly. Add little water to make a thick batter. Cover and set aside to ferment for 2-3 hrs.

Step 4:
Dissolve baking pdr in water and add to thick batter. Mix well. Heat ebelskiver pan and add oil half way up the wells. Heat at medium heat. Drop spoonfuls of batter into wells. Use a skewer or spoon to turn over the appams when they start turning brown. Drain on paper towel and serve with tea while warm. Store in a closed container.

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Tips:

~Instead of rice flour you can soak rice in water  for a few hours and then grind into a batter.
~When mixing batter, whisk well until somewhat light and frothy.
~Keep heat on medium or else the appams will brown too quickly and not cook in the center
~You can add black sesame seeds to batter as well.

No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

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Sometimes you feel like having a cookie and if your oven is not working then this cookie is for you. This is not my original recipe, just one I like to use. It is a one pot cookie. The key in this recipe is to make sure the mixture is kept at a rolling boil for at least one minute.

No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookie

Ingredients:
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 cup milk
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chunky or smooth peanut butter
Pinch of salt
3 1/2 cups quick cooking or old fashioned Oatmeal ( not instant)

Method:
Combine all the ingredients except the oatmeal and peanut butter into a saucepan.Allow to melt and bring to a rolling boil. Let it boil for at least one minute. Then add peanut butter and mix until melted and combined. Remove from stove and add the oatmeal and mix together.
Take a piece of parchment paper and drop spoonfuls of the batter and spread to desired size cookies. Allow to cool until set. Store in an airtight container.
Makes about 18-20 cookies.

Kerala Tea House Special

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I usually don’t drink tea or coffee after 3 pm because I will be up all night. But today felt like doing something different. Here are two recipes that you will find in small Chaiya kadhas in small towns in Kerala. These can be made fairly quickly for unexpected guests or when you fee like it.

Vettu Cake

Gets its name for the cut you make just before dropping into the oil.Not really a cake, more like a sweet fritter.

1 1/4 c all purpose flour
1 lg egg
1/4 c sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
Oil for frying
Powdered sugar to sprinkle

Whisk egg, sugar, baking powder and cardamom together. Add flour to male a soft dough. Knead a few times and let sit for 10-15 mts. Heat oil. Take a portion of dough and roll into a thick tube and flatten the top to make a thick rectangle. Starting at one end, cut roll into triangles with a sharp knife. Then on one side make a shallow cut. Fry pieces over medium heat until brown and drain. Sprinkle powdered sugar when cool.Makes about 15- 20pieces

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Parippu Vada

A fried dhal patty, best with a banana

1 cup Toor Dhal
1/4 c Chana Dhal
1 med onion
1 inch ginger
2-3 green chillies
1 red chilly
Few sprigs Curry Leaves
1/4 tsp Hing
Salt

Soak the dhal in water for 3-4 hrs to soften. Drain an placed 3/4 of the dhals in a food processor and grind until coarse. Do not add any water. Then add remaining ingredients and dhal and going until everything is coarsely ground. Add salt to taste. Shape into flat patties and fry in hot oil until brown and crispy. Makes 15.

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Meyer Lemon Blondie

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I had some leftover Meyer lemons and was trying to figure out what to do with them hence this recipe….I didn’t want a heavy cake and thought why not a blondie. I forgot to add some baking powder/soda and was scared that it would be dense but it came out simply beautiful. Looked more like a lemon tart .This would be great with a cup of coffee, maybe accompanied with fresh raspberries, mint and some light whipped cream. I only had mint on hand but love the simplicity it adds. This is a keeper.

Meyer Lemon Blondie

Ingredients:

3/4 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 stick butter, softened

2 large eggs

2 large lemons—for zest and juice

For glaze:

1 cup confectioners sugar

2 tsp lemon zest

4 tsp lemon juice

Garnish- fresh raspberries, mint leaves-optional

Method:

Preheat oven to 350
Combine sugar, butter, salt. Add the zest of one lemon and the juice of one lemon. Add eggs and combine. Add flour and fold til well incorporated.Put into round or square 8×8 greased baking dish and bake for 20-25 mts. Make sure it does not get too brown and just set.

Allow to cool. Make glaze…combine all ingredients for glaze and when blondie is totally cool, spread glaze and let harden. Garnish as desired.