in the last installment of this riveting two-part drama we left our heroine cling wrapping the just-prepared chana magaj. the heroine then cleaned the kitchen and went to bed!
but then the sun dawned and she went to work…and then on her return, she got cracking on the burfee.
enter heroine. stage set: clean kitchen :p
burfee and i are not the best of friends. the intuition that i normally exhibit with other baked goods abandons me. after massive amounts of introspection i have come to terms with the fact that i need to do as the recipe says and to stop thinking that i know better. granted this is largely due to the Indian Delights recipe book being rather elusive in its method explanations. i have firmly maintained for many years that the indian delights is a secret weapon, you can’t use it unless you have an indian aunty on speed dial.
the thing that always messes me up with burfee is that i’m always convinced that it’s too wet to set so i cook it too long and then it comes out dry. i am jumping ahead here so let’s go back to the beginning, when the heroine entered the kitchen.
burfee is traditionally made with something called mawa, which from what i can gather is dehydrated milk. for us uppity-working-girl (like employed not ladies of the night) types powdered milk allows for a more accessible substitute. there are many brands of powdered milk but any indian aunty will tell you that the Klim brand is the best. you have to give the company props for inventive naming of their product.
anyhoo, much like with the chana magaj, you mix the powdered milk with some milk until you get a bread crumb like mixture and then leave it aside to dry. every time i have done this the mixture forms a clumpy ball of dough straight off the bat. you need to keep crumbling and breaking down the globules before you leave to dry.
once you’ve left the mixture to dry for a few hours (this one takes longer to dry than the chana magaj) you put the mix into a food processor or spice grinder to create a fine powder. this very critical step is omitted from the indian delights so when i made burfee for the first time i was close to tears when i ended with a lumpy final product. a chat with a friend who makes burfee often set me on the right path.
if the food processor makes clumps instead of a fine powder you need to let the mixture dry more.
so you then make a “syrup” with icing sugar, butter and water/milk/dessert cream (the canned variety). the fine powder is added and then you need to mix like your life depended on it. ideally you cook it for 5 minutes after which you add the elachi. i always think this will never set like this so i cook for 8 minutes. then i realise it’s kinda grainy instead of nice and smooth so i go at the mixture with my stick blender. the recipe says to leave the burfee in the pot for a day before patting it into shapes and decorating with almonds.
when i opened that pot the next morning i had a dry solidified mass that crumbled when i dug into it with a spoon. this mixture would defy patting of any form. so what i realised is that the milk powder absorbs quite a bit of liquid (d-uh! its dehydrated Alecia!). so as it sits in that pot it continues to absorb the liquid that i thought would make it runny.
so you know i hate wasting, and 500g of best quality milk powder doesn’t come cheap so i decided to rescue the failed burfee. i went about this by heating up some milk. i then broke up the crumbly mixture into smaller pieces and added it bit by bit to the warm milk. it was tough going but i was determined. so determined that i didn’t even have time for photos. long story short….i managed to resurrect that sucker.
so having recovered from the stress of the burfee and in truth slightly buoyed by my ability to save the day i got to work on the last two items.
i had never made kaju katli before. one of my friends who had spent time in dubai had put it forward as an option when i was discussing the ‘to make’ list with her. needless to say she waxed lyrical about this never-before-heard-of mithai and i decided i had to try. for the record it is very difficult to make something that you have never made before when you don’t even know what outcome you are aiming for. so i took a leap of faith directly into you tube where i called up about 6 different videos on how to make kaju katli. i watched them a few times and when i felt i had a game plan, started grinding the cashews.
interesting thing i learnt. many of the videos called for a one-string syrup. what the heck is a one-string syrup? took me a while to find out, and by while i mean about three weeks after i had handed out the kaju katli. if you are making a syrup, take a drop and place it between your thumb and index finger, squish down slightly and then separate your thumb and index finger. the number of strings you see tells you how thick your syrup is. let that drop cool a little bit before you put it on your skin #justsaying.
so the recipe is simple, make the syrup (just water and sugar), add the ground nuts and stir until all the water cooks off and the mixture starts to come away from the pan. you add flavoring which is traditionally kewda or elachi. since i’d made burfee already i went with the kewda. i have to say it was simply too floral almost like it wasn’t something to be eaten and yet still tasty.
all good up until the point that you need to turn the mixture out into a mixing bowl and start kneading it. this is where things go awry. that mixture is HOT! i tried to leave it to cool but it was developing a dry skin which was not good. my fingers were on fire as i miserably tried to keep the dough moving around. utensils don’t help. eventually i recalled that one recipe said that if it dries out you can add a little bit of warm milk. this decreases the shelf life of the kaju katli unless you then keep it in the fridge. the warm milk worked and i managed to get a pliable dough. this was transferred to a sheet of baking paper where it was rolled out to half a centimeter thickness before being cut into diamonds. i dusted it with a bit of silver dust.
i’m glad i tried something completely foreign to me. it was definitely an interesting challenge.
the last thing i made was the gulaab jamun which is hands down my favourite sweetmeat. i can literally sit down with a cup of tea and before you know it i would have eaten 12…and i’d still be keen on more. the gulaab jamun is my kryptonite.
in my unerring quest to be unorthodox i go with the recipe that included egg and almond flour in the ingredient list. ideally over the deepavali festival all the sweetmeats that are prepared are vegetarian which by indian standards exclude egg. since none of the people on my parcel list were practising hindus i knew i wasn’t going to lead anyone astray.
the dough is made with condensed milk, ghee, egg, almond flour, elachi and cake flour. the dough is slightly stiff but malleable enough to form the finger-like gulaabs that are deep-fried to golden brown (or darker if you’re not so good at temperature control) before being dipped in a syrup that is flavoured with cinnamon and saffron.
the process is a bit of a production. if you don’t have an assistant its important to set yourself up so that everything is in easy reach. prepare an air-tight container to receive the dipped gulaabs and have extra plates ready for the pre-fried and post fried gulaabs. line the post-fried plate with paper towel to soak up any excess oil. the syrup needs to be made before you get going on the dough so that it cools slightly but you still want it warm for dipping. make sure you have a separate spoon for the syrup because if you put a syrupy spoon into hot oil you will have a lot of splashing hot oil.
i test the oil by placing a small ball of dough into the pot. when the ball is dark golden the oil should be hot enough.
you will have to figure out for yourself how well dipped you like your gulaabs to be.
having completed all the baking, i swiftly got onto the less stressful task of packing the parcels and of course delivering to our friends.
i laid out the boxes that i had lined with paper doiley. i then filled the boxes with various paper holders that were needed.
i prepped the parcels in batches of 5/6 adding each element before making the neatest bow i could and stacking up the boxes ready for delivery. i rolled the patted burfee in ground pecan nut or coloured almonds.
even as i type this i am ridiculously proud of the finished product.
i loved the delivery the most. catching up with friends, basking in the warmth of giving a piece of yourself and having it so happily and enthusiastically received.
ps. the other cool part of delivery was the many glasses of wine we were offered. traditionally this would be a cup of tea or the offer to share a meal. i like the wine option 🙂
lesson learnt: if you fail in the kitchen take the time to understand why. you learn from failure…much more than you ever do from success. understanding why you fail makes it much easier to avoid pitfalls in the future. baking…a metaphor for life and the such as.