Monday, November 12, 2012

Bhapa Doi or Steamed Yoghurt (Better than Cheese Cake!) - Deepawali Sweet

Bhapa Doi  or  Steamed Yoghurt (Better than Cheese Cake!)

Wish you all a very Happy Deepawali!  May the festival of lights dispel darkness and ignorance and bring all things bright and wonderful your way this year!
Fireworks over Sydney Harbour Bridge
 
This year we wanted to make a simple sweet dish of Deepawali, but also something new which we haven’t tried before. Although as a family we are mostly off sugar, we wanted to ensure Dib’s little daughter learns to celebrate Deepawali with all traditions intact!  She is fussy about food, and surprisingly doesn’t have an affinity for sweets.  She loves her cheese though, and so we were thinking of a dish that she can enjoy as well.  We promptly zeroed on ‘Bhapa Doi’ or ‘Steamed Curd’  from the Bengali cuisine. It looked easy enough to make as well.
We tried it for the first time. It is surprisingly easy to make and tastes amazing. It‘s texture is like cheese cake, and in fact tastes far better than cheese cake without its dry biscuit crust!  Weare thinking of adding fruit pulp the next time we make it!
INGREDIENTS:
Ingredients
 
Greek Yogurt- ½ kilo  (If you don’t have greek yoghurt, hang curd in a muslin cloth and allow all the water to drip off (at least 2 – 3 hours)
Sweetened Condensed milk – 1 tin
Milk – 2 tbsps
Saffron strands – a generous pinch
Dry roasted whole cardamoms – a few
METHOD:
1.       Preheat oven to 180 degrees centigrade.
2.       Fill your  kettle and put it on to boil.
3.       Blend yogurt and condensed milk together, using a hand blender or whisk.
Whisk yoghurt and condensed milk.
 
4.       Pour it into a bake proof bowl. We poured it into small ramekins and we got about 6.
5.      The ramekins need to be cooked in a Water Bath. To create a water bath, place the ramekins in a large baking tray (we used a foil tray), and place in the oven. Very carefully fill with hot water upto ¾ height of the ramekins. Be careful not to burn your hands, or spill water in the Doi!
Water Bath in the Oven
6.       In the meanwhile soak the saffron strands in warm milk.
7.       After 25 minutes, open the oven carefully and top the contents of each bowl with a little soaked saffron milk, and place one cardamom on top. Breaking the pod a little, but without removing the seeds helps in releasing flavours.
8.       Again bake for ten minutes.
9.       Remove from the oven, cover with cling film and chill for few hours,( but best results are to chill  overnight)  before serving.  
Chilled and ready to serve!
 
Its all set!
 
Cheese cake texture - but better!
Enjoy the delicious Bhapa Doi after a hearty and sumptuous Deepaavaali meal.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ranga Aloor Puli or Sweet Potato Jamoons - a (not very) easy sweet for Deepawali!

Ranga Aloor Puli or Sweet Potato Jamoons - a (not at all) easy sweet for Deepawali!


Dibs wanted to treat us and our cousins here at Sydney, to a traditional Bengali dinner party. Though I have savoured Bengali food at her in-laws’ home at Calcutta, I have never tried cooking any Bengali dishes till now.  When Dibs planned for a traditional dinner consisting of 16 dishes,  I was very excited. Here was a chance to learn to cook new dishes from my daughter.

I learnt that Ranga Aloor Puli or the Stuffed Sweet Potato Jamoon is one of the many   traditional sweets prepared on auspicious occasions in a Bengali household. When Dibs briefed me about the sweet, I confidently offered to prepare it all by myself one day prior to the dinner. She shared with the recipe link  of her very good Bengali friend, Indira Mukherjee, who is an accomplished cook (among many other talents), and is a familiar face in Bengali TV channels with her recipes.
The recipe looked simple enough, but little did I know of the various hitches that I would soon have to face at every step! Here’s how I prepared it, along with all the problems I encountered and the fixes as well!!
Ingredients for the Sweet Coconut Filling
Fresh grated coconut – 1 cup
Sugar – 1 cupGhee – 1 tbspCardamom powder – 1 pinch

Method to prepare the  Sweet Coconut Filling
1.       Cook the coconut, sugar (optional - you can also add 1 cup of milk) together on low flame till it comes together into a mass.

2.       Stir in ghee and cardamom powder, switch off flame and transfer it to a container to avoid crystallization. The sweet coconut filling should be soft enough to be shaped into balls.
 

Ingredients for the Outer Shell of Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes – 2 big Plain flour / Maida – 1 tbspRice flour -1 tbspGhee - 1tspS
alt – 1 pinch

Method to prepare Jamoons
Fat Sweet Potatoes!

1.       Boil and peel the sweet potatoes.

HITCH 1:

I microwaved the sweet potatoes submerged in water in the Tupperware steamer, for 10 minutes. The halved sweet potatoes cooked outside and remained hard in the centre. I mentally ticked myself off, for under-estimating the toughness of the big fat sweet potatoes

Solution:

I them dumped them in the pressure cooker with water in the cooker, but not in the pan with the potatos and cooked until three whistles.
Stubborn and uncooked in the centre!
 

2.       Peel and mash the cooked sweet potatoes smoothly.

HITCH 2:

I took out the sweet potatoes after the pressure subsided. Peeled the still hot vegetable and mashed it with the back of the ladle. The   steam condensed into it while mashing resulting in a very loose sweet potato mash. I regretted for not having allowed the vegetable to cool down thoroughly before mashing.

 

3.       Add the plain flour (maida), rice flour, ghee and salt to the sweet potato mash and knead into dough. The original recipe called for Khoa, which we didn’t add, as we didn’t have any!
Shell mixture with too much ghee!

HITCH 3:

Kneading was impossible because the dough remained loose even after mixing in the flours. In addition, I added too much ghee, which made the dough even more slippery!  I did not want to add more flour as a fix as that would make the jamoons floury and perhaps very hard.

Solution (not really!):

Dibs encouraged me to continue when I started panicking, saying that if at all it went wrong we could always make a kheer, and store the sweet potato for soup on another day.


 

4.       Flatten a ball of dough in your palm, place a ball of sweet coconut filling in the centre, pull the edges together and shape it into a jamoon.
Mash filling on Mash shell!!

HITCH 4:

The mash stuck to the palms and there was no way of stuffing or shaping it into a jamoon even when the palms were greased.

Solution:

I washed my hands, patted out the excess water and left the palms still wet. I slapped a spoon of the sweet potato mash on the wet palm and placed a ball of filling in the centre. Took another spoon of the mash and placed it on top of the filling. Using the fingers gently I covered the filling by plastering  any cracks or uncovered portions with more sweet potato paste just like a mason would fill the cracks with cement slush!
 

5.       Shape it like a jamoon fruit .
Rolling  like dice with palm open - but gently!!!
 

HITCH 5

Shaping the paste? Out of question!

Solution:

I gently tried to roll the ‘jamoon’ by tilting my wet palm up and down, like I would roll the dice before casting,  and gently shaped both ends using the other hand. The jamoon was carefully slid on to a flat plate dusted with flour. After making all the jamoons similarly, we covered the plate using silver foil and left it in the refrigerator overnight, with a big sigh.
Phew! Ready for the fridge!
 

6.       Fry the jamoons to a dark brown colour and soak them in sugar syrup.

Hitch 6:

Since I was nervous to handle the delicate jamoons, Dibs took over the next morning. She carefully slid the jamoon into hot oil .The first jamoon got burnt because the oil was too hot.  The second one opened up and disintegrated in spite of low heat, because Dibs tried to flip it too soon.
Burnt or Disintegrated - so sad! (Ignore potatos - they for another dish!)

Solution: Dibs slid the next two jamoons into the oil on low flame. She did not touch the jamoons till the submerged portion turned to a golden brown colour, and firm as well. She used a spoon and gently turned over the golden jamoons one by one, and waited till they turned into a deep brown colour. She could successfully removed the jamoons using a perforated ladle,  and placed them on a paper towel!  Cooking jamoons took a long time on low flame - almost 25 -30 minutes for one batch. 

Finally getting somewhere on a low flame!
 

Ingredients for the Sugar Syrup

Sugar – 3 cups

Rose water/rose essence – 1tbsp

Method to  prepare the Syrup

1.       Add two cups of water to the sugar and cook on low flame.

2.      Cook till the syrup is sticky and remove from flame before it reaches one thread consistency.
3.    Don't add the rose water yet!

Method to Soak the jamoons in Syrup

1.       Lower the first batch of drained jamoons into the syrup.

2.       Allow them to soak till the next batch is ready.

3.       Remove the first batch of jamoons soaked in syrup very carefully and place them in a wide mouthed serving bowl.

4.       Fry and soak all the jamoons similarly.

5.       Warm up the remaining sugar syrup just before serving and add the rose essence.

6.       Pour the rose flavoured syrup on the jamoons and serve them immediately.
Sweet Success!
 

           What we will do better next time:
1. Slice potatos into 3 pieces at least, before pressure cooking it.  We may need to cook only for two whistles.
2. Drain on a towel  and allow potatos to cool completely before mashing.
3. Add ghee sparingly.
4. Refrigerate overnight before frying.
5. Exhibit great patience, and fry on a low flame.
6. Not handle or flip the jamoons once dropped in oil, right until they turn  completely rosy brown on one side.
7. Hold the 'kadai' and VERY GENTLY tilt to cover jamoons with oil, before attempting to turn them over to cook the other side.
 
Overall Verdict on Ranga Aloor Puli!
Yum Yum YUM!
 
The Sweet Potato Jamoons tasted amazing and unbelievably good! They were rich and delicious giving regular jamoons a run for their money! The coconut filling inside the jamoon is a genious idea, and transports you to another world...especially when its least expected inside a jamoon. The colour was rosy, and taste of sweet potato unmistakeable. We did not miss much by not adding khoa (or for that matter -instant jamun mix powders (yuck!), as some websites suggest!! 
 
Guests were intrigued and loved Ranga Aloor Puli, and it was  a great hit in the party.  Dibs and I shared a secret grin, when the Sweet Potato Jamoons were praised and by our finger-licking guests!