Shakarpara (Shankarpali) – Indian Biscuits

Shakarpara2
Two days to Christmas! Here’s wishing you and your family a Happy Holiday and a delicious New Year!

Christmas is a great time to build lifelong memories with your family. Keeping up with family traditions takes time, energy, and planning. I am so thankful for the memories I have of my family during this time of year.

I am sure many of you have your own Christmas traditions. Please share them with us on my Facebook page or right here on my blog. A few of our family favorites are decorating the Christmas tree, making treats with friends, having family over for Christmas Eve dinner, Secret Santa parties, and of course, a delicious breakfast on Christmas morning (cinnamon rolls are a must)!

Today’s recipe is simple. You will find these little biscuits all over Maharashtra. Shakarpara or Shankarpali, as they are called, are made with all purpose flour, ghee or oil, sugar, and water. These are items you already have in your pantry. All you need to do is knead the dough, let it rest, roll, cut, and deep fry. So, you can even make them today – just in time for Santa’s arrival!

Shakarpara (Shankarpali) – Indian Biscuits
Prep time: 20 minutes (includes rest time)
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
½ cup solid ghee, (or 3/4 cup vegetable oil)
5 cups all purpose flour, (approximately)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons semolina, (sooji, optional)
Oil for deep frying

Directions:
Add sugar, water, and ghee into a saucepan. Place over medium-high heat and stir until the sugar melts. Cool. Whisk flour, salt and semolina in a separate bowl until combined.

Pour the cooled sugar, water, and ghee mixture into the large bowl of an electric mixer, (Kitchen Aid), fitted with a dough hook. With the mixer on slow speed, add the flour, a little at a time, scraping down the bowl, until the mixture comes together. I needed five cups of flour. You might need to add a little more or a little less. Add flour until the mixture comes together into a ball. Turn the mixer on medium speed and knead for three minutes. You can also made the dough without a mixer. Knead with your hands until you have a smooth dough. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes. Knead it again with your hands and then divide the dough into equal portions. Roll to about 1/8 inch thick. Cut into diamond or square shapes.

Add about five inches of oil to a wok or heavy bottomed pan. Heat the oil over medium heat. Then turn the heat to medium-low. Add a small piece of dough. If it rises to the top quickly the oil is too hot. Add a few shakarparas at a time. They must come up slowly. Fry them on low heat so the inside cooks well. Remove when they turn golden brown and drain on paper-towel lined trays. Cool completely before storing them.

Notes:
– I used turbinado sugar for the shakarparas in the picture. The golden crystals are not bleached, so they keep the rich flavor and color of their natural molasses. But I found that the shakarparas were not as sweet as I would have liked, so I coated them with a sugar syrup.
– For the sugar syrup I used one cup granulated sugar and one cup water. Cooked it in a heavy-bottomed pan, over medium heat. When the sugar melted, I add quarter teaspoon lemon juice. The lemon juice keeps crystals from forming. Boil until the sugar reaches one-thread consistency. To do this, keep testing the syrup. Dip a wooden spoon into the syrup and lift out. Allow it to cool. Touch it with your forefinger and then touch your thumb and gently pull apart. When a single thread is formed and it does not break, you’ve reached one-thread consistency. Or use a candy thermometer (234° F–240° F).
– Dip the shakarparas in the syrup, drain the excess syrup with a slotted spoon, and put them on a large cookie sheet. They need to dry out before you store them.

Christmas Treats

Christmas Treats_plate3There are only seven more days to Christmas! Are you ready? My friend and I spent the last two days in my kitchen making Christmas treats for our families. Karanji, rose cookies, namkeen, murukku, ladoo, and chirote are some of the goodies that most Indian homes make during this time of the year. Making these treats can be time-consuming, so about two years ago, I teamed up with my girlfriends to make the process quicker and more fun! While working together we shared stories from our childhood, laughed at pranks we had pulled off, and learned from each other. Time flew by, and before we knew it, we were able to fill our “dabbas” with traditional Christmas delights.

Do you have your own Christmas cooking family tradition? Anyone out there with a good recipe for kul kuls? Please share, either on my Facebook page or here on my blog.

Karanji is everyone’s favorite, so I’m re-posting this recipe for you. I’ve also included a new simple semolina filling.

Karanji final

Karanji with Semolina (Sooji) Filling
Ingredients:
1 cup fine semolina
1 tablespoon poppy seeds/khus khus, (optional)
1 cup desiccated coconut, (unsweetened)
1/4 cup finely chopped nuts, (optional)
1/4 cup golden raisins, (optional)
1 cup fine sugar
1/2 tsp cardamom powder, (optional)

Directions:
Place a large wok, over medium-low heat. Add semolina and dry roast. Stir constantly so it does not burn. It is ready when its turns light brown and smells fragrant. Remove from the wok and put it into a large bowl. Dry roast the poppy seeds for two minutes. Add it to the semolina. Next, dry roast the coconut. Stir constantly until it turns light brown and fragrant. Add the roasted coconut, chopped nuts, raisins, sugar, and cardamom powder to the semolina. Mix everything well. Make this filling a day before you make the karanjis.

Chirote – Flaky Indian pastry

Chirote2
It’s time to give thanks, celebrate, and reminisce. While I was growing up, making Indian sweets, cookies, cakes, and pastries during Christmas was a family affair. It was part of our celebration. Each one of us had a specific task to do in the kitchen. Making the different fillings, kneading the dough, rolling, cutting, frying or baking – whatever it was, the whole family participated. Being the youngest in the family, I got to do the fun parts, like putting raisins in karanjis. I would put two raisins in one karanji and one in my mouth. Needless to say, I was fired from that job!

Too many of these traditions are forgotten these days. My own children don’t know how to make these delicacies. So, before these recipes are completely lost, I want to share them with you. Chirote (also spelled Chiroti) is a popular dessert from Maharashtra and Karnataka. It is a crisp, flaky, deep-fried pastry. The pastry is dipped in a sugar syrup or dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Half a teaspoon of rose water added a touch of elegance to the sugar syrup that I made.

I know that this recipe is long and it looks scary! But one way to tackle it, is to gather some of your friends and you could make them together. I’d love to know what special treats you plan to make for your families this Christmas. Please share them with me, here on my blog or on the MargaretsHome Facebook page. Thank you.

Chirote
Prep time: 1 hour (does not include time to rest dough)
Cooking time: 30 min
Makes: 20

Ingredients:
For the dough
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 1 cup flour for dusting
3 tablespoons ghee or unsalted butter, melted
1/8 teaspoon salt
water (I used about ¾ cups)

For the rose syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
3 teaspoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon rose water

For the spread
2 tablespoons ghee/butter, melted
2 tablespoons rice flour

For dusting
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
Use this to dust half the chirotes after you make them.

Directions:
For the dough
Add flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Stir with a whisk. Make a well in the center and add melted ghee. Add a few tablespoons of water at a time and mix until the dough comes together. Knead to make a firm dough. Cover the dough with a damp towel and let it rest for one hour. You can also made the dough in a stand mixer. Use the dough hook.

For the rose syrup
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan add sugar and water. Place it over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Simmer over low heat until the sugar syrup thickens (one-thread consistency), about six minutes. Turn off the heat. Stir in the lemon juice and rose essence.

For the spread
In a small bowl, mix melted ghee and rice flour until creamy. Set aside.
(If you live where it is cold during this time of the year, make this after you make the rotis. Otherwise, it will become solid and you have to put in the microwave to soften it. I know, because it happened to me!)

Put it all together
Divide the dough into six even sized portions. Roll each portion of dough between the palms of both hands, using a circular motion, to make smooth dough balls. Flatten each dough ball slightly and place it on a well floured surface. Dust some flour over it and using a rolling pin, roll it into a thin, round shape (like a roti), about 10 inches in diameter. Place each roti on a large plate or tray and cover them with a damp towel. You can place the rotis one on top of the other as long as you have dusted them with flour.

Place one roti on your work surface, smear with one teaspoon of the spread (rice flour and ghee), right to the edges. Dust with a little flour. Place the second roti over the first and again smear it with a teaspoon of the spread. Dust with flour and then place the third roti and smear it with the spread. Dust with a little flour. Starting at the lower edge, roll into a tight log. Stick the edge with a drop of water. Use a sharp knife and a sawing motion to cut the log into ½ inch pieces. Put the pieces on a plate and cover them with a damp towel. Using the same process, make another log with the remaining three dough balls.

There are two methods of making chirotes. For the first method, take one piece and keep the plain, smooth side up.  Roll lightly with a rolling pin to make a long, 2 inch chirote. For the second method, keep the cut edge up, press gently and roll lightly with a rolling pin, making a circle that is about 2½ inches in diameter. Keep them covered with a damp towel.

To show you, I used one log to make chirote which I dusted with confectioners’ sugar and the other log to make chirote that I dipped in rose syrup.

In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat oil for deep frying, over medium-high heat. Once the oil gets hot, turn the heat to medium. Drop three or four chirotes into the oil and fry them on both sides until they turn golden. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle half of the chirotes, while they are still warm, with confectioners’ sugar. Drop the other half of the warm chirotes, a few at a time, into the rose syrup. Enjoy.