Kaju katli (cashew fudge) should be declared the national sweet of India without doubt. It’s clout crosses all regional boundaries. So while you will not expect to find MysorePak in north India and Gujhiya in the south – you will find Kaju Katli in each and every part of the country – same diamond shape, same taste. So while Nilesh may claim that the only ‘authentic’ samosa is the one sold in Varanasi and I am super proud if the authenticity of Indori poha, there is no authenticity claims around the humble kaju katli. You always get the real deal – buy it from anywhere from the airport outlet or small town mithai shop. With only three ingredients – this classic magical sweet goes strong – without any competition touching it.
Now the reason this post goes on and on about kaju and not badam is that I made badam katli because I miss kaju katli immensely. This may sound strange to a lot of people but in my small town in Canada, I can easily buy almonds, walnuts, pecans and other nuts I have never heard of before,but I can’t find raw cashews. The Indian Store sells some in small packets, but I dont go anywhere near stuff without a ‘packed on’ or ‘best by’ date, so that’s a no go for me.
So the story is that I was missing kaju katli and Aditi was missing ‘diamond mithai’ as she calls it and I was browsing the food blogosphere when I saw this badam katli recipe – which is modeled after a kaju katli recipe. It looked pretty promising and I decided to give it a try. The results were great. It’s quick and easy – and has to potential to make you happy and a bit sad with nostalgia in the same moment. Give it a try and you will know what I mean.
Recipe Source – Spicy Treats (step by step instructions are here)
– 1 an 1/4 cup blanched almond flour OR 1 cup whole almonds (badam)
– 3/4 cup sugar
– 1/4 cup water
– 1/4 tsp ghee or 1 tbsp milk (optional, only if required).
1. If you have blanched almond flour, go right ahead with rest of the recipe. I made my own almond flour using these steps –
a. Heat 2 cups of water in a saucepan. Let it come to a rolling boil.
b. Switch off the heat and dump the almonds in the boiling water. Cover and let it be for half an hour.
c. Take the almonds out of the water and give them a quick wash in cold water. Proceed with taking out their brown peel. It is super easy to peel them – Aditi did that for me. Let the peeled almonds dry on a kitchen towel – I just left them on the kitchen counter overnight.
d. The peeled, dried and soft almonds are now ready to be ground into flour – I used my magic bullet for it. Dont try to make into a smooth and fine powder – you will end up with almond butter. Try to get a grainy, no-big-chunks powder and you are good. One cup almonds will yield 1 and 1/4 cups of almond flour. Keep aside.
2. In a thick bottom wok, dump the sugar and water. The water will barely cover the sugar but that is what we want.
3. Stir occasionally on medium heat till the sugar is all dissolved and things start to boil – we are looking for a single string consistency syrup. It took me five years to get what it exactly means – keep trying and you will too!
4. When the desired consistency is reached,reduce the heat to low and tip in the almond flour. Mix and mix to get a lump free deal.
5. Increase the heat to medium again and keep stirring for another 3 minutes, the whole mixture should come together as a single mass and when you try to roll some between your fingers, you get a not-very-sticky ball. Switch off the heat and let this cool down to being warm not hot. This takes half an hour.
6. dump the contents to a parchment paper or big plate and start to knead. The almonds will release a lot of fat and your hands will be all glossy. If you have over-cooked it, your mixture will be a bit dry and crumbly – dont lose heart. Add the ghee and milk little by little and start to knead – you will get there.
7. Once it looks smooth and glossy, put another parchment paper on ball of dough and start to roll it to get a sheet of 1/2 inch thickness.
8. Cut into diamond shapes and store at room temperature. If you did not need any milk to knead it, this will have a very long shelf life. Else, finish them in a couple of days.
This is my mom’s signature dish – she has been making this since decades literally. All my relatives, cousins, friends love it. Because of the long shelf life of this sweet, it is often packed along as a parting gift, and many times is made in large quantities to ‘pack with love’ in the luggage for folks going out of the country for study or work. Chickpea flour roasted in loads of clarified butter with sugar and nuts added is considered to be a nutritious and energy boosting combination – though the truth is that the same combination makes it super calorie dense and irresistible – and when chomped down in five-at-a-time portions, it gives you more energy than needed for a full marathon – and IMHO should be banned for people who type and talk for a living (that would be me and 95% of the people around me). But then for my kinds, everything but spinach should be banned, and since it is not, why not indulge into this culinary pleasure?
Now since this recipe comes from my mom, who knows the microwave as a machine to re-heat and not as chef Mike who would ‘cook’ all meals on all weekdays, the recipe literally involves labor and love – in simple terms – elbow grease! Don’t even think about it unless you are ready to spend like an hour peering over the wok, vigorously stirring a mixture of flour and butter – trying to roast it and prevent it from burning at the same time. You also need some kind of special vision – to distinguish between yellow,dark yellow, brown, golden brown and umm..burnt! Jotting down the recipe here, though in this age of ready-to-cook meals, I am positive Aditi will never even think of attempting it, but at least I will have the satisfaction of having passed on a tradition – from one generation to another.
Chickpea flour/ Gram flour/ Besan – 3 and 1/4 cup
Semolina / Rawa/ Sooji – 3 tbsp (optional)
Ghee/ Clarified butter – 1 and 1/4 cup
Sugar – 2 and 1/4 cup
Cardamom / Ilaichi powder – 1/2 tbsp
Ground almonds – 1/2 cup
Almonds – slivered – 1/4 cup (for garnishing – optional)
1. Add the besan and ghee in a thick bottomed wok and put it on the burner on medium heat.
2. If you are using the regular fine textured besan, and like a grainy texture, add the sooji too. Else, leave it out. There is also a mota besan which has been ground to have a grainy texture, a lot of people use it – you don’t need the sooji in that case.
3. Keep mixing and turning the mixture at it starts to cook – don;t even think about raising the gas mark to high to expedite the process – the roasting needs to be done slowly and uniformly.
4. After five minutes of continuous stirring, your mind will start to tell you that it has been very long and the besan looks roasted. Dont give in to those mind games. Keep an eye on the watch – like baking. It takes 30 to 35 minutes to get this quantity of besan perfectly roasted, so have patience and continue.
5. After 30 minutes, the color will change to a golden brown, there will be a nice earthy aroma all around the kitchen – add in the ground almonds and cardamom powder at this stage and switch off the gas. Remove the wok to a cold burner – it takes seconds for the besan to burn – it will go from brown to black and bitter.
6. Let this whole deal cool for 20 to 25 minutes. Meanwhile, take a big steel plate with raised sides or a baking tray and grease it’s surface with ghee or oil.
7. Once the the besan is warm (not hot), which it should be after 25 minutes, add the sugar and mix. Dont add the whole sugar at one go, keep adding and mixing half cup at a time. Taste the mixture if you want less or more sugar.
8. The mixture will be pretty liquid-y, don’t worry about it – that is the way it should be. Dump the whole thing in the big plate or tray and smooth the surface using the back of a spoon or bowl. Sprinkle the slivered almonds or pistachios, I has some Everest Doodh Masala too which I spread on it.
9. Put the tray in the fridge for an hour and later, cut into pieces using a sharp knife.
10. Store in an air tight container for up to a month – it has no water or dairy so has a long shelf life.
Ready to be cut in to pieces.
Crunchy Cookies loaded with Cumin
While I have been successful in keeping Aditi close to Indian food and cooking by making sweets such as coconut laddu, gajar ka hawla and badam peda, Indian bakes are something totally unknown to her – given that I took up baking only after landing in Canada. While she is pretty happy munching on Chocolate cookies and M&M cookies – both me and Nilesh crave for the Indian version of cookies – mostly salty and flavored with spices such as cumin and carom. I kept looking for a recipe and the one I tried was like a dream come true! This recipe produces perfect crunchy and ‘same as back home’ cookies – that made us nostalgic. To my surprise, even Aditi got hooked to these and now I am all set to try a carom (Ajwain) version. Another thing I liked about this recipe is that though egg-less, it does not use baking soda or baking powder – lesser the number of ingredients, the better I feel about the whole deal.
Recipe source – Cook With Manali
All purpose flour: 1 cup + 2 tbsp
Unsalted Butter : 1/2 cup (1 stick) at room temperature
Sugar: 1/4 cup
Salt: 3/4 tsp (The original recipe says 1/4 tsp, but I wanted them real salty so took a risk and added 1/4 tsp 3 times, tasting a pinch of dry flour after every addition, till I did not feel salt on my tongue).
Cumin/Jeera seeds: 1 tbsp
1. Take out the butter from the fridge in a big mixing bowl for two to three hours. In winters, I have tried leaving the butter out at room temperature overnight and found it perfectly soft-but-not-melted in the morning.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Spread the cumin seeds on a baking tray and keep them in the pre-heated oven for 5 minutes. You will get a nice aroma of roasted cumin seeds. Take these out and let them be.
2. Mix in another mixing bowl – flour, salt and 3/4 tbsp cumin seeds. Make sure you mix these real well as we want the salt to be evenly distributed. I felt an urgent need to buy a sifter – which went to my ever growing mental list of ‘buy professional baking stuff’.
3. Cream the butter and sugar together – I use my hand mixer for 2 minutes, till it is light and fluffy.
4. Add the flour (to which the salt and cumin seeds were added) and mix.I used my hands to bring together the dough. The stuff has so much butter that it should not be a problem.
5. Now roll out the dough into a sheet – about 1/4 inch thick. Try to roll it out evenly, so that all the cookies are of the same thickness.
6. Pick a cookie cutter – these are traditionally round or a square with smooth round edges. I left it to Aditi to pick something to cut the cookies and she found the smallest round lid of something that fit her hand.
7. The 1/4 tbsp roasted cumin seeds that did not go in the dough – stick them on the cookies. I again got my six year old sous-chef do it.
8. Place the cookies on a baking tray in the oven – pre-heated at 350F.
9. Bake for 10 minutes. Take the cookies out and reduce the oven temperature to 325F.
10. Put the cookies back in the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Open the oven door and rotate the tray. Bake for another 5 minutes.
11. Place the cookies on a cooling wire rack. They will be all crunchy when completely cooled.