Thursday, November 4, 2010

Karanji (makes around 40 - 50 karanjis)

Happy Diwali to everyone! Diwali, in simple terms is a festival of lights, the lights signifying the triumph of good over evil.

On this occasion we celebrate by wearing new clothes, burst firecrackers where permissible, prepare and share sweet and savory snacks with friends and family. I present one of my favorite Maharashtrian sweets, Karanjis.

Karanji is all purpose flour or wheat flour dough stuffed with a sweet filling and deep fried. Not that healthy, but who talks about health during festivities. And, as long as you eat in limited quantities you should be good (yeah right!).

The constant ingredient in the sweet filling is fresh grated coconut. People add to that their own concoction of complementary ingredients, under an admissible list. Examples of these are jaggery, sugar, semolina, different kinds of nuts, sesame, cardamom, nutmeg etc.

I got the recipe from a dear friend’s wife in India. They are Maharashtrians. I did a lot of modifications to the recipe, and prepared the karanjis based on the ingredients I had available at home.

Let me tell you, they turned out awesome! I apologize for not counting exactly how many karanjis I made, but a good guess would be 40 - 50 karanjis.

For the filling -
2 cups dried medium shredded coconut
1 cup Semolina
2 cups granulated white sugar
7 cardamom seed pods, skinned and seeds ground
1/4 cup finely chopped pistachio nuts
1/4 cup finely chopped cashew nuts
5 tbsp of browned butter (ghee)

For the dough -
3 cups all purpose flour
3 tbsp vegetable oil (warm)
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/3rd cups milk
6 tbsp water

Vegetable Oil for frying

Preparation of Dough
In a large bowl, sift the flour and salt. To this add warm oil and milk little by little and start kneading the flour and liquid to form dough. Continue adding the water and kneading when the milk is over.

The dough that is formed will be a little tough, not soft and moist like pizza dough. The reason is that we have to fry this dough, and if the liquid content in the dough is high it is going to suck in the oil. Put the dough in an air tight container and keep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours.

Preparation of the sweet filling

While the dough is in the refrigerator, we can start preparing the sweet filling.

In a pan on low to medium heat, add 2 tbsp of browned butter and roast the semolina until you can smell the semolina aroma and can see some of the semolina just starting to turn slightly brown. Keep stirring the semolina with a spatula through the whole process. Remove from the stove and transfer to a dry vessel and set aside.

Now add 2 tbsp browned butter to the pan, and roast the shredded coconut on low to medium heat, until the coconut aroma starts to fill the room and the coconut is slightly toasted. Remove from the stove and transfer into another bowl and set aside.

Grind the sugar into powder form and keep it aside.

Chop the pistachio nuts and cashew nuts into fine pieces, and roast them in a pan with 1 tbsp browned butter until they are slightly toasted as well.

Mix the semolina, coconut, sugar, nuts, and cardamom powder. This is the filling for the karanji.


After 2-3 hours, take the dough out of the refrigerator. Make small balls of the dough, each one just around half the size of a golf ball. On a flat surface, with a rolling pin and with the help of some dry flour, roll out each of the dough balls into small thin tortillas, about the size of a compact disc.

To each tortilla, add 1 1/2 tbsp of sweet filling at the center (do not overfill, add enough filling according to the size of your tortilla). Then dip your finger into a bowl filled with water, and pat the edges of one half of the tortilla with your fingers to get the edges a little wet. Now fold the other half of the tortilla over the wet edges to form a dumpling that is a semi circle. With a fork press the edges together to seal the stuffing and add some design to the dough.

In a large deep frying pan, add enough oil, around 4 inches deep. As the oil is getting hot, throw in tiny bits of dough. If it goes down and comes up frying, the oil is ready. Don’t get the oil too hot.

Add 3-4 karanjis at a time and deep fry them until golden brown. Drain excess oil from the karanjis by placing them on a paper towel.

Serve when warm. You can store the karanjis in an air tight container for a week.