When you are staying outside the country, becoming a member of such groups becomes a little imperative in order to keep yourself connected to your roots. The Assam Association that me and my husband are a part of, however, are arranging for a Bohagi Bidai (bidding Adieu to the first month of the year) as they are bringing in a popular Assamese singer to entertain the guests and his dates are unavailable during the actual festival. Now, being away from my native place and hearing all the stories about the hustle and bustle happening in my state right now, I could not keep myself away from celebrating Bihu in whatever small way I can. So I got together with a few of my Assamese and Bengali family friends over here in Singapore and planned a mini Bihu/Poila Boishakh meet.
While everyone brought in some delicacies for the dinner, I decided to try my hands on some traditional Bengali Sweets. It turned out that this particular sweet is the ultimate favorite of not just my Mom but her entire clan, including my cousins from the Maternal side. Now, it became more imperative for me to nail these as a gift for my Mom on this New Year. The procedure is simple, though a bit lengthy, and all you need to nail this sweet is some practice with kneading the dough. I hope you try this delicious Indian sweet and usher in this New Year with lot of sweetness and happiness to last you through the year.
For the filling
1 litre full cream milk
1/2 cup khoya/mawa
Sugar as per taste (I added about 2 tbsp low fat condensed milk and about 2 tbsp sugar)
1/2 tsp freshly ground cardamom powder
For the dough
1 cup all purpose flour/maida
2 tbsp ghee
A pinch of baking powder
A pinch of salt
12-14 long-stemmed cloves
For the sugar syrup
1.5 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 tsp kewra/rose essence
Few strands of saffron
In a deep bottomed pan, bring the milk to a boil and put in the khoya. Stir till the khoya dissolves completely and no lumps remain. Now add the sugar or condensed milk and continue stirring on a low flame until the mixture thickens and forms a lumpy thick rabadi/kheer like consistency as shown in the picture below. Remove from heat and keep it aside covered until further use.
Now, time to prepare the dough. Take the flour and mix all the ingredients and knead a smooth soft dough. Cover and let it sit for at least 30 minutes. Now make 12-14 equal sized balls out of the dough and roll out each into a thin disc. Put 1 heaped tsp in the center of the disc and fold in the sides as shown in the picture below. Take a clove and seal the dough parcel with a clove in the middle.
Now time to prepare the syrup. Boil the sugar and the water along with the other ingredients. You need the syrup to be thicker than a gulab jamun syrup. Once the syrup starts boiling at the surface and looks sticky, take this test. Take a shallow bowl of water. With a spoon take a drop of the syrup and drop it in the water. If the syrup dissolves, it is too thin for this sweet. If you see the syrup forming a thread like structure on the water surface, you know your syrup is ready.Now the final step. Heat oil in a pan and to test if the oil is hot enough, chuck in a small piece of dough in the oil. If it rises up with bubbles, oil is ready. If it sinks, it needs to heat up some more. If it burns, switch off the heat. Now, fry the dough parcels one or two at a time giving each enough space to get cooked through on beautifully golden fried on both sides. Keep adjusting the heat to avoid burning or over browning. Drain the excess oil on kitchen towel and immediately dip them into the prepared sugar syrup. Keep it immersed for 5-7 minutes and then take it out on a serving dish. Repeat for the rest of the parcels and serve hot. This tastes best when served hot from the syrup. You can store them in air tight containers in the refrigerator and slightly warm up before serving. Enjoy!