Diwali is a five day Hindu festival, often referred to as the Festival of Lights. It is probably the one holiday that everyone looks forward to all year. I won’t get too into it on this post but you can read more about it here. In a nutshell, there are fireworks, lamps and candles, houses cleaned, gifts exchanged, prayers and blessings for a happy and prosperous life ahead- but most importantly, like any holiday, it’s about being with family and of course the food!!!! Sweets, sweets, sweets! Every year, my mom makes a batch load of traditional Diwali sweets for me and my siblings.
I’m especially a fan of her ghughara or karanji, a fried pastry stuffed with well, all kinds of things really. There is not any “traditional” way of making anything Indian. Traditions vary so much region to region. My mom makes her’s with ground almonds, sometimes ground pistachios, sooji, and of course sugar and spice. This year I requested to watch how it’s made so that I can share my mom’s wonderful recipe with all of you.
First, I want you to know that I was only observing and have not made these myself yet. If you have any questions though, I’m happy to ask the expert (mom) and get some answers for you! Now, on to how to make the ghughara!Some Notes:
- Sooji is an Indian granulated wheat similar to semolina.
- My mom grinds her own sugar to a powder to avoid any corn starch found in confectioners sugar
- Indian cooking has no real measurements. You can modify spice amounts to your taste.
For the filling:
1 cup melted ghee (clarified butter)
1/4 tsp saffron
3 cups very fine sooji (found in Indian Grocery stores)
2 cups almond flour
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 cups additive free powdered sugar (or 1 cup confectioners + 1 cup regular if you can’t find additive free)
In a large pot, heat the ghee on high then turn to low. Add 1/4 tsp saffron and add the sooji and stir on low until golden, fragrant and clumpy. It may take at least 10 minutes of constant stirring. You don’t want any part of it getting brown. Empty into another bowl so it stops cooking and cools. After it has fully cooled, add the spices and almond flour and mix. Finally, mix in the sugar. Form football shaped clumps of the filling by pressing together a tablespoon of the filling in your fist.
Combine the flour, corn starch, ghee, sooji, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and stir on slow. Add the water a tablespoon or two at a time. You may not need all of the water or you may need more than 1/2 cup. The goal is for the dough to come together and be smooth but should not be overly sticky and wet.
Pinch off a piece of dough to form about an inch sized ball. Roll it out to a 3 to 4 inch diameter circle. It will shrink fast, but you can stretch it as you close the pastry. Place the filling ball in the dough and begin close it into a half circle as shown below. Once it is sealed, you can fold over the edge to make a decorative finish the same way you would on a pie crust.
Repeat the above process until you have made all of your ghugharas. Let them dry for several hours or overnight. You want the dough to dry out some before frying. It should no longer be sticky on the outside and should be much easier to handle without losing it’s shape. Deep frying before it dries will cause it to oddly bubble up (not pretty) and stay soft.
Deep fry each one in vegetable oil on medium heat. Be sure to place each one into the oil with the decorative side facing down first. Then turn them until both side are a pinkish golden color. Cool and store in an air tight container.