Every year around this time, my mother and my grandmother start preparing various snacks and sweets for Diwali. Every year, our family gets together to help them with the preparation. We all sit together for breakfast during Diwali and eat all the goodness we prepared over the past week. But my favourite of all these snack has to be the Karanji!
The Karanji is a very complex sweet and savory snack. It is also one of the most beautiful pieces of meal on the Diwali menu that my house has.
Ideally, to prepare the Karanji, fresh coconut is grounded and mixed with a lot of jaggery. Then a Maida based puri is prepared and the coconut-jaggery filling is placed on it. The whole package is then wrapped into a semi-circle. The edges of the circle are then neatly folded over each other to seal all the gooey goodness inside. The whole thing is carefully picked and then fried.
Well we also follow the same recipe till the last step. A few years ago we decided to try out a healthier option when my mother had the thought of Baking the karanji’s instead of frying them!
I was given the task of making sure the baking arrangements are made. Baking a large batch of these snacks at home was clearly not possible so we decided to bake them at a local bakery.
Once my mother was done with the prep, she neatly packed all the Karanjis in a large metal box, each one separated by a sheet of paper. When I got to the bakery, the guy handed me a couple of empty trays and asked me to load up my stash.
The real fun began when I started loading the Karanjis on the trays. The bakery I went to was at the entrance of a chawl in Goregaon. The inhabitants of the chawl were mostly homemade biscuit makers and were surprised to see something new. About 6-7 of these women who make biscuits surrounded me and observed me. They then asked me how I got the idea of making biscuits shaped like Karanjis.
I smiled and told them that these are actually regular Karanjis. They were surprised and instantly started hurling questions at me. I told them that this is just an experiment and it’s the first time we are giving this a shot. They seemed really excited to see how it turns out.
So I went back to the bakery in the evening to pick up my freshly baked snacks and as soon as I reached the spot, I saw some of the same women from earlier. They were there to pick up their biscuits and were happy to see me.
As I waited there waiting for my trays to be arrived, I was really anxious! And then came my trays, filled with beautiful golden brown Karanjis. As soon as he brought them a little closer, The aroma spread even more and caught people’s attention. I knew I had to try one at the spot! So I picked one up. It was warm and felt really firm to the hand. The funny part is that the women were still staring at me waiting for my reaction.
As I took a bite, steam escaped the hot pocket exposing the beautiful filling of coconut and jaggery. My mom had added some pink food colouring to the filling and it looked even prettier than before. I closed my eyes and took in all the crispy goodness that the neatly baked crust had to offer and I slowly relished the sweet filling that just exploded a ton of flavours in my mouth. The firewood run ‘Bhatti’ (oven) had given them a nice smoky edge.
When I opened my eyes I saw the women, the baker and his “Chotu” staring at me as they had never seen the concept of a baked Karanji! I passed one to each of them and asked them to try it. They instantly felt in love with the baked Karanji and the look on their faces is something I’d never forget. They thanked me for sharing the idea and the snack with them and told me that these are so much better than the fried ones. All of them decided that they will also be baking their karanji’s from now on.
I was really excited that this little experiment had such great success. Baking things is really a good option, it really changes the flavor’s of your dish and make them richer. A lot of Diwali snacks can be baked including Chaklis and Shankarpalis!
Find a local bakery in your area, give this a shot and let us know what you think!’