Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Paan Petha- an exotic sweet from city of Taj

Agra is the place where I have spent my favorite time mostly i.e. summer vacations. Yes, This city is where my grand-parents used to live ,where my parents grew up and got married.They shifted to Rajasthan because of work constraints but we always found our selves well connected to this city in fact in love with this city. I got chance to do graduation from here which was the golden time I had in my whole education life.These four years not only I molded myself in a logical & analytical person through my degree but also got chance to develop satisfy my taste buds with some new tastes.
Agra is famous for Taj Mahal (one of Seven Wonders of the World) everyone knows but what makes it stand out of the crowd is -its Crowd! Yeah I love this city n I belong to it but still it gives me goose bumps when it comes to its irregular traffic and crowd.
But as Burger king says "Taste is King" I can go again n again to visit its famous eating joints like for chaat at Saudagar line Sadar, Bhagat Halwai, Panchi Petha Store, Deviram's etc..But I miss a typical yet exotic sweet from there-Pan Petha. I can hardly find this sweet in other parts of India or abroad. 
So here is the nostalgic recipe which I got from authentic Halwais (sweet makers) in Agra and picture courtesy Panchhi petha Store.

But first some trivia on Petha:
Petha (Hindi: पेठा pronounced [ˈpeːʈʰaː]) is a translucent soft candy from North India. Usually in the shape of rectangular or cylindrical pieces, it is made from the Ash gourd vegetable (also known as winter melon or white pumpkin, or simply petha in Hindi and Urdu).

Paan Petha are thin Petha slices with pistachio sandesh.
So for filling we need to make Bengali sweet Sandesh with fresh chenna.
Ingredients for sandesh:
1 1/4 cups chenna (how to make chenna at home)
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons pistachios, finely chopped,
a few saffron strands
1/4 teaspoon cardamom (elaichi) powder

Knead the chenna till it is as smooth as possible. Add the sugar to it. Put this mixture into a shallow vessel stirring constantly over low heat and avoid over heating as If it does over heat, it will become grainy and fat will separate. The mixture will first turn liquidy and then start thickening. When the mixture becomes a creamy thick paste/very soft dough consistency then stir in cardamom powder,saffron strands and pistachios.

For wrapping it up:

1 kg of Ash Gourd/White Pumpkin
small peice of Alum
700 gms 3 1/2 cups of Sugar
Water for boiling gaurd.
Cloves for garnishing

Peel the pumpkin and remove the seeds and soft fibers. Cut it into 4'x4', thick slices. Prick well with a fork, all over.
Soak these slices in water with small alum(fitkari) pieces it for 2 hours. Then rinse the slices with fresh water thoroughly.
Now boil the water and cook the ashgourd slices with lid On for 4-5 mins or till it changes its color to transparent.
Don't let it cook completely.Drain the water now.
Take another pan with sugar and add slices in to it.Keep it aside for half an hour.
Slices will leave water and get mixed with sugar.So there will be enough of water for making sugar syrup out of it.
Heat this pan on low heat and let the sugar dissolve completely and cook slices on medium heat afterwards.
Remove it from syrup before getting dry.Now it is ready for wrapping the sandesh filling.
Now divide the filling into equal parts and shape each portion into even sized balls.
Place one portion of the filling on a petha slice.
Fold it along the sides to form a triangle and stud it with a clove.

To slice the petha, use a sharp wafer slicer.
Always use cow’s milk for making chenna as it has a low fat content.

Home made Paneer-Indian cheese

Paneer, Chenna or Indian cheese is very important part of Indian cuisine.

It can be used as cubes in various spicy curries or in crumbled form for Bengali sweets like rasgulla, sandesh , Kalakand which are all time favorite desserts in India.

So here is the recipe for fresh home made paneer for those who like to make it fresh at home and for those who don't have access to this simple yet important ingredient in their part of world.

1 liter cow’s milk
2 tblspn vinegar or lemon juice or 250 gm Yoghurt
This will make 1 1/4 cup Paneer(curdled milk)

Bring the milk to a boil in a heavy bottomed pan, stirring continuously.

After the first boil add vinegar and stir the milk gently.

Instead of vinegar you can also use Yoghurt which will accelerate the curdling and also adds to fat content to make rich Paneer.

The milk will start to curdle and the whey gets separated and leave for two minutes till it get separated completely. Turn off the heat now.

Set the muslin cloth on the sieve (if you don't have muslin cloth then soup sieve can be used directly),pour the curdled milk onto it.

Fold the cloth and squeeze the Paneer lightly about 3 to 4 times so that most of the whey gets drained out.

Remove the Paneer from cloth and now its ready to use for sweets like rasgulla , kalakand etc

To use it in Indian gravies like matar paneer, palak paneer , paneer tikka or a rice dish , you will need Paneer in form of blocks.

So knead the paneer well with bare hands or food processor. This will help Paneer to hold itself together much better.

Wrap this Paneer in a cloth and press it under some heavy weight for few hours in refrigerator.Then cut it into cubes of same size.

Paneer made at home is softer, tastier and unadulterated as compared to the one which we get in markets.


Medium fat content Cow's milk is always better because if you take high fat content milk the Panner will be more creamy and will be difficult to get into the blocks. But if you take low fat content milk then you will get very less amount of Paneer out of the milk.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Eggless Chocolate cake

This Eggless Chocolate cake was dedicated to my friend's third wedding anniversary. I did not frost this cake with cream because of some transportation issues so I tried simple stencil technique here. I had cut a stencil on a paper and then used powdered sugar and grated coconut to decorate it.


200gms all purpose flour or maida
1 tin or 400gm sweetened condensed milk
50 gm (1/4 cup) good quality cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda/ sodium bicarbonate
150 gm unsalted butter/ghee melted
2 tsp good quality vanilla extract
150 ml water/soda

Preparation for baking :
Preheat the oven at 180º C/ 350 F, 10 mins before baking. 
Grease your cake-baking pan with butter/oil. Sprinkle a 8 inches round pan with 1 tbsp of cocoa powder. Tap pans gently to make sure that powder spreads over the pan uniformly. 
Remove the excess cocoa and Set pans aside till ready to use.

Making the batter:

Beat softened butter and condensed milk in one direction till it turns creamy and uniform (I used my blender to beat). Now add vanilla essence to this and mix well.
Sieve together flour, baking powder, cocoa and soda bicarbonate in a bowl and repeat this process at least three times to ensure they mixed properly. Keep aside.
Start folding flour mixture and soda water to the butter mixture, alternatively, starting and ending with the flour.
Repeat the process till the flour and soda water is used completely(or you can check that correct consistency of batter is achieved). 
Folding means to slowly turn dry ingredients into the wet in a circular inward to outward motion. Do not beat or mix vigorously. The main purpose of folding is to allow more air into the mixture which you get from soda.
Pour batter into the prepared cake pan and bake at 150 degrees C for 60 minutes in the preheated oven. 
After 45 minutes start checking cake by inserting a toothpick or knife in the middle of cake, if it comes out clean then remove it from oven otherwise let it bake for few more minutes.
Once the cake is out of oven let it cool for 20 mins on the counter top. Don't make efforts to cool it under fan or so otherwise it will turn dry.
Loosen the sides of cake using a knife and then invert cake onto a plate or cooling rack. Now wrap this warm cake in a plastic wrap which will keep it moist.
If you want to frost your cake wait for cake to cool down completely and frost it with cream or simply place a stencil and decorate it with powdered sugar or cocoa or coconut.

In Microwave:
We can bake(basically cook) this cake in microwave also and that too in few minutes like 5 minutes. But the only difference will be the texture and the color of the cake. It will not turn brown and no hard crust on the top but taste will be exactly the same.
What you need to do is to just put the same cake batter in a greased microwave bowl (say glass bowl)and then cook for 5 minutes or until cake gets set with power setting set to high power i.e. 100%.
Check it out every 2 mins and if the cake looks still wet go ahead with another 30 seconds.The timing is subjected to your microwave settings.
Let the cake cool down for 15 mins and then you can invert it and follow the same rules above.
Remember that when I am saying microwave it! then I mean microwave cooking which we use for reheating or defrosting not the convection mode/grill which we use for baking or grilling.

-Time to bake and to cool depends on the amount of batter you have poured in the pan.If it is more time will be more if it is less than cake will be ready in less time.
-While cooling, once the cake is warm you can wrap it in a plastic wrap to keep it moist and fresh.
-The cake cracks sometimes because of the uneven heating which can be minimize by not opening the oven frequently while baking and always put the pan in the middle of oven for even baking.
-Always do stencil work 15-20 minutes before you want to serve if doing it with sugar as it can get 
absorbed quickly.
-Use exact amount of ingredients to get better result.


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