There’s something celebratory about Gujia, even to the uninitiated. A plateful of the pretty little pasty-shaped pastries brightens up any table, and one bite is guaranteed to bring a smile to my face! A popular Indian sweet, particularly prevalent during Holi, the Hindu festival of spring, Gujia are a year round sight in my kitchen. B subtly suggested on Friday that perhaps enough time has passed since we last had them, so I magicked some up yesterday. Traditionally made with khoya, a kind of dried milk (which you could probably substitute for some condensed milk) I tend to cut out the dairy from the filling completely and instead use a bit of icing sugar for sweetness and soak the nuts and raisins in rosewater to keep the mixture moist. I also bake mine, instead of deep frying. Finally, I glaze them with icing sugar mixed with lemon juice or flower water. Try not to eat them all at once!
Ingredients (makes about 16 Gujia)
For the pastry:
120g plain flour
A little warm water
For the filling:
100g unsweetened dessicated coconut
50g ground almonds
50g icing sugar
1 tsp. ground cardamom
Around 400ml rosewater
For the glaze:
3 tbsp. icing sugar
Juice of 1 small lemon or a splash of rose or orange blossom water
Before beginning, you need to soak the nuts and raisins for a couple of hours. Simply put them into separate bowls and pour over just enough rosewater to cover.
After two hours you can start on the pastry. Melt the butter, and sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Pour in the butter, and mix in using a knife until the mixture looks crumbley. Add a splash of water, and start to bring the dough together using your hands. If it looks dry, add a little more water, and then knead it together into a ball. You’re not looking for a really stiff dough – just work it enough to give a smooth ball. Once done, cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and set aside for thirty minutes.
Meanwhile, you can make the filling. Drain the nuts, and chop. Add to a mixing bowl along with the coconut, ground almonds, icing sugar, cardamom and drained raisins, and stir until well combined. Set aside until the pastry is ready to work.
Then, flour your work surface and rolling pin. Divide the pastry dough in two. Break one of the halves in half again. Keep the remaining 3/4 of dough in the bowl whilst you work on the small portion. You’re aiming to get four pastries out of each quarter, so break it into four walnut sized pieces. Roll one piece in the palm of your hand to get a ball shape, then put it on the floured surface, flatten slightly with your hand, before rolling out as thinly as possible into a circle (keep turning the dough so it doesn’t stick.) Take a couple of teaspoons of the filling, and place on one side of the pastry circle, leaving enough space around the edge to seal the Gujia, then fold the empty side over and use your fingertip to press it down (you may prefer to wet the edge to help seal it, but I don’t find it necessary.) If wanted, trim the edge with a sharp knife, then use the tip of the blade to poke a hole in the top of the Gujia (otherwise they might burst open in the oven!)
Repeat until all pastry is used up. I like to bake these on a wire rack, or a baking tray lined with baking paper (so that I don’t have to use extra oil to grease the tray) in the middle of the oven, preheated to 170°C. They take about 15-20 minutes – remove from the oven when they are golden brown and the pastry is crisp.
Let them cool (it doesn’t matter if they’re still a little warm) before making the glaze. Put the three tablespoons of sifted icing sugar into a small bowl, add the lemon zest and juice and mix together until smooth. Brush over the top of each pastry. Sprinkle with a little extra icing sugar and rose petals, if liked.
Gujia are deceptively simple to make, but do take a little time. This can be reduced by having a sous chef at hand to either roll out the pastry or deal with filling and sealing! Also, the filling freezes well, so by all means scale up on the ingredients and freeze some for later. It defrosts at room temperature after a couple of hours.