Paakatlya purya: Indian fried breads in syrup
One of the fondest memories MK has of his paternal gran are of her “paakaatlya purya.” I had never even heard of this super traditional Maharashtrian dessert until I met him. Why, even my mum and gran had to look up the Ruchira (the Marathi cooking bible as is discussed here) to make him a batch for one of our first-year-of-marriage celebrations. He’s been pestering me to make some and I’ve been resisting because the recipe is simply too rich—deep fried and then dunked in sugar syrup. Good lord.
But then, there are those days—when the husband’s boyish begging melts one’s determination to lose weight. I decided to get it over and done with today. Turns out, it’s not as tough as I thought it would be. And frankly, quite yummy. If you can just imagine a dessert that looks and feels like a cross between a malpua and a jalebi.
- 1 ½ cups, plain flour
- ½ cup fine semolina
- 2 tbsp. natural yogurt
- pinch of salt
- 2 cups sugar
- ½ cup water
- ½ tsp. ground cardamom
- pinch, saffron (optional)
- juice of ½ a lemon
- Ghee (clarified butter) for frying
(You could use vegetable oil if you can stand the smell of oil in sweets; thanks to mum and gran, though, I cannot bring myself to do that.)
- Place the flour, semolina, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the natural yogurt and water (if needed) to form a soft dough. Leave to rest for an hour, allowing the semolina to blend well.
- Meanwhile, make the sugar syrup. Place the sugar and water in a non-stick pot and bring to a boil. Simmer to a one-string consistency. The syrup should coat the back of the spoon with a thin sheet of sugary goodness.
- Turn off the heat and add the ground cardamom and saffron strands, followed by the lemon juice. This adds a slight hint of citrusy flavor, helps keep the palate clean, and yields a sparkling syrup, too. (And someone told me adding lemon juice to carb-heavy foods helps bring down the glycemic index as well…so there!)
- Now, heat the ghee in a wok. Make sure it isn’t smoking hot or it will burn the puris.
- Spoon 2 tbsp. of this hot fat onto the resting dough and knock back.
- Roll out the dough on a dusted surface to just under ¼ of an inch thick.
- Cut out into small circles with the help of cookie cutter or jar lid. Small. So that the husband naturally ends up eating less.
- Fry in the hot fat until to pale gold. Place on absorbent paper for just a hint of health consciousness and dunk them ever so lightly in the sugar syrup.
- Let them be until you roll, cut, and fry the next batch.
- Transfer the soaking puris to a pretty platter and sprinkle with saffron strands and pistachio/almond slivers if enthusiastic.
- Present to happy husband.