The festival of colours, Holi brings to mind the burst of colours in the air, the squealing as water is splashed on someone, the laughter that rings in the air, the Holi anthem “Rang Barse” that is played in every car, house and farmhouse and of course, Gujiya – the syrupy sweet, shaped like a pregnant moon crescent and stuffed with khoya/ mawa, dry fruits, and coconut.
While one may find all kinds of mithai in the sweet shops throughout the year, it is the elusive gujiya that only surfaces a couple of weeks before Holi. For years, the shape remained the same – a golden brown moonlike shell with khoya as the basic filling. It’s only recently that new versions of gujiya have been introduced in the market – the samosa gujiya, kesargujiya, chocolate gujiya, dry fruit gujiya, chandrakalas, and more.
Despite the newbies in the market, it is the simple gujiya that continues to be popular. It has a maida casing with a filling mainly of khoya and dry fruits. One can seal the edges by hand using the gentle stretch and fold technique. The folding requires a little practice and traditionally gujiya was sealed this way. However, for want of uniformity and ease, a whole lot of gujiya casts are readily available in the market for less than Rs. 100. Once done, a submersion in piping hot desi ghee seals the flavors inside and makes the shell flaky. To give it a glossy, rich exterior the gujiyas can be tossed in sugar syrup. The result is a sweet taste when you dig your teeth into it, followed by the flakiness from the pastry and then the final creaminess of the khoya and the crumbling of dry fruits in your mouth.
Gujiya is said to have its origin in Bundelkhand. However, there is no evidence of its linkage to the festival of colors. When and how it got connected deeply to Holi is best left to history. No one cares. Also popularly called Pedakiya in Bihar, Karanji in Maharashtra and Ghughra in Gujarat, the sweet has seen seamless crossovers and love from all over. Perhaps it’s the limited availability in the remaining year that makes us binge on it around Holi or nostalgia of a consistent taste in the ever-changing flavors of food today; whatever be the reason we all know that no Holi is complete without its sweet counterpart – the Gujiya and we simply love it.
Gujiya - The Traditional Half Moonlike Mithai Of Holi
Mix the ghee with the maida in a bowl. Rub well so that the ghee blends well with the flour. Use less than half a cup of lukewarm water to knead the flour into a stiff dough. It should be as tight as a puri.
Cover the dough with a wet cloth and set aside to rest for 25 minutes.
For the filling, add ghee to a pan and place on medium heat.
Add the semolina and saute till light brown in colour. Put in a separate bowl.
In the same pan saute the dry fruits for a minute. Set aside.
Dry roast the grated coconut powder for half a minute.
Crumble khoya with your hands or grate it. Put in the pan and saute till brown in colour.
Mix the bhoora, khoya, grated coconut, semolina together and use it as a filling.
Once the dough has rested divide it into about 20 balls. Take a mould. Apply ghee to the insides. Take a ball and roll it out so that it is slightly larger than the open mould.
Place the rolled out dough inside the mould and add about 2 tsp filling into it.
Take some water in a bowl. Wet a finger and apply the water to the rims of the dough.
Close the mould tightly. The excess dough on the outside mould must be trimmed off. Use the same method for the others.
In a kadai take ghee/ refined oil for frying. Once hot, lower the flame to medium and add the gujiyas. Keep check and turn when one side is golden brown. Lift off the kadai and drain on absorbent paper.
For the syrup, add the water and sugar and put on heat till it reaches a one thread consistency.
Dip the fried gujiyas in it. Once nicely coated, take it out. Serve them all on a plate with garnishings of slivered almonds, pistachios or saffron strands.