Going to India for dessert: Mawa cake and bolinhas de coco

Bolinhas de coco

I am 3 days behind schedule on posting my daring bakers post of this month but if you watch the news you may know why . The drums of war are resonating through out the middle east. Being glued to the TV is something you can’t help, no matter how painful or stressful the news may get and it is getting worse by the minute!

Everyone is worried. Memories of the gulf war are vividly coming back. I was 13 at the time and I  remember the evacuation drills in school. Windows taped to prevent them from shattering in case of bombs. The news being  the one and only topic that everyone is discussing. All that and Jordan was not directly involved in it all as it seems to be this time. Everyone around you hopes and prays that this too shall pass without us “becoming the news” instead of watching the news..

To keep my head from exploding I am trying to re-focus on simple things, things that bring me joy. The new school year, blogging, photography, anything and everything that can keep me away from the TV and the gloomy news coming out of it. One of those simple things that I truly enjoy is doing my daring bakers and cooks challenges

Mawa cake

 

Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen was our August 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she challenged us to make some amazing regional Indian desserts. The Mawa Cake, the Bolinhas de Coco cookies and the Masala cookies – beautifully spiced and delicious!

Mawa (also known as Khoya/ Khoa) is made by slowly reducing milk (usually full-fat) until all that remain is a mass of slightly caramelized granular dough-like milk solids. Mawa is used in a wide variety of Indian sweets like Gulab Jamun. Mawa is pronounced as Maa-vaa; Khoya is pronounced as KhOh-yaa.

In this cake, Mawa lends a rich and a caramelized milky taste.The cake is slightly dense and reminiscent of a pound cake.The cardamom taste is subtle in the baked cake but it definitely sets it apart from a plain cake. We all loved it with a cup of tea, it also goes beautifully with coffee because of the cardamom in it.(I am not a coffee drinker but still I love the combination of coffee and cardamom, it is one of those unbeatable matches like cinnamon and apples!) Typically mawa cakes are made with  cardamom and cashews but you can also make it with blanched almonds like me. I baked my cake in an 8 inch round pan but next time I plan on trying it in cup cake form.

Mawa cake, dense and delicious

 

Mawa cake

Ingredients

For the Mawa:
1 liter (4 cups) full fat milk

For the cake:
1/2 cup (1 stick) (120 ml) (4 oz) (115 gm) unsalted Butter (soft at room temperature)
3/4 cup (180 ml) packed crumbled mawa
1-1/4 cups (300 ml) (10 oz) (280 gm) castor sugar
3 large eggs
5 to 6 cardamom pods, powdered, (about 1-1/2 tsp powdered cardamom)
2 cups (500ml) (9 oz) (260 gm) cake flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (120 ml) milk
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract (optional)
Cashew-nuts (or blanched almonds) to decorate (about 18 to 20)

Directions:

1. First make the “Mawa”. Pour the milk into a heavy bottomed saucepan, preferably a non-stick one. Bring the milk to a boil, stirring it on and off, making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
Turn down the heat to medium and keep cooking the milk until reduces to about a quarter of its original volume. This should take about an hour to an hour and a half.

2. The important thing during this process is to watch the milk and stir it frequently to make sure it doesn’t stick to the sides or bottom of the pan and get burnt. The danger of this happening increases as the milk reduces and gets thicker.

making mawa mawa2

3. Once the milk it has reduced to about one fourth, 1/4 quantity, lower the heat to low and let cook for a little while longer. Keep stirring regularly, until the milk solids (mawa) take on a lumpy appearance. There should be no visible liquid left in the pan, but the mawa should be moist and not stick to the sides of the pan.

Mawa

4. Remove the pan from heat and transfer the mawa to a bowl and let it cool completely. Then cover and refrigerate it for a day or two (not more) till you’re ready to make the cake. It will harden in the fridge so let it come to room temperature before using it.
You should get about 3/4 to 1 cup of mawa from 1 liter (4 cups) of full-fat milk. My mawa turned out to be light in color and I only got 1/2 a cup of mawa. The mawa quality and quantity differs with the type of milk you use

5. Now start preparations for the cake by pre-heating your oven to moderate 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Beat the butter, the crumbled mawa and the sugar in a largish bowl, using a hand held electric beater, on high speed until soft and fluffy.

6. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat on medium speed till well incorporated. Add the vanilla and milk and beat till mixed well.

7. Sift the cake flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt onto the batter and beat at medium speed until the batter is well blended. If you cannot find cake flour, place 2 tablespoon of cornstarch in the bottom of your 1-cup measure and then fill it with all-purpose (plain) flour to make up to 1 cup.

8. Grease and line only the bottom of an 8 inch (20 cm) spring form pan. Pour the batter into this and lightly smooth the top.

Mawa cake before baking

Place the cashew nuts (or blanched almonds) on top of the batter randomly. Do not press the nuts down into the batter. A Mawa Cake always has a rustic finished look

9. Bake in a preheated moderate oven for about 1 hour until the cake is a golden brown and a skewer pushed into the centre comes out clean. Do not over bake the cake or it will dry out. If the cake seems to be browning too quickly, cover it will aluminium foil hallway through the baking time.
Mawa cake with cardamom

10. Remove from oven and allow it to cool for 10 min in the tin. Release the cake, peel off the parchment from the base and let it cool completely.

Notes

You can make the “Mawa” a day or two ahead of making the cake and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. When you take it out, it will look dry and a little lumpy because of the fat in the milk solids. This is alright. Just let it come to room temperature before you use it to make the cake.
The Mawa Cake is usually served as it is, without any other accompaniment, as a snack with coffee or tea.

bolinhas (Indian coconut semolina  cookies)

Bolinhas de coco

Bolinhas are cardamom flavored coconut and semolina cake like cookies from the Indian state of Goa. When they come out of the oven, they are a little crisp/ crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. When they cool, their texture changes into a melt-in-the-mouth cloud of coconut and semolina with the wonderful taste of cardamom whispering from the back ground

What is unusual about these cookies is that they are made entirely with semolina and fresh grated coconut . There is no flour in them. To make them you have to allow the batter an overnight rest so that the semolina can soak up liquids. That is what results in the irresistible melt in your mouth cake like cookie. The process of this overnight rest reminds me of semolina maamoul another heavenly semolina based cookie

Bolinhas de coco

This recipe makes 4 dozen cookies and it can be halfed

Ingredients:

2 cups (500 ml) (5-1/3 oz) (150 gm) fresh grated coconut, packed
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) (9 oz) (250 gm) semolina
1-1/4 cups (300 ml) (8-3/4 oz) (250 gm) granulated sugar
3/4 cup water (180ml) (6 oz) (175 gm) water
A pinch of salt
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (1 oz) (30 gm) ghee (clarified butter) or melted unsalted butter
2 large eggs
8 to 10 pods cardamom, powdered (about 1-1/2 teaspoon)

Directions:

1. Run the grated coconut in your processor or the small jar of your blender a couple of times so that the flakes are smaller and uniform in texture. Do not grind into a paste. Keep aside.

2. Put the semolina in a pan and toast/ roast it, over low to medium heat, until it starts giving off an aroma, and looks like it’s about to start changing colour. This should take a couple of minutes. Do not brown. Transfer the semolina into a bowl and keep aside.

3. In the same pan, pour the water and add the sugar to it. Place it on medium heat and keep stirring until the sugar dissolves completely. Once the sugar has dissolved, keep stirring the solution and let it cook for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat. The sugar solution should just begin to start forming a syrup but is still watery. Do not cook until it forms a thick syrup.

4. Add the toasted/ roasted semolina and mix well. Then add the coconut, salt and ghee (or melted butter) and mix well. Put the pan back on the stove, and over medium heat stir the coconut mixture until it is really hot and easily forms a thick clump. This should take about 2 to 3 minutes.

5. Take the pan off the heat and let the semolina coconut mixture cool to room temperature. Transfer this into a bowl or container, cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, ideally overnight. For really fluffy biscuits/ cookies, the overnight rest is recommended.

6. The next day, take the dough out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Separate the yolks from the egg whites.(See notes) Lightly beat the yolks with a fork to break them and add to the dough. Also add the powdered cardamom and mix well with a wooden spoon or fork.

cardamom cookies

7. Whisk the egg whites by hand until frothy and add to the dough. Mix well till incorporated.

8. You will now have a slightly moist and sticky dough. Refrigerate this dough for about half an hour so it firms up a bit.

9. Pre-heat your oven to moderate 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Line your baking trays with parchment or grease them well with some ghee or melted butter.

10. Take the dough out and pinch off walnut sized bits of dough. The dough should be firm enough to handle without difficulty. If the dough is sticking to your palms, lightly dust your palms with flour before shaping the dough. Roll the bits of dough into balls and then flatten them very slightly.

11. Decorate the top by marking criss-crosses (3 equidistant lines one way and another 3 crossing them at right angles), with a table knife. Press down a bit but not too deep or right through the biscuit/ cookie. Use up all the dough this way.

Indian cardamom cookies

12. Place the shaped dough on the baking trays leaving a little space between them. Bake in a preheated moderate oven for about 20 to 25 minutes until they’re a golden brown and done. Let them cool on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then transfer to racks to cool completely.

13. Store the biscuits/ cookies in airtight containers. This recipe makes about 4 dozen Bolinhas de Coco.

bolinhas (indian cardamom cookies)

Notes

  • Once the first part of the dough has been made it must be refrigerated for at least 8 hours. About 10 hours to overnight is even better, because this allows the semolina to absorb moisture and become soft. It also produces fluffier cookies.
  • If you can find fresh grated coconut, please use that as it gives you the best taste and texture. If you’re using frozen grated coconut let it come to room temperature before using it.
  • If using dehydrated shredded coconut or desiccated coconut, please look for the unsweetened kind. Also re-hydrate your coconut by adding about 1/2 cup warm water to 2 cups of dehydrated/ desiccated coconut and let it sit for about half an hour. After half an hour, drain off any excess water, if any and then use in the recipe. You should have moist coconut not wet coconut.
  • The first time I made these I made them following the recipe and separated the egg white from yolk. The second time I forgot that step and actually ended up having cookies that rose more in the oven and were better in texture
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29 Comments

  1. Slmz
    May peace be bestowed on the Middel East Insha Allah!!!
    Hope that you are well!
    Please could u try and make a gluten free stevia liquid sweetened version of the coconut biscuits…iv been looking for 1 everywhere and cant eat semolina or any other wheat flour as well as sugar and yeast.
    Would really really appreciate it

    Reply
  2. Sasan, a lovely job,as always! did not know what mawa was;I must make it. Our senator and congressman have heard from us; we and our clergy are praying:no more war. Peace.

    Reply
  3. All my love to you and your family Sawsan. Such stressful times. I’m glad you can find some solace in your beautiful baking.

    Reply
  4. I can’t imagine how horrible it must be for you listening to the news – really frightening. Baking is a wonderful way to calm the nerves and bring one back to the basics of life.

    Reply
  5. You have been in my thoughts lately…it’s scary. I am just hoping this passes peacefully……and everything goes back to being normal.

    The cookies look awesome.

    Reply
  6. All the best Sawsan – I know everyone is hoping for a peaceful resolution but… well, it’s difficult and complex. So many bad things are happening :(

    I find it best to concentrate on other things too when I have a lot on my mind so I’m pleased you can find some relief through baking. The cake looks wonderful – the arrangement of almonds on top reminds me of an English cake, called “Dundee Cake” – it commonly has the same pattern!

    Reply
  7. Thinking of you and praying for you Sawsan. Sorry to hear that things are so volatile. It’s been a while since I’ve stopped by your blog and it’s always quite confronting to be reminded of how different things are over where you are. These cookies and the cake, on the other hand, look divinely beautiful. Thanks for the recipes. I do hope that things calm down over there, though I may be unrealisting. Hugs xxxxxx

    Reply
  8. Great cake and cookie, Sawsan.

    I understand how difficult it must be being in Middle East with all that’s going on.

    Reply
  9. I know how upsetting it must be to try a live your normal existence at this stressful and difficult time. I hope your baking gave you a few minutes of peace and comfort.

    Reply
  10. As you know, I’ve been thinking of you a lot, knowing that things are tremendously difficult right now. I was in Brazil for 1 week and away from news, so it was a luxury I normally don’t have, to concentrate on “other stuff” like family and my Mom (who turned 90 while we were there). But, as I sit now in the airport at Miami waiting for my final couple of flights, I logged into your site anxious to read your new post that was sitting in my email notification for a while.

    It is hard to concentrate on the recipe, with so much serious stuff going on, but you managed to rise above the stress to come up with yet another amazing post!

    special woman…. yes, you are!

    Reply
  11. Yay! India for dessert!

    Reply
  12. This cake looks spectacular and you made it so pretty and artistic the way you place the almonds. I am so sorry that the Middle East is in such a fragile and volatile state. I wish you peace my friend, safety and all good things. Take care Sawsan. I will be thinking of you and your sweet family.

    Reply
  13. This is a cake worth stealing :) And I’d do anything to steal that star-studded cake :)
    ╰⊰✿
    And you have one more follower for your gorgeous blog from now on.
    Love.

    Reply
  14. wow, the cake and the cookies look delicious!!

    Reply
  15. Your desserts are very interesting. I have never heard of them. I’m sorry to hear you are living in anxious times. We all hope for peace in the Middle East xx

    Reply
  16. I have been thinking a lot about you Sawsan, Jordan is far too close to Syria, I cannot imagine how frightful this explosive situation is. We will all be thinking good thoughts and sending them your way.
    The cake looks gorgeous, and I bet it tastes heavenly too. The cookies look and sound interesting although I have discovered that I don’t care for semolina sweets.
    Stay safe my friend. Sending lots of love and hugs your way.

    Reply
  17. A slice of that would be great! Looks amazing!

    Reply
  18. can the mawa be frozen and used at another date after defrosting?

    Reply
  19. I can’ t wait to try the cake–it sounds lovely. But I hate the sounds of war.

    Reply
  20. Hi Sawsan, My thoughts are with you and everyone in the Middle East. I hope it all ends peacefully. Love the sound of the cake and the cookies.

    Reply
  21. I love your writing, Sawsan, and we seem to share a love for cardamom and sweets :) I too am hoping for a peaceful and positive outcome for the region.

    Reply
  22. Anonymous

     /  August 31, 2013

    Interesting recipe.what can we substitute fr eggs in this recipe.thanks

    Reply
  23. Assalam Alaikum, I liked you before NOW I LOVE YOU!! When i was 18 i had the most amazing coconut cookies and never found the recipe that helped me relive that taste…UNTIL NOW! Thank you for giving the mother of four a little moment of paradise in my mouth…

    Reply
  24. Mawa cake brings back childhood memories..I love!! next time you come to India, bring some more cake.. and I’ll make you some milky Indian chai!!! It will be fun!! :)))

    Reply
  25. Nagmana

     /  August 31, 2013

    جزاك اللهُ خيراً
    Sister I love mava cake with tea it’s my favorite .إن شاء الله
    I will try and let you know

    Reply
  26. What interesting desserts! You make the best stuff even if you have to go to India to get it. :)

    Reply
  27. The coconut cookies look delicious. I guess the name comes from Goa’s history as a former colony of Portugal.

    Reply

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