Though this is late for Diwali, I would like to consider this a new twist on the traditional Diwali sweet. Karanji made like Baklava = Baklavanji! Get it? Clever!! ~clap, clap~
When I was in college and we lived in Santacruz (Mumbai) my neighbor was a home maker with amazing energy and enthusiasm. She cooked, cleaned and ran a day care at home! All this and Diwali confusion... can you imagine it? about 8 kids ( age group 6 months to 8 years) some crying, some squabbling, one trapped in the bathroom, the other scribbling on the walls....phew!
Amidst all this, she would make Diwali faral (goodies). She made everything. She even made some extra for her sister ( by extra I mean 3- 4 kilos at least of most items).....
One year I helped her make karanjis, the tedious way. The process involved rolling out thin 'rotis' of the dough, then spreading each roti' with butter/ ghee and layering 4 such 'rotis' , one on top of the other. Wait! it does not stop there.... once you are done layering, roll the whole thing into a fat cigar and then cut pieces. Roll the pieces into small uniformly shaped rounds ( to get layers on the outer cover) fill, seal and deep fry.
I have always loved karanji. Making it however is time consuming ( I am talking of the one with layers on the outer cover ) and a daunting task for me to take on with a nosy 3 year old running around!
So while he napped, I made the usual, Chakli, shev, chivda, besan ladoo, rava-naral ladoo, shankarpali and left the karanji for the last. With a vague idea that I'd like to make something 'different', I left the filling aside ( I made the filling earlier on, before I made anything else)
The filling recipe is given by my mother, one she has used earlier and probably from a Maharashtrian cook book ( we have the typical ones at home, Annapurna, Ruchira , Suruchi)
2 Cups Dry shredded Coconut- available at all Indian grocery stores
2 Cups Sugar- powdered ( I used regular powder an ran it thru the mixie)
1/4 Cup Poppy seeds/ khus-khus
1/4 cups Fine Sooji / rava/ farina
1/4 - 1/2 Cups Nuts (I used almonds and pistachios) and Golden Raisins
Hefty pinch saffron (heat a small skillet on low,switch off heat, add and toss the saffron very briefly and transfer to a small bowl/ plate and crush between fingers.**
Approximately 6-7 Cardamoms powdered
**Alternatively powder the cardamom and saffron in a mortar-pestle to a fine powder if you want to play it safe. It still tastes wonderful
For the final assembly:
Melted Ghee to smear on the phyllo sheets
10 Phyllo Sheets
Heat about 1/2 tsp of ghee in a wok and add the shredded coconut and roast till it is light golden brown. Once cool, crush with your fingers ( coarsely)
Transfer to a plate / bowl. To the same wok, add the fine sooji and roast till a nice aroma wafts from it and it turns a nice light golden brown. Transfer to the plate / bowl.
Now add a smidgen of ghee and roast the poppy seeds. Transfer to the plate / bowl.
Add another drop of ghee ( well, not a drop, but enough to fry the golden raisins ) add the raisins and remove them when they plump up. Crush the almonds and pistachios in a mortar- pestle or run briefly thru the coffee grinder (do not powder)
After the above mixture has cooled , add in the powdered sugar, saffron and cardamom and nuts.
Store the mixture in an airtight container till you are ready to use.
To make the Baklavanji, thaw the phyllo sheets in the refrigerator overnight. Before you open the packet, assemble everything you need.
Read the instructions on the phyllo sheet package.
Keep the filling ready (filling with a spoon in it)
Melt the ghee (in the microwave ) and keep aside - the ghee should not be hot
Keep a pastry brush ready to brush ghee on the phyllo sheets
Keep a damp towel ready to cover the phyllo sheets.
Prep the baking tray. spay with cooking spray or smear with ghee or line with parchment paper and then spray. Keep aside
NOW.... assembly time. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
pen and carefully unroll the phyllo sheets and lay them flat ( I keep them on the plastic sheet they were in, just unroll and lay them flat)
Carefully pick one sheet - cover the rest with the damp towel- and lay the sheet in hand on the counter or flat surface you want to use, you can place it on the baking tray directly and then using the pastry brush carefully apply the ghee evenly on the sheet, cover it entirely.
Take another phyllo sheet and using the same technique, layer it on top of the first sheet.
Do this for 5 sheets.
Spoon the coconut mixture generously on the phyllo sheets and carefully spread it evenly to cover the entire sheet.
Back to the phyllo sheets. Pick one sheet, cover the rest apply ghee evenly and place it ghee side down on the coconut filling. Apply ghee on the top as well and go on to layering the remaining phyllo sheets. Make sure yoy apply a thin layer of ghee on the top sheet as well.
Once done, with a sharp knife make squares or diamonds.
Place the tray in the oven ( middle rack) and bake for approximately 20 mins until the baklavanji crust is a lovely golden brown.
Keep a watch on the baking time as there are just 5 sheets on the top and bottom each and it will bake fast. We do not want the top to turn a dark brown.
Remove from the oven and let it cool in the tray for a few mins. and then gently lift the pieces and place on a cooling rack to cool it completely. Store in an airtight container till you are ready to eat / serve it.
Notes: I have used only 5 sheets each on the top and bottom, you can use more or even make multiple layers if you wish. I found this proportion perfect for me, bite size pieces and not too layered, the crunchy cover with the sweet filling pair perfectly here.
If you want to make a small batch, I recommend you halve the filling, you will still have a bit left on hand afterwards.
The filling has a good shelf life.