A few years back for Diwali I was deciding on what sweets to make. I was firm on two sweets, which were coconut laddu ( Ashok's fav) and Kaju Katli ( my fav.) but was not sure about the third one. I wanted to try something new. That’s when I came across Khaja sweet. It was a new thing for me. Khaja is an Indian syrup dipped crispy pastry.
It is common in the state of UP, Bihar, Orissa, West Bengal and some parts of Andhra Pradesh. But for me, a North Indian, it was a novel dessert. I instantly fell in love with it.
It require the most basic ingredients and comes out as an amazing sweet dish.
Ever since then, it’s a staple in my family. I need no occasion to make Khaja. The aroma of ghee and cardamom mingled with the sweet and crispy fried dough creates magic in your mouth.
It has a very basic recipe, nothing fancy about it, but there are numerous variations of Khaja made across different parts of India.
Let me take you through my favorite version of Khaja along with some tips that I learned while making Khaja over the past one year.
The dough For Khaja
I start by adding ghee to the measured quantity of flour and mix well by rubbing the ghee into the flour with my both hands. Rub the ghee into the flour for 1-2 minutes. I am looking for crumbly flour by the end of the process which could form a crumbled softball when pressed in the fist. The Khaja dough should be smooth and slightly stiff. It doesn’t have to very hard, but something harder than the Poori dough. Adding too much water can ruin the dough texture. So always keep a check on the water that is being added. Add very little water at a time and trust me we just need very little for this dough. I suggest not to cut on the quantity of ghee. It is the key element.
You can substitute ghee for any cooking oil, but you will lose a great element of Khaja. It smells so much better with ghee. But I know people who detest the aroma of ghee. So, ghee can certainly be replaced in such cases.
Rolling the khaja sheets
For perfect Khaja, the dough should be rolled into a thin sheet. I keep dusting some flour underneath by lifting the sheet from the sides as I move along. Dusting the rolling pin and the dough sheet is essential as the dough has a lot of fat from the ghee and becomes greasy when worked with. So, I keep dusting some flour here and there as needed. On a cold day, I do not require much flour, but more muscle grease!
But take my word it is totally worth it.
Greasing the dough sheets
I mix equal quantity of rice flour and all-purpose flour with ghee to form a dropping consistency batter. It needs to be spread evenly on the sheet. A pastry brush comes in handy for this task. (Replace rice flour with all-purpose flour
Rolling into a Log
Now starts the messy part. Rolling the Khaja sheet can become really messy as it is a thin sheet of dough, highly greased and since we just rolled it, it might be stuck to the bottom somewhere…
I suggest you dust some flour on the greased surface and quickly start rolling.
Also, remember I gave you a tip while rolling to keep dusting some flour underneath! If you have done that exercise, rolling the sheet will become easier. Keep a towel close and keep cleaning your hands if they get greasy. Try to roll as tightly as possible.
Cutting the rolled sheets and shaping:
You can cut the roll into equal sizes of your choice. Preferably 1 inch to 1.5 inches thick. If kept thicker, there are chances that the interior dough layers remain raw or partially cooked.
For shaping, I press each piece using the fingers tips along the length or gently press with a rolling pin.
Khaja should be fried at low heat for 10-15 minutes depending on their size. Frying at low heat ensures thorough cooking of the interior layers. It is a slow frying process, so a little patience comes in handy. Hot oil will lead to the quick browning of the outer layers and the interiors will remain uncooked. Slow frying will open the layers of the Khaja pieces as they get cooked. Also, slow frying gives it that super crispy texture.
Dipping in sugar syrup & Flavoring
I like to make a quick syrup by adding two-parts sugar to one-part water. Lime juice prevents the sugar crystallization in the syrup. It also helps in balancing the sweetness of the syrup. Flavoring options are cardamom powder, fennel powder, or rose water. It totally depends on your personal choice. I like to flavor it with rose water and a few strands of saffron. Saffron not only gives a great aroma but imparts a very appealing orange color to the Khaja.
Consistency of the sugar syrup is very crucial. We are looking at one string consistency syrup. A syrup thinner than this will make the Khaja soggy over time. A thicker syrup will just rest on the surface, not penetrate and stick everywhere!
After so much toil, you do not want any of those things to happen. Trust me, it is very heartbreaking!! I have experienced both...So take care to prepare the syrup with the right consistency.
- 2 cups All-purpose flour
- ¼ cup Ghee
- ½ cup Water
For sugar syrup:
- 1 cup Sugar
- ½ cup Water
- 2 tablespoon Rosewater
- 7-8 strands Saffron
- 1 Key lime
- 2 tablespoon Rice flour
- 2 tablespoon All-purpose flour
- ¼ cup Ghee
For coating (optional)
- ⅓ cup Crushed pistachio nuts
- Add the measured quantity of sugar and water into a frying pan.
- Cook till sugar completely melts. Add the juice of 1 key lime.
- Add rose water and saffron strands.
- Cook the syrup until 1 string consistency is attained and immediately take off the heat.
- Into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer add flour and ghee.
- Using hands rub the flour and ghee together for 1-2 minutes.
- Using very little water at a time, form it into a smooth dough by kneading 5-6 minutes, or use the dough hook to knead for 3-4 minutes.
- Cover, and let the dough rest for 20- 25 minutes.
- Divide the dough into 4 equal parts and form round balls. Work one ball at a time and keep the rest covered.
- Roll into a thin rectangular sheet using a rolling pin and keep dusting flour over and under the sheet to prevent the sheet from sticking to the work surface or rolling pin.
- Mix rice flour, and all-purpose flour using ghee to form a smooth paste.
- Spread the paste on the sheet and dust with flour on top.
- Detach the sheet from edges and start rolling the sheet to form a log as tight as possible. Apply water at the far end to facilitate sealing of the ends.
- Cut the log into equal pieces and press using your fingertips.
- In a pan add oil for frying. Slow fry at low flame 10-15 minutes in small batches.
- Remove from oil, when outer layers become golden brown and transfer immediately into the sugar syrup.
- Let them soak in syrup for 15-20 minutes. Take care to turn them in the syrup so that they are soaked evenly from all sides.
- Once they have soaked the syrup, remove them from the syrup and roll them in crushed pistachios.
- To get rid of the dirt from the sugar syrup, add 1 tablespoon of milk. Bring the syrup to a boil. Collect the dirt accumulated at the top with a ladle. Repeat till a clear syrup is obtained.
- While frying, do not add all the pieces at once. For best results fry Khaja in small batches.
- If you do not want to coat them in pistachios, just remove the Khaja pieces from the syrup on to a colander and let the excess syrup drain
Khaja keeps well in an air-tight container at room temperature up to several weeks.