Nitya Jain’s Baked Gujiya
Nitya Jain is the founder of Beyond Curry, an Texas-based food blog chronicling recipes, memories and adventures centered around food. This past April, I spent one morning with Nitya learning to make gujiya at her home in West Austin. Within minutes of arriving, she had offered me a cup of chai and a taste of the mawa, or milk and ghee reduced into evaporated solids, she had made to fill the gujiya I had come to learn about that day.
Gujiya is a sweet Indian pocket traditionally served during Holi celebrations. Half moons stuffed with chopped nuts, coconut, sugar, and mawa — gujiya is also a great afternoon snack to serve with chai, or a quick sweet breakfast bite to eat on the way to work.
According to Go Unesco, “the delicacy has transcended down generations after generations and was once said to be a part of royal kitchen before the colonial times. A traditional exercise during the festival of colors Holi, used to be going on a parade of your locality and knocking every door you can find asking for Gujiya.”
Nitya grew up enjoying gujiya during Holi every year in Calcutta. “It was just the sugar rush we needed after playing with colors in the hot sun for hours on end during Holi. My mum used to bring them hot off the wok and we would devour them with thandai (homemade almond milk spiced with cardamom and saffron).”
These days, Nitya uses frozen puff pastry for a quick gujiya fix instead of making her own dough, but she still uses homemade mawa for this recipe. If you don’t have time to make it, mawa is easy to find at your local Indian grocery store.
Even though her easy recipe for baked gujiya uses puff pastry in place of fried homemade dough, Nitya’s spin on the filling trades powdered sugar for jaggery, adding a robust, molasses flavor to the mix of nuts, coconut and mawa. Guijiya are delicious served with afternoon chai, but Nitya sent me home with several, and I enjoyed them for breakfast with green tea until they were gone (didn’t take long!)
What is mawa?
Mawa (or khoya or khoa) is made by reducing milk and ghee into evaporated milk solids.
What is jaggery?
Jaggery is concentrated unrefined cane juice or date or palm sap used in Indian cuisine.
What is thandai?
Thandai is homemade almond milk spiced with cardamom and saffron.
Nitya Jain’s Baked Gujiya
1 sheet Pepperidge Farm puff pastry dough
½ cup mawa
1 tablespoon ghee ( if vegan use vegetable shortening)
¼ cup jaggery
½ cup nuts (Nitya suggests a mix of cashews, pistachio and almond), finely chopped
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon milk
For the dough:
Bring the puff pastry sheet to room temperature for 30 minutes before using, or move the puff pastry from the freezer to the refrigerator when you start thinking about making these tasty gujiya.
Sprinkle your counter or cutting board with flour and roll out the sheet to 1/8" thickness. Cut the dough into 4-inch circles and put it back in the fridge on a parchment lined baking sheet while you make the filling.
For the filling:
In a pan, heat ghee. Once the ghee smells amazing, add the mawa and sautée on medium low till light brown.
Next, add jaggery, nuts and salt. Sautée till it all comes together, about 5 -7 minutes on a medium low flame.
Add a teaspoon of water at a time to make sure the mix comes all together. Take off the heat and let it cool completely.
Preheat oven to 400 F and pull out the pastry circles from the fridge.
Brush the edges of the circle with water and put 1 teaspoon of the filling in the center. Seal into a crescent and press the edges with a fork. Brush each crescent with milk.
Put in oven for 5 -7 minutes till the tops are golden brown.
Serve immediately or warm, slightly before serving.