Gujiya – Sweet Indian pastry puffs |karanji, kadubu, somasi | Contains Dairy |

Belated Holi greetings!
What I always liked about Holi was Mummy’s gujiyas. In the North of India, people celebrate Holi with coloured water, gulal, gale milna (hugging) and sweets especially – gujiyas. Now of course it has been replaced with dyes and don’t-know-what-colours!

A little about what ‘Holi’ is and why it is celebrated:

Holi is an Indian festival which falls in late February or early March (Phalguni Poornima as per the Indian Calendar). It is a festival symbolic of the triumph of good over evil. People celebrate it by spraying each other with dry colour powders or coloured water (Originally it was played with flowers which is so much better than all this!) and also hug each other (Gale milna)

The background: Just scroll down to ‘back to gujiyas’ if you wouldn’t want to read the story – I rather enjoy Mythology and folk lore, and assumed that there might be others who might feel the same way!! Once upon a time the earth was terrorised by the mighty demon called ‘Hiranyakashipu’. The demon had overpowered the netherworld, the earth and the Heavens. Frightened by his activities the devas (the lesser Gods) approached the Preserver – Vishnu (The Supreme God), appealing him to end the tyranny of Hiranyakashipu.  A plan was set. A planned divine intervention by Sage Narada led Hiranyakashipu’s son Prince Prahalad to turn into a devout follower of Lord Vishnu right from birth, much to his father’s anxiety! The demon’s hatred for Vishnu was so much, that he decided to end his son’s life. He tried to kill the boy in many ways, but the child was always saved by the grace of Lord Vishnu! Eventually Hiranyakashipu’s sister ‘Holika’ – who had acquired a boon from Lord Brahma that she would never be harmed by fire – decided to help her brother get rid of Prahlad. She entered a pyre with the child in her lap, but the God of Fire – Agni consumed her, and the boy remained unharmed.

This is the reason why on the Eve of Holi, people build a big bonfire and pour offerings into it to symbolise the death of Holika (the evil mind which plotted against the good – Prahalad. Thus Holi is symbolic of the triumph of good over evil. In the lore, Hiranyaksha is eventually killed in an unarmed combat with the Lord, and the virtuous Prahalad is crowned King. This is the avatara (Divine form) of Vishnu known as the Narasimha Avatara wherein he assumed the form of a half Lion-half Human to establish peace on Earth.

Back to Gujiyas:

Gujiya is something like a sweet samosa or an Indian version of stuffed tart/pastry. The outer covering is made of a dough similar in consistency and form to cookie dough, and the filling is of  made of milk solids (‘khoa’ or ‘mawa’) mixed with various dry fruits. Khoa itself is a milk product made by heating milk and reducing it till it leaves just some solids. These milk solids are rather tasty and is used in South India as ‘theratipal’.  I never forget to buy two or three packets of ‘Aavin’s’ theratipal when I am in Chennai.

Gujiya has regional versions such as karanji in Maharashtra and somasi in Tamilnadu. The filling depends on local tastes. Mine is the North Indian version that was taught to my mother by our cook, Ramkumar, in Kanpur.  On the eve of Holi, Ramkumar would settle down and make hundred of gujiyas.  My mother would stuff the pastries, shape and cut them, while he would patiently fry them.  Frying on very low heat is the key to crisp gujiyas apart from a very tight dough.  They would switch after a while and we kids would be ticked off and told to play till the gujiyas were all ready.  I was allowed to lurk around because I enjoyed helping with the moulding and filling.

Recipe : Gujiya – Sweet Indian pastry puffs |Also known as karanji, kadubu, somasi | Contains Dairy

This is a North Indian version

Yield – 42 gujiyas
Allergy information: This recipe contains milk and milk products such as ghee and solidified milk, gluten and nuts


For the pastry covering:
All purpose flour (Maida) – 1/2kg. + 1/2 cup
Unsalted cow butter – 1/4 cup
Salt – 1/4 tsp.
Warm water for kneading – 1/2 cup
Warm milk for kneading – 1/2 cup

For the filling:
Khoa – 1/2 kg.
Kismis(Raisins) – 10 halved
Cashews (Broken to halves and oven roasted till brown) – 10 to 12
Pista (Pistachios) – 5 to 10 (halved)
Powdered sugar – 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup (As per taste)


Prepare the dough:

Mix the milk, water, melted butter and salt heating till the mixture is blended. Cool till warm.

Sieve the flour and discard lumps. Add the liquid blend and knead a stiff dough (As for cookies). Set aside for 1/2hr.

Prepare the filling:

Roast the khoa till it is pink, and till raw smell of milk evaporates, approximately 15-20 minutes. I did it in non stick flat pan. Keep stirring constantly on very low fire, spreading the solids, and gathering, till the mixture actually turns to peach. This is important as oherwise the gujiyas will smell raw and will get spoilt very soon.

Mix all the dry fruits and sugar little by little (Taste and see whether it is sweet enough). The filling I make is not really sweet as I prefer only a hint of sugar, so please do not go by the sugar I have used.

Allow the filling to cool completely. Crumble it into a powder with your fingers.

Shaping and frying:

Take a lime sized ball of dough and roll it into 5 to 7 cm. discs in diameter. It should be thin as for puri.

Place a tbsp. of filling (As per your level of comfort – more or less is all right) in one half of the circle from the centre.

Dip a finger in water and smear it on the outer edge of the disc, the semi-circle.

Cover with the other half by bringing it over the filled half in a half-moon shape and press the edges to seal them secure.

Use a pizza cutter or a fluted cutter and trim the outer edge.

Prepare the rest of the gujiyas in a similar manner and keep them all covered by a wet cloth even as you finish making one so that they do not dry out.

Baking the puffs:

Place six in a prepared baking tray a few centimetres apart from each other. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 150 deg. Cel. for about 15 to 20 minutes, turning the gujiyas over in between, till they are all browned evenly.

Cool to room temperature and serve or store in an air tight container. They stay well for about three days. Mine got over the next day.

Frying the gujiya:

Deep fry the gujiyas in fat of your choice (I used sundrop oil), in reduced fire till browned. Cool to room temperature. Serve or store as above.

I made both the ways – 14 baked, and the rest fried. Oddly, the baked gujiyas were favoured!

Update: As on today, I am a vegan. I chose to retain the vegetarian recipes in my site because I want you to know me as the person I am, and the route I took to changing my lifestyle.  I hope to post the vegan version sometime.  But then, you could try a vegan version while I procrastinate!

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