Elizabeth Nakash's Indian Puri
Elizabeth Nakash's Indian Puri
Recipe

Puri – Indian Holiday Dessert

Puri signifies compassion, the cycle of life, and new beginnings. On the less spiritual level, it is crunchy, made of puff pastry and a creamy filling

The Puri (which is not similar to the fried Indian bread that is better known) my mother, the late Abigail Kasokar, would prepare only once a year – for Yom Kippur – and it was the pastry we used to break the fast with. Puri is a common Indian dessert and in India it has several versions and names, for example Gujiya in North India or Karndji in Maharashtra. The filling and the preparation technique also vary from region to region according to local ingredients. In Mumbai – the city where my family comes from, it was common to use coconut and our puri is filled coconut and almonds.

The link between Puri and Yom Kippur, or the beginning of the Hebrew year, is not accidental: for Indian Jews the round shape of the Puri symbolizes that the world is round, and the circularity of time: with the year closing and another year opening. The texture of the puri is also full of symbolism and represents the nature of Jewish life alongside Muslims, Christians and other religions in India: the crispy shell is a symbol of the outer hardness that is needed to maintain uniqueness, while the soft inner filling symbolizes the Jewish heart that is compassionate and open to mankind.

Mother’s Puri

My family emigrated to Israel when I was 13 years old, when we arrived in Israel my mother continued to prepare the foods we ate from India. The preparation of puri in Israel was strange to her and required adaptation since in India the ingredients were different from the ingredients available in Israel. In India, for example, my mother would scrape the fresh coconut using a mechanical device that exists only there, while in Israel the coconut arrived in a bag dry and ready to use. This is also true for the other ingredients such as the almonds in India my mother would soak in plenty of hot water, peel and cut into slices, while in Israel she would have already bought them peeled and cut.

Elizabeth Nakash’s parents: Abigail and the late Aharon Kesokar.
Elizabeth Nakash’s parents: Abigail and the late Aharon Kesokar. Their children still miss their mother’s Puri

Today I am the one who prepares puri for the holiday, but we still long for mother’s puri, and for her. My mother had a book of recipes in Indian and from time to time she would consult it, today her book is in the museum for Indian immigrants in Dimona – as a donation from the family.

For several years, regularly at the end of Yom Kippur, my brothers and I, together with our children, continued the tradition and met at my eldest brother’s place to commune and remember. Now, each of us continues the tradition at home together with our children and grandchildren.

Ingredients for Puri Indian Dessert

For the Dough:

  • 2.2 lbs (1 kilogram) flour
  • pinch Salt
  • 5 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2¾ cups milk or water, lukewarm

For the butter/cornstarch mixture (used to attach the dough)

  • 7.1 oz (200 grams) butter room temperature
  • 2¾ cups cornstarch

For the Filling:

  • 3.5 oz (100 grams) butter
  • 1.1 lbs (500 grams) Ground coconut
  • 1 cup almonds and pistachios, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • pinch ground nutmeg

For the Semolina Filling:

  • 7.1 oz (200 grams) butter
  • 2.2 lbs (1 kilogram) semolina
  • 1 cup almonds and pistachios, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • pinch ground nutmeg

Instructions

Prepare the Dough:

  • 1. Put all the ingredients until a uniform dough is obtained. Cover the bowl and set aside for 10 minutes.

  • 2. In the meantime, prepare the butter and cornstarch mixture (which is used to attach the layers of dough): put soft butter and cornstarch in a bowl and mix well to obtain a uniform and smooth mixture without lumps.

Prepare one of the fillings (or half of each):

  • 3. For the coconut filling: heat butter in a pan over a medium flame, add coconut and fry until deep golden while stirring for several minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients except the sugar, mix and remove from the heat. Cool to room temperature and add the sugar.  

  • 4. For semolina filling: heat butter in a pan over a medium flame, add semolina and fry until deep golden while stirring for several minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients except the sugar, mix and remove from the heat. Cool to room temperature and add the sugar.

Assemble and Fry:

  • 5. Divide the dough into 8 parts. Roll each part into a thin round sheet about .4 inch (1 cm) thick.

  • 6. Divide the dough into 2 equal groups, four in each group. Spread a sheet of dough with the cornstarch and butter mixture with your hands - this ensures that the dough does not tear, place another sheet of dough on top of it, tighten and spread it also with the butter and cornstarch mixture. Place a third leaf on top, tighten gently, spread it also with a mixture of butter and cornstarch and place on top a fourth and last leaf and spread it also with a thin layer.

  • 7. Repeat step 2 exactly the with the remaining four leaves so that you get two groups or "stacks" of dough leaves spread with butter and cornstarch.

  • 8. Roll each of the stacks of dough leaves into a tight log (as you roll blintzes) from the side closest to you. Roll each of the rolls of dough on the work surface with your hands into thinner and longer rolls. Cut each roll lengthwise - so that you can see the inner layers along the entire length of the roll. Place the half roll on the work surface with the cut (flat) side down.

  • 9. Heat oil for deep frying in a medium and wide pot.

  • 10. While the oil is heating, continue filling and shaping the puri: cut the half rolls into segments 2 inches (5 cm) wide. Take each of the segments and roll into a thin circle about .2 inches (1/2 cm) thick.

    Place the halved roll with the flat part facing down and cut into segments - this is how the layers are preserved. Puri Indian by Elizabeth Nakash
    Place the halved roll with the flat part facing down and cut into segments - this is how the layers are preserved. Puri Indian by Elizabeth Nakash
  • 11. Place 1 heaping tablespoon of the filling of your choice in the center of each dough circle, moisten the circumference of the circle with a little water with your finger and fold into a half crescent. Fasten the closure with pinches or with a fork for a nice seal. Cover the with a towel until you finish preparing them and are ready to fry.

    The pockets before frying: Elizabeth Nakash's Indian puri for the Tishrei holidays
    The pockets before frying: Elizabeth Nakash's Indian puri for the Tishrei holidays
  • 12. Fry the puri in hot oil over medium heat in several cycles until golden - turn once during frying.

    Fry the puri in hot oil over medium heat in several cycles. Elizabeth Nakash
    Fry the puri in hot oil over medium heat in several cycles. Elizabeth Nakash
  • 13. Keep for up to a day outside the refrigerator or in the refrigerator for up to ten days.

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