Karanji is a traditional Diwali snack. Flaky, crackly pastry is wrapped around a delicious filling of coconut, cardamom, and cashews. For my quick and easy -- and baked -- version, I use puff pastry. A vegan, soy-free recipe.
In India, making snacks for Diwali is a multi-day venture. My parents would start about a week or two before the big day and make goodies -- sweet and savory -- that would be stored in huge steel and aluminum tins, to be eaten on the big day and shared. I can't remember anyone ever complaining about all the time and effort that went into prepping food for Diwali, because it was all part of the fun and anticipation.
No one except my uncle Suresh Kaka, the resident cynic of our extended family. Suresh Kaka, a source of delight to us kids because his signature frown and perpetually disgusted manner were so easy to mimic behind his back, never actually helped with any of the Diwali cooking. "Just get everything from the store," he'd advise the cook from his armchair, before taking a deep puff of his cigarette. "They taste just as good."
At the time, when buying snacks for Diwali from a store seemed like blasphemy, his advice was never taken seriously. But today, in my busy world, I feel rather like Suresh Kaka with his eternal disapproval of Diwali snack-making. Making half a dozen or more Diwali snacks from scratch seems not only a monumental job, it is almost impossible.
Stores in India and Indian grocery stores here in the United States do offer plenty of Diwali snacks you can buy off the shelf, but the problem is, these snacks really are nothing like what my parents would make.
The Indian store I go to here in Maryland sells the usual, multicolored, dairy-filled, ghee-laden sweets like burfis and halwas and pedhas that you can find any time of the year. But the stuff of my Diwali memories is different: paper-thin, crispy Mande; salty, multi-textured Chivda with rice crispies and peanuts, squiggly spirals of Chakli that melt in the mouth, and, one of my favorites, golden, boat-like Karanji with a delicious filling hiding inside. These were snacks that rarely, if ever, were made another time of year, which made them all the more special.
I do not have the time to make a half a dozen snacks, but every year, for Diwali (which is next week) I try and recreate a vegan version of at least one of those recipes for my family and for you.
This year, I thought I'd try out an easy version of Karanji. This is a sweet that's usually deep-fried, but for my quick version, which was all done in under an hour, I used puff pastry. I did make the filling from scratch, although the puff pastry was store-bought, so I think both my parents and Suresh Kaka would approve. 🙂
I'll leave you now with the recipe and wishes for a very Happy Diwali. May the festival of lights bring joy to you and yours.
- 2 sheets puff pastry
- 1 cup shredded coconut (You can use the sweetened kind available on supermarket shelves, or unsweetened coconut. )
- 1 cup cashew nuts (grind to a coarse powder. Some larger pieces are fine, and will add to the great texture of the filling.)
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- ¼ to ½ cup sugar (I used sweetened coconut so I needed only ¼ cup. Add more according to your taste.)
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- Heat a skillet. Add the poppy seeds and dry-roast around two minutes. Add cashew powder and continue to dry-roast another two minutes. Add the coconut, sugar, and cardamom and continue to roast another five minutes.
- Remove the filling to a bowl and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Using a cookie cutter, cut out nine circles of dough from each puff pastry sheet, for 18 circles total.
- Roll each circle to a diameter of about four inches. Place three teaspoons of the coconut-cashew filling in the center and fold over to form a half-moon shape. Crimp the edges together and ensure they are sealed tight. You can use some water to ensure the seal holds, or fold the edges over or press down on the edges with the tines of a fork.
- Place the karanjis on a cookie sheet, about an inch apart. Bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees, then lower the heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for another 20 minutes or until the puff pastry is golden-brown.
- Remove to a rack and let the karanjis cool before serving.
You can find all of my vegan Indian sweets collection here, but these are a few of my perennial favorites: