We have you covered with recipes and hacks from chefs

Fruitcakes and rum cakes may define the jolly festival but Christmas celebrations are incomplete until there is a surplus of Christmas sweets in your house. Whether you want to send them over to loved ones or indulge yourself silly, it’s best to make your own sweets instead of buying them from the market. We asked chefs for recipes of some of the most popular Christmas sweets made in India. The chefs also revealed some expert hacks to make sure that your Christmas sweets turn out just like the professionals.

Marzipan
The most popular Christmas sweet, Marzipan is simply almond or cashew nut paste (pistachios are added at times) and icing sugar bound together with some eggs. The mixture is kneaded into a smooth pliable dough which is then coloured, rolled and moulded into festive shapes. Similar to fondant, this sugar dough can be used in cakes, cookies and pies. However, marzipan is best enjoyed as it is.

Marzipan Recipe
by Ashutosh Gairola, Pastry Chef, Renaissance Bengaluru Race Course Hotel

Ingredients
1 cup almond paste
2 egg whites
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Method
1. Place whole almonds in some boiling water for 5 minutes.
2. Remove the skin and dry the peeled almonds completely.
3. Grind the dried almonds in a blender or food processor to achieve a fine powder.
4. Mix the almond powder with the sugar. Sift them. Mix in the egg whites.
5. For an eggless version, skip the egg whites and instead add some lemon juice - water and extract. Mix until you have a rough dough.
6. Knead the dough for a few minutes until it is smooth. Add some icing sugar if it gets too sticky.
7. Add the food colouring of your choice. Knead the dough until the colour is consistent.
8. Roll and shape the dough as you like.

Chef’s Hacks
-
Marzipan can be prepared raw or by cooking. If you are making marzipan with eggs, it is best to cook them. You can add some almond extract or rose essence to get rid of the egg smell.
- For the marzipan’s colour, Chef Gairola suggests using a food colouring paste instead of a liquid. “Using liquid food colouring can change the dough’s texture, making it sticky,” explains the expert. “This will result in a product that is difficult or impossible to use,” he adds.
- Once you’ve added the colour, the chef suggests working the dough with latex gloves to prevent your hands from getting stained.

Also Read: Don’t forget to check out the rest of our Christmas series!

Guava Cheese or Perad


The Portuguese brought Guava Cheese to India but today it holds a significant place on the Christmas sweets platter of all Indians. Called perad in Goa, a former Portuguese colony, it is a chewy, fudge-like sweet which does not require too many ingredients.

Guava Cheese Recipe
by Ashutosh Gairola, Pastry Chef, Renaissance Bengaluru Race Course Hotel

Ingredients
1 kg guavas
750 gm sugar
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp butter or ghee

Method
1. To peel and deseed the guavas, slit the fruit from the middle. Then, take a scooper and scoop out the seeds quickly.
2. Chop the guavas into big chunks and boil them in some water. While boiling is optional, it is highly recommended as it makes blending the fruit easier.
3. Once you’ve blended the chopped guava pieces into a smooth puree, pour it through a strainer or a muslin cloth.
4. Pour the strained puree into a non-stick flat pan and cook on a low flame. Stir continuously to make sure the bottom does not get burnt.
5. When most of the moisture evaporates, add the sugar and continue stirring.
6. The colour will gradually begin to deepen and the mixture will start thickening.
7. Once it begins thickening, add the lime juice and butter (or ghee) and continue mixing. The butter gives the fudge a nice sheen and the lime helps the cheese to set.
8. Continue to cook till the mix comes together as one mass and starts to leave the edges of the pan.
9. Grease a plate or tray with some oil and spread the mixture evenly. Let it cool and set for a couple of hours before you slice into a shape of your choice.
10. Store in an air-tight container when it is completely cool.

Chef’s Hacks
-
While the guava cheese recipe is the easiest Christmas sweet to master, the crucial part lies in picking the right guavas. “The sweeter, the better,” says Chef Gairola and recommends looking for ripe pink guavas.
- On step 7 of the recipe, you can remove and store the mixture when it is at a jam-like consistency. To prolong the Christmas feels well into the New Year, you can use this as spread over toast for breakfast.

Milk Cream


This cashew nut and milk fudge is traditionally prepared in every Goan Catholic home especially around Christmas. Like most other sweets, milk cream too requires a lot of stirring, careful watching and time. However, these melt in the mouth toffees are definitely worth the wait.

Milk Cream Recipe
by Ashutosh Gairola, Pastry Chef, Renaissance Bengaluru Race Course Hotel

Ingredients
4 cups milk
1 cup cashew nuts
1 tin (400 ml) condensed milk
1 tbsp butter

Method
1. Grind the cashew nuts to a fine powder using a blender or food processor. Two to three times should be enough. Over grinding the cashews may result in the nuts leaving oils which is not good for making these sweets.
2. In a heavy bottomed pan, boil the milk and reduce it to half the quantity. Keep stirring the milk on a low flame till it thickens.
3. Next, add the cashew powder, condensed milk, half tablespoon butter and cook till the mixture starts leaving the sides of the pan.
4. To check the consistency, take a small part of the mixture in a spoon. Cool it slightly and try to roll it in a ball. If it rolls well, the mixture is ready.
5. Transfer the mixture to a greased plate and let it cool slightly. Grease the silicon/rubber moulds with some butter or ghee.
6. Scoop some of the mixture in a spoon and roll it using your palm. Press and tap the balls into the greased moulds. If you do not have moulds, you can simply roll the fudge into small balls.
7. Carefully unmould the milk cream and place it over a parchment paper. Do the same for rest of the mixture and keep it at room temperature of 10 to 12 hours. Do not cover as the surface of the milk cream sweets needs to be slightly dry for them to hold their shape.
8. Store in an air-tight container after the 10 to 12 hours are up. If you are short on time, simply pop them in the fridge till they set well. Unmould them and transfer to a box and refrigerate for up to a week or two.

Chef’s Hacks
-
Milk cream sweets are not difficult to make but the recipe demands quite a bit of stirring so that the mixture does not stick to the pan and burn. These sweets take about 12 to 24 hours to reach their final avatar.
- The key to making the best and whitest milk cream is stirring as quickly as you can over a low flame, suggests Chef Gairola. “This recipe asks for a lot of patience. The slower the flame and more the stirring, the whiter your milk cream will be,” he adds.

Rose Cookies


Known as Gulabi Puvvulu in Telugu, Acchu Murukku in Tamil and Achapam in Malayalam, these deep-fried cookies are shaped like a rose, hence the name. These are typical Anglo-Indian cookies and most popular in south India. Making these festive cookies is an art, which you will master only after several failed attempts so don’t be disheartened if you’re a beginner. Typically made with the help of a designed cast iron mould, these deep-fried pastries call for a lot of detailing and patience but are totally worth it.

Rose Cookies Recipe
by Sidharth Bhardwaj, Executive Chef, JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort and Spa

Ingredients
250 gm rice powder
125 gm maida or all-purpose flour
50 gm sugar
50 ml coconut milk
Salt, to taste
Oil, for frying

Method
1. Apply oil on the rose mould and let it rest for one or two days. This will help in making the rose cookies easily.
2. While Bhardwaj prefers blending all the ingredients in a blender or mixer for a few minutes to get a smooth thick batter, one could simply use a ladle or hand mixer.
3. The batter should have the consistency of dosa batter. If it is thicker, the murukkus won't be crispy. If it is thinner, the batter won't stick to the mould. If it’s too runny, simply add one tablespoon of maida.
4. Heat oil in a wide kadhai. Leave the murukku mould inside the oil.
5. When it is hot enough, dip it inside the batter carefully. Only 80 per cent of the mould should be covered with the batter. This is important so that the murukku comes off the mould easily.
6. Gently hold the mould inside the hot oil. You will see the oil bubbling.
7. After a few seconds, shake the mould handle gently to release the achu murukku into the oil. You can also use a fork to help release the murukku.
8. Let it fry on a medium flame till the bubbling of the oil subsides.
9. Turn the murukkus half way so that both sides have an even golden-brown colour. Leave the mould in the hot oil so that it is ready for the next murukku.

Chef’s Hacks
- It’s important that you grease the cast iron flower design mould with oil before pouring your batter into it. “Apply oil in it and leave it for 2 to 3 days prior to making the cookies/murukkus,” says Chef Bhardwaj.
- The best way to go about making these cookies is to use two pans – one with oil for immersing the mould and the other for deep-frying.
- Ensure that you don’t crowd the kadhai and fry only one or two at a time.
- “It is okay if they appear to be soft at first as they tend to turn crisp when they cool down,” says the expert.
- To give your cookies a festive twist, Chef Bhardwaj suggests mixing in one teaspoon of sesame seeds (black or white) with the batter.

Kulkul


Kulkul, a crisp and crunchy flour-based dessert, is rightly called kidyos in Konkani which translates to worms. It gets the name thanks to its worm-like design, achieved when a clean comb or a fork is used to shape the small balls of dough into a shell or a curl.

Kulkul Recipe
by Sidharth Bhardwaj, Executive Chef, JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort and Spa

Ingredients
250 gm flour
1 egg yolk
50 gm cold butter, cubed
10 gm salt
15 gm sugar
45 ml coconut milk
20 ml canola oil
40 gm sugar
Water, as required

Method
1. Pulse the flour, about 12 grams sugar and salt in a food processor. Add the cubed butter and pulse till the mix resembles small peas.
2. Drop the egg yolk into the mix and pulse for a few times till the egg gets fully incorporated into the mix.
3. Add the coconut milk and pulse till the dough comes together.
4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead till smooth. In case you do not have a kulkul or a gnocchi maker, a fork or a fine-toothed comb should be fine.
5. Keep a sheet pan handy for the formed curls. Pinch off a marble-sized piece of dough. Gently roll the dough into a smooth round. Press the dough onto your device of choice and flatten into an elongated oblong shape, about an inch in length.
6. Roll the dough away from you till it forms a tight curl. Let the edges of the curls overlap and come together. Make these curls as tight as you can. Place the curls on a sheet pan. Repeat with rest of the dough.
7. Once all the curls are done, it's time to fry. Heat some canola oil in a wok over a medium-high flame. Test the heat of the oil by dropping in a tiny bit of dough. It should spring to the surface immediately.
8. Fry 4 to 5 kulkuls at a time till they turn light brown. This should take about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain well and place them on a baking rack set over a sheet pan.
9. Make sugar syrup with the remaining sugar and water. Mix both items in a saucepan and place over medium heat for 5 minutes till slightly thickened.
10. Put the fried kulkuls in a large bowl and drizzle sugar syrup over them. Stir the kulkuls with a spoon as you drizzle so all of them are well coated.
11. Let the kulkuls cool before serving. Once the syrup dries, it forms a sugar coating that makes them look they've been in a blizzard. Store them in an airtight container for up to a week.

Chef’s Hacks
-
In case you won’t be working on the dough immediately or plan on frying all the kulkuls at once, it’s best that you cover with a damp cloth to prevent them from drying out.
- After deep frying in hot oil, let them cool. Once they harden, they can then be stored in an airtight container for a long time.
- They are typically made with eggs but if you are making the eggless version, Chef Bhardwaj suggests adding more coconut milk to the batter.

Neureos

Made all over the country to ring in the festivities, every household has their own take on these deep-fried flaky pastries. While in some parts, these crescent-shaped desserts are stuffed with sweetened khoya and nuts, the south prefers a stuffing of shredded coconut, nuts and jaggery.

Neureos Recipe
by Mahesh Padala, Executive Chef, The Westin Hyderabad Mindspace

Ingredients
1 kg maida
50 grams sooji (semolina)
1 tsp baking soda
250 grams ghee

For the filling:
200 gm desiccated coconut
200 gm crumbled mawa
50 gm fine sugar
10 gm raisins
10 gm almonds
5 gm pistachios
10 gm cashew pieces
1tsp green cardamom powder
Saffron strands

Method
1. For the dough, in a big bowl combine all the ingredients. Little by little, pour in some lukewarm water and knead the mixture into a soft pliable dough. The dough should be firm. Cover and let it rest for 30 minutes.
2. For the filling, in a heavy bottom pan, add dry coconut and roast for about 15 minutes on low heat.
3. When the mixture turns light brown in colour, add saffron strands. Mix and take it off the flame.
4. In a separate kadhai, add nuts and toast them on a medium flame. Make a slightly coarse powder and mix into the coconut mixture along with raisins.
5. Stir it well. Add sugar, milk and mix until everything is well-blended. Make sure that the mixture is moist.
6. When the dough is ready, make small balls and roll it in a thin circle. In the half fold, place some nuereo mixture. Fold nuereo into half. Apply water along the edges and seal it tight. Secure the edges using a fork.
7. For frying, heat oil in a pan. Lower the flame and fry the nuereos until they are golden-brown. Nuereo should be fried in a medium hot oil for a crispy layer.
8. When done, place on some paper towels to get rid of the excess oil.
9. Once the nuereos are at room temperature, store them in an air-tight container. You could also store them in the fridge. However, they are best enjoyed at room temperature. 


Lead image: Shutterstock
Logo conceptualised by Vartika Pahuja 
Inside images: Shutterstock and Instagram
 

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