Here comes the Sun. Celebrating Sankranti the Maharashtrian way.
The New Year's here and that of course means that the festive finale of the previous year comes to a grinding halt. The Christmas tree is cleared of its ornaments, the ornaments are wrapped up, and stashed back into the big storage boxes, and said storage boxes are then dragged back down to the basement to hibernate until next December.
In most households this definitely means a lull in the happy mood that prevails, the sinking feeling of nothing to celebrate until the weather warms up, and of course, the snowstorms and bitter cold weather that inevitably marks February. And no, a corporate invented festival like Valentine's day does not count.
In Indian homes, we just get ready to celebrate the next celestial event that makes its turn, In this case, the return of the sun to the northern Hemisphere, known as 'Uttarayan' in Sanskrit. every state and community has its own way of celebrating the impending arrival of spring / hot weather (for all practical purposes, the end of anything remotely related to a cold spell). In Punjab its 'Lohri', In Tamil Nadu - Pongal, and 'Makar Sankranti' (Makar - Capricorn) in various other states.
Sesame seems to be a common ingredient of note in the culinary aspect of Sankranti. Maybe because of its high caloric value, not sure , but a number of communities make dishes involving sesame. In Maharashtra, there is a beutiful tradition where friends and family feed each other little spheres of sesame brittle with the blessing ' Til Gul Ghya aani goad goad bola' (please accept this piece of sesame brittle and may you only have sweet things to say)
The recipe is uber simple, toasted sesame seeds enrobed in a molten unrefined sugar syrup that's been heated up to the beginning of a 'hard crack' stage. flavored with cardamom & rolled while still warm into little marble like spheres. Proportions depend upon personal taste.
There's been a spate of 'til gul' posts on social media, and I guess the season has begun. there are basically two categories of the confection, one is with whole toasted sesame seeds, the end result being a hard toffee like texture. and the other with a powdered version of the toasted seeds that resembles the Middle Eastern / Turkish 'Halvah' , except that its shaped into spheres.
My 'Panfusined' version falls into the latter category. a mix of just 2 ingredients: store bought Tahini and coconut sugar. (of course cardamom to flavor and more toasted sesame seed to garnish).
When choosing Tahini, make sure you look for organic brands and take a minute to look at the ingredient list. It should consist of one ingredient - toasted hulled sesame seeds
Tahini Til gul - (Makes 24 pieces)
- 1/2 cup powdered Jaggery or coconut sugar
- 1 cup Organic Tahini paste
- 1 teaspoon cardamom powder
- 1 - 2 tablespoons water
- toasted sesame seeds for finishing (~ 1/4 cup)
- 24 small baking cups placed in a mini muffin tin for setting the 'guls'
* learning from my experience as I waded through two batches of the til gul to figure out the correct proportions: Mise en place - Have the baking cups ready and set right next to you, time, tide and molten hot til gul mix don't wait for anyone!
Set the miniature baking cups into the muffin tins.
Add the water to the powdered jaggery/coconut sugar in a non stick skillet and heat until the sugar dissolves, lower the heat and test to see if the syrup reaches just beyond the soft crack stage (If a blob of the molten sugar is dropped into water, it should immediately form a hard sphere). At this point, stir in the cardamom and the Tahini and fold until the ingredients are completely combined.
Using a small cookie scoop pour a teaspoon of the mix into the baking cups. Tap the bottom of the muffin tin to smooth the surface. Sprinkle liberally with the toasted sesame seeds and press lightly to ensure that the seeds get embedded on the surface. You need to work fast at this step, the fudge tends to set rather quickly.
Place in the refrigerator to chill for about 10 minutes. This completely sets the fudge into a firm yet yielding confection to happily share with your near and dear ones.
'Til Gul Ghya aani goad goad bola' -
Wishing everyone who celebrates a happy Sankranti, May you only have happy words to utter!