Saturday, August 14, 2010

AFLATOON

AFLATOON

A Rare Baked Delight
 
By
 
VIKRAM KARVE 


Here is a recipe for Aflatoon – a rich fortified nurishing sweet. Aflatoon is a rare baked delight. 

 
Cooking is more a qualitative art, rather than a quantitative science.

The other day, a friend of ours dropped home a packet of scrumptious Dharwadi Pedhas.

My dear wife [who does not believe in the dictum: “There is no greater love than the love of eating”] promptly put them in the fridge and forgot about it.

Now what greater inanity can be there than consigning fresh soft flavorsome mellifluous Pedhas to harden up in some remote cold corner of the fridge?

So when I first discovered the packet of cold hard Pedhas lying hidden deep inside my fridge during one of my surreptitious midnight raids, when my better half was fast asleep, I was first miffed, then improvising, decided to soften them up in my microwave oven.
 
I put a piece of warm softened-up Pedha in my mouth – Lo and Behold! – The Dharwadi Pedha had metamorphosed into a Lal Peda.

Yes, it tasted like genuine Banarasi Lal Peda with its unique wholesome “crispy roasted milky taste”. Now that’s serendipity. I’ve searched for Lal Peda all over but nothing could match the authentic Lal Peda I used to enjoy near Sankat Mochan in Varanasi.
 
I love sweets – especially Indian Sweets – Pedhas, Barfis, Rosogulla, Gulab Jamun, Kala Jamun, Cham Cham, Sandesh, Jilebi, Imrati, Son Papdi, Mysore Pak, Petha, Mahim Halwa, Malpua, Karanji, Anarse, Chirote, Lavang Lata, Ladoos – you name it, I love it – and one of favorites is a superb wholesome treat called “Aflatoon”.

Now the only place I’ve had Aflatoon is on Mohammed Ali Road in Mumbai, at Suleman Mithaiwala near Minara Masjid, and I think also at Zam Zam a little distance down the road.

Aflatoon not only satisfies your sweet-tooth; it provides rich nourishment and is blissfully satiating too.
 
I’m in Pune now.

Like my search for Lal Peda, my search for Aflatoon also remained elusive, so I decided to improvise and hope for the best.

Now remember, My Dear Reader, I’m no great cook, nor am I a high-falutin connoisseur, nor a culinary expert; I’m just a simple down-to-earth trencherman, an avid foodie, so I asked around, searched around, explored, extrapolated, reverse-engineered, and here is what I improvised, a purely ingenious adventurous concocted experimental recipe.

[Try it at your own risk!].
 
First, with a fork, I thoroughly beat three fresh eggs till fluffy, added one cup [vati or katori] of sugar (add more if you like it sweeter) and then vigorously whisked away till all the sugar dissolved and the mixture was nice and fluffy.
 
I had already switched on my oven – yes, Aflatoon is a baked delight – one of the rare Indian sweets which are baked in an oven.
 
I rubbed pure ghee on the palms of my hands and kneaded half a kilo of fresh Khoya [khava, mawa made from buffalo milk] till it was slippery smooth.

Then I blended in and coalesced the Khoya into the feathery egg-sugar emulsion and whipped strongly with my hands till my wrists pained, and my biceps and triceps strained, and the khoya had fully dissolved and merged into the mélange and the fusion was complete, the rich blend velvety smooth.
 
Now in a plate, I mixed together one cup of rawa, half cup of maida, and a pinch of baking powder, and gently folded this mixture, spoon by spoon, into the egg-sugar-khoya amalgamation and robustly swirled and pasted the batter with my hands, till my hands got tired again and my muscles ached.

Here, there is no exact proportion of how much rawa- maida mixture is to be added to the batter; my hands tell me when to stop – later I can always add a bit as and when required to get the right baking consistency.
 
Now the interesting part – I lovingly blended in three katories or vaties [yes, three full cups – one cup per egg] of pure ghee and churned with my hands for a long time till the ghee fully dissolved into the delectable mixture, indiscernible.

Now here is the difference in sequence of ingredients – while baking a cake you start of with creaming the butter, than blend in the sugar, then eggs, then maida; here you start off with beating the eggs, then the sugar, the khoya, the rawa-maida flour, and now comes the pure ghee (clarified butter).
 
Hey, remember to lick your fingers from time to time and taste the delightful mélange at each stage and plus-minus the proportions accordingly.

Also, your fingers will tell you when the consistency is perfect.

That is why I never use mixers, blenders, juicers, measuring cups and all those hi-fi gadgets when preparing dough and batter for baked delights, or cooking dishes – I always rely on my own tongue to tell me the precise taste, use my hands to cream, blend, the concoction to the right consistency, improvise the ingredients and proportions accordingly – if you want to cook creatively, there is nothing to beat your own sensory perception, isn’t it?

And yes, don’t forget to use your nose too – food must be fragrant, appetizingly aromatic, besides looking deliciously mouthwatering and tempting to feel and touch!
 
Now I mixed in the spices – powdered jaiphal, dalchini, elaichi, lavang  - and, while gently stirring with my hand, slowly poured in yummy thick creamy buffalo milk, about half a cup, till the consistency of the smooth paste becomes soft and silky, and ready for baking.

Remember to always have the rawa-maida flour ready in stand-by mode to even up the batter, if required.

Then I mix in kismis, manuka, crushed pasted khajur, squeezing my fingers.

Oh, just a minute, I thoroughly mix in a few drops of vanilla essence to make even the slightest trace of the smell of eggs go away.

Finally I embellish with crushed dry fruit like badam, pista, kaju etc.
 
I now pour in the rich creamy dough into pure-ghee greased baking trays and bake it in my conventional pre-heated oven at medium heat till the characteristic mouthwatering aroma wafts through the kitchen and the Aflatoons looked appetizingly brown.

With all the khoya, creamy milk and rich ingredients it sometimes takes almost an hour or so to be done. Time doesn’t matter, when cooking, as in eating, I like to be unhurried – the slower the cooking the tastier the food. I always like to keep the heat moderate and my senses, especially olfactory, alert.
 
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. 
I was dying to sample the result of my culinary experiment, so I didn’t even wait till it cooled – Oh yes, it tasted wholesome, sumptuous, appetizing, good.

Just imagine if you fortify milk-cake with eggs, enrich it, spice it up, and roast it well – that’s the nearest I can describe how aflatoon tastes.

I wonder if aflatoon can be made by roasting it on a tawa instead of baking it!
 
I relished my homemade “aflatoon” – but then nothing can beat the original aflatoon for which I’ll have to head to Mumbai.

Till then, I’ll keep savoring these – I’m sure with all the pure ghee imbibed in them these aflatoons will last for days – provided I keep them hidden away from craving children and other insatiable trenchermen like me!
 
Dear Reader, and fellow Foodie – why don’t you too improvise, be creative, experiment, use your own ingredients and proportions, conjure up your very own aflatoon, savor it, try it out on your family and friends, and tell us all about it.

And if you happen to live in Mumbai, why take all this trouble – just go ahead and relish the original.  
 
Happy Baking!  

Dear Reader and Fellow Foodie: For more such appetizing dishes do read APPETITE FOR A STROLL, a treatise on The Art of Eating, Easy to Cook Recipes and Foodie Adventures in Pune and Mumbai.

Click the links below to know more about this delicious book: 




Happy Eating

VIKRAM KARVE 
Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
 
VIKRAM KARVE educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU and The Lawrence School Lovedale, is an Electronics and Communications Engineer by profession, a Human Resource Manager and Trainer by occupation, a Teacher by vocation, a Creative Writer by inclination and a Foodie by passion. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles in magazines and journals for many years before the advent of blogging. His delicious foodie blogs have been compiled in a book "Appetite for a Stroll". Vikram lives in Pune with his family and pet Doberman girl Sherry, with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts. 
 
Vikram Karve Creative Writing Blog - http://vikramkarve.sulekha.com
Academic Journal Vikram Karve – http://karvediat.blogspot.com
Professional Profile of Vikram Karve - http://www.linkedin.com/in/karve 
Email: vikramkarve@sify.com
Foodie Book: Appetite for a Stroll   

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