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Crêpes are something which I have always related to spring and butterfly wings. The pale and delicate lacy wings gently wraps around the sticky, sweet cardamom flavored coconut. So many memories are intertwined with food.
It is probably the onset of spring that took me back home and this recipe. It could also be the approach of the Holi – the special festival of colors that inspired these cravings. These are one of those times when I painfully miss my ma. The very thought that I cannot ever talk to her, makes my heart crumble to bits and pieces. On an ordinary day, a small memory sparks, a craving to be with her and the food begins.
This east Indian Crêpe is special – reminds me of the Bengali New Year or Poila Boishak, which usually is celebrated during the month of April. Not that these Crêpes are made only during the New Year, for the patishapta, as we usually call it, had been a year round dish and mostly during any festivities. The winter and the early spring times are usually the times that these used to be cooked up at home along with many other sweets. Traditionally the patishapta is not exactly served as a dessert; it is more like an anytime snack kind of recipe.
I have never made this recipe by myself before. The entire childhood was spent watching my ma and dida make it, however I realize now that I never saw either one of them, mix up the ingredients. They were all ready when I seated myself beside them. While the entire procedure of cooking is vivid in my memory like a picture, every step, every move, I have no idea to what proportions the ingredients went in there. So I picked up the phone and called my aunt and I got an idea. As my desperation peaked, I set about starting my experiment.
I stirred up the all purpose flour, the semolina and the rice flour too, even though my aunt had mentioned that it was either the semolina or the rice flour. I did not want to take the risk of a sloppy mass of flour sticking to the pan, so I did all of them. Out came my cast iron pan. In went the batter with careful swirls. Everything looked wonderful until I tried to flip it over. The cast iron failed me the first time ever. I tried two more, wondering if it was the pan, the temperature of the pan or the experimental batter that created this mess. After three miserable failures, I took out my only non stick pan, repeated and it worked.
I still wonder why the iron pan did not work, for ma never used a non stick pan to make the patishapta. Making these are a bit tricky, as the batter is eggless and the all purpose flour tends to stick. The art however can be perfected with little patience and practice. As you would have realized now, there in not exactly a fixed recipe. Different homes use different ingredients in the batter, and in proportions that work best for them.
A few traditional variations of Patishapta:
As I have mentioned before, there are no exact regulations about the combination of ingredients and the ratio. Every home has adapted this to the convenience.
The filling can be made with coconut as I did here. Sometimes coconut is combined with khoya/thickened milk, or only khoya or thickened milk is used. The patishapta may be drizzled with condensed milk or thickened milk. We do not like khoya, so I never use it.
The coconut filling is sometimes sweetened with gur/jaggery (unrefined cane sugar). The jaggery imparts a very nice flavor and a lovely burnt brown color. The jaggery may be substituted with brown sugar.
Patishapta – Crêpes with Sweet Coconut Cardamom Filling
Ingredients: (makes 6-8 Crêpes)
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 3 tablespoon semolina/sooji (cream of wheat)
- 5-6 tablespoon rice flour
- 1.5 tablespoon sugar
- 1.5 cup milk (+ more if the batter is too dense)
- ghee/melted butter – as much required to make the crepes
Note on rice flour: I usually soak rice for a few hours and grind it into a paste.
- 3 small green cardamom, the black seeds crushed
- 2.5 cups grated coconut (freshly grated or frozen)
- 2 tablespoons raisins or any dry fruits (optional)
- 1/2 cup milk or half and half
- 1/3 cup sugar / brown sugar (or to taste)
- lightly toasted almonds, flakes or slivers, for garnish
Making the Filling:
Combine milk and sugar and simmer it for a few minutes till the sugar dissolves. Add the coconut, dry fruits (if you are using) and crushed cardamom seeds to the milk and cook at low to medium heat till the entire mix starts to thicken, almost like a lump. Do not over dry the filling. This should take no more than 8-10 minutes. It will further dry as it cools, so the consistency and the texture should be moist mass. Take care not to burn the coconut. Take it out of the pan immediately and let it cool.
(If you are using a combination of coconut and khoya or thickened milk, follow the same procedure as above – add the coconut and the khoya together to the pan. Cook till it is a thick mass)
Or if you using only khoya (use the chikna khoya – the one which is soft and smooth with high moisture content), cook the khoya with sugar and cardamom and milk till it is a pasty mass)
Making the Crêpes
Combine and whisk together all ingredients for the crepes, other than the ghee.It should be lump free, smooth free flowing mix – the consistency should be like the crêpe batter: not too runny but thin enough to move around when swirled in the pan
Cover and let it rest for 20 minutes. Heat an 8-inch non-stick skillet and lightly coat/grease it with ghee. Add about 3-4 tablespoons of the crêpe batter, swirling the pan in a circular motion so that the batter spreads out in a circular shape. Cook the crêpe over low heat until the bottom is pale golden, and the sides are slightly crisp and start to curl, about a couple of minutes. Carefully slide a spatula under the crêpe and gently flip it over and cook for 1/2 a minute longer. (do not panic if the first couple do not look as good; as the pan heats and settles, the ones after are going to be alright).
Add about 1.5 tablespoon of filling on the middle of the crêpe and fold towards the middle from each side to cover the filling and so that one side overlaps the other. Set aside. Make rest of the crêpe with remaining batter and filling. Make sure to continue to grease the pan between crêpes. (I use paper towel greased with melted ghee and quickly “wipe” the pan with it).
Serve warm or cold. Sprinkle some nuts if you want or have it with a drizzle of cream or condensed milk.
Enjoy them for breakfast/brunch, a sweet indulgent snack as its traditionally done or for dessert.
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