Diwali is one of India’s most important festivals. Diwali means “festival of lights” and lasts five days. It was always the best time of the year while I was growing up in India. For Gujarati’s like me, Diwali is our New Year’s Eve. (Everyone celebrates Diwali, but it’s only New Years for us Gujus. India is complicated!) We would light up our house and balcony with tons of oil lamps, buy new clothes, jewelry, visit with friends and family, and cook lots of food.
The first day of Diwali, called Dhanteras, celebrates Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and she likes it when you spend lots of money! The next days in order are: Kali Chaudas, Diwali, New Years and finally Bhaibeej. Kali Chaudas is for purging bad spirits. Diwali signifies the triumph of good over evil, by Ram’s return after defeating of Ravan, and is the big day of celebration. For New Years we visit friends and family to wish them “Sal Mubarak”, which means “happy new year.” Bhaibeej is a celebration for siblings where the brother usually goes to his sister’s house for a meal and brings gifts.
Ghoogras are an essential Diwali treat for Gujus. To celebrate this festival, my mom always went all out. She made a variety of different snack foods at home and ordered others from specialty sweet and snack shops. There were many different sweets and snacks, but Ghoogras were the one treat she made every year. We started preparing days before and made everything in large quantities. There had to be enough to share with all of the friends and neighbors who stopped by to wish us well.
Making the Ghoogras was a family affair. My mom made the filling and then we’d sit down on the floor and create an assembly line with my mom, grandma, my brother and me, while my dad was usually away at work. We would watch a cricket match in the background and get to work. He’d never admit to it now, but my little brother was great at crimping the little pastries. Much better than me!
I have been making my own ghoogras for a few years now. I love them and I always love trying a new variation on them. This year, I decided to make an “everything but the kitchen sink” filling and bake instead of fry them.They came out delicious. And so much easier than frying them one or two at a time!
“Everything but the Kitchen Sink” Hand Pies (Ghoogra)
- 4 tbsp butter or ghee
- 1/2 cup semolina
- 1/4 cup milk powder
- 1/4 cup dessicated coconut (dry)
- 1/4 cup almond flour
- 1/4 cup pistachio flour
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp cardamom powder
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 cup golden raisins, chopped
- 1 tbsp poppy seeds
- 1/2 cup toffee bits, homemade (recipe below) or store bought
- 1/2 cup milk (for sealing)
- 2 tbsp butter, melted (for brushing on to pastry)
- Heat the butter or ghee in a skillet on medium high heat.
- Add in the Semolina and roast till it is fragrant and starts to brown. Stir often.
- Add in the milk powder, nut flours and cook for about 3 minutes.
- Add in the coconut and poppy seeds. Continue to cook for about 2 more minutes.
- Turn off heat and stir in the cardamom and nutmeg.
- Let cool.
- Add in the chopped raisins and toffee bits when cooled.
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
Credit also goes to America’s Test Kitchen for coming up with the vodka trick.
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 6 tbsp cold butter
- 1/4 cup vegetable shortening, chilled
- 9 tbsp ice water
- 3 tbsp vodka
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt.
- Mix in half the butter and shortening into the flour until it looks like cornmeal.
- Mix in the other half of the fat until there are pea sized granules.
- Add in the water and vodka to form a dough. This dough needs to be a little wetter than traditional pastry dough as it needs to be rolled our very thin.
- Cut the dough into four pieces, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
- Roll out the dough, one piece at a time, into a very thin sheet. Cut circles with a 3″ diameter cookie cutter.
- Cover the circles with a damp paper towel until ready to use. Work quickly so that they don’t dry out.
Assembly and Baking:
- Position a rack on the top third of the oven. Preheat to 375 degrees.
- Fill each circle with 1 tbsp of filling.
- Wet the edges with either milk or water and press the two sides together to seal.
- Then either crimp the edge by using a press and twist motion or by pressing with a fork to ensure the seal is tight.
- Brush the pastries with butter and bake, one batch at a time, for 18 to 20 minutes. Until just starting to turn golden.
- Cool on a cooling rack.
These can also be deep fried in oil if you prefer.
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- In a heavy bottomed skillet, toss together all the ingredients.
- Stir on medium heat until the sugar and butter melt into an amber colored caramel and starts to smoke slightly.
- Pour onto a silicone sheet and let cool.