Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen was our August 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she challenged us to make some amazing regional Indian desserts. The Mawa Cake, the Bolinhas de Coco cookies and the Masala cookies – beautifully spiced and delicious! 
What an exciting and interesting challenge this month with The Daring Bakers! We were challenged to make the very unusual Mawa Cake and a choice of either the Bolinhas de Coco or Masala Cookies.
Mawa cake included the cooked and reduced milk product called mawa which I thought I read somewhere is pronounced mava and spiced with cardamon. 

I chose to make the Masala Cookies flavoured with an array of wonderful spices one of which is curry leaf. Curry leaf is an ingredient I have often seen in recipe but not used and I remembered seeing it sold in small packet in my local super market. Upon research I discovered that curry leaf should grow well in my area so instead of the supermarket I headed out to the garden nursery  in search of the curry leaf plant and the specimen I was shown looked a little unloved and yellowed I thought a bit of tender loving care and water was all it needed. I would show you a photo of it but it still looks a little unloved – maybe a spot of fertilizer might do the trick. It still has all the flavour and aroma but not quite the lush green look.
Thank you Aparna – these delicious recipes will be kept in my baking repertoire. What I loved most was the awakening of the senses with new tastes and scents of exotic ingredients! 

MAWA CAKE (Cardamom Flavoured Milk Cake):
Servings: Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients
For the Mawa:
1 litre (4 cups) full fat milk

For the cake:
1/2 cup (1 stick) (120 ml) (4 oz) (115 gm) unsalted Butter (soft at room temperature)
3/4 cup (180 ml) packed crumbled mawa
1-1/4 cups (300 ml) (10 oz) (280 gm) castor sugar
3 large eggs
5 to 6 cardamom pods, powdered, (about 1-1/2 tsp powdered cardamom)
2 cups (500ml) (9 oz) (260 gm) cake flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (120 ml) milk
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract (optional)
Cashew nuts (or blanched almonds) to decorate (about 18 to 20)

Directions:
1. First make the “Mawa”. Pour the milk into a heavy bottomed saucepan, preferably a non-stick one. Bring the milk to a boil, stirring it on and off, making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom. Turn down the heat to medium and keep cooking the milk until reduces to about a quarter of its original volume. This should take about an hour to an hour and a half.

2. The important thing during this process is to watch the milk and stir it frequently to make sure it doesn’t stick to the sides or bottom of the pan and get burnt. The danger of this happening increases as the milk reduces and gets thicker.
3. Once the milk it has reduced to about one fourth, 1/4 quantity, lower the heat to low and let cook for a little while longer. Keep stirring regularly, until the milk solids (mawa) take on a lumpy appearance. There should be no visible liquid left in the pan, but the mawa should be moist and not stick to the sides of the pan.

4. Remove the pan from heat and transfer the mawa to a bowl and let it cool completely. Then cover and refrigerate it for a day or two (not more) till you’re ready to make the cake. It will harden in the fridge so let it come to room temperature before using it.

You should get about 3/4 to 1 cup of mawa from 1 litre (4 cups) of full-fat milk.

5. Now start preparations for the cake by pre-heating your oven to moderate 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Beat the butter, the crumbled mawa and the sugar in a largish bowl, using a hand held electric beater, on high speed until soft and fluffy.

6. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat on medium speed till well incorporated. Add the vanilla and milk and beat till mixed well.

7. Sift the cake flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt onto the batter and beat at medium speed and well blended. If you cannot find cake flour, place 2 tablespoon of cornstarch in the bottom of your 1-cup measure and then fill it with all-purpose (plain) flour to make up to 1 cup.

8. Grease and line only the bottom of an 8 inch (20 cm) spring form pan. Pour the batter into this and lightly smooth the top. Place the cashew nuts (or blanched almonds) on top of the batter randomly. Do not press the nuts down into the batter. A Mawa Cake always has a rustic finished look rather than a decorated look

 9. Bake in a preheated moderate oven for about 1 hour until the cake is a golden brown and a skewer pushed into the centre comes out clean. Do not over bake the cake or it will dry out. If the cake seems to be browning too quickly, cover it will aluminium foil hallway through the baking time.
10. Remove from oven and allow it to cool for 10 min in the tin. Release the cake, peel off the parchment from the base and let it cool completely.

We enjoyed with cake for breakfast with coffee. It stayed moist for a few days and the milky, spicy flavour actually improved and intensified. One word – Delicious!!! 



Masala Biscuits (Spicy Savoury Indian Cookies):
Servings: Makes about 2 dozen biscuits/ cookies that are 2 1/4” (55 mm) to 2 ½” (65 mm)wide.

Ingredients:
1-3/4 cup (420 ml) (9 oz) (250 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour
2 tablespoons (30 ml) fine white or brown rice flour (optional)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (or according to your taste)
1/2 cup (1 stick) (120 ml) (4 oz) (115 gm) chilled butter, cut into small pieces
3 green chillies, deseeded and chopped
3/4 inch (20 mm) piece of ginger, finely grated
1-1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorn, crushed coarsely
1-1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and crushed coarsely
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (½ oz) (15 gm) granulated sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons finely chopped curry leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh coriander/ cilantro
3 to 4 tablespoons (45 ml to 60 ml) cold yogurt
1-1/2 tablespoons black sesame seeds (or white sesame seeds)
A little oil to brush the tops of the biscuits/ cookies

Directions:
1. I used my food processor to mix the dough as suggested by Aparna. The advantage with using the processor is that the warmth of one’s palms/ fingers doesn’t warm up the dough and melt the butter.
Put both flours, salt, baking powder and baking soda into the bowl and add the pieces of chilled butter. Pulse until the mixture takes on the texture of breadcrumbs.
3. Now add the chopped green chillies, finely grated ginger, crushed peppercorn and cumin, sugar, the chopped curry leaves and coriander leaves. Pulse a couple of times to mix well.

4. Then add 2 tablespoons of yogurt and pulse again. Add one more tbsp of yogurt (or two, as much as needed), and pulse again until the dough just comes together and clumps together. You want a moist dough, not a wet one – somewhat like pie dough.
5. Do not over process or knead. The dough should be just moist enough for you to use your hands and bring everything together to shape into a ball. Flatten it into a disc and cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least hour. You can also leave it overnight (up to about 24 hours) and work on it the next day.

6. Pre-heat your oven to moderate 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4 and line your baking trays with parchment or grease them with oil.
7. Lightly dust your working surface and roll out the dough to 1/8”(3 mm) thickness, not more or your biscuits/ cookies will not be crisp.I rolled mine quite thin t be sure they would be crunchy. Sprinkle the sesame seeds uniformly over the dough and use your rolling pin, very lightly, to press them in.

8. Using cutters of your choice (about 2-1/4 inch (55 mm) to 2½ inch (65 mm) in size), cut out biscuits/ cookies and place them on lightly greased baking trays. Brush a very thin coat of oil over them. This will help them brown while baking.

9. Bake them in a preheated moderate oven for about 20 to 25 minutes or till they’re done and golden brown on the top. Remember the baking time will depend on the thickness and shape of your biscuits/ cookies. Let them cool on the trays for about 5 minutes and then cool them on racks. Once they’re completely cool, they should be a bit crunchy and not chewy.

These cookies or crackers are tasty on their own but could be part of a cheese/dip platter. Very moreish!