Food: bhapa pitha / dhupi pitha [steamed sweet rice cakes]
Winter in Bengal is special for these sweet delicacies known as "pitha" - usually made from rice flour, coconut and jaggery/molasses. Pitha can come in countless shapes and sizes. Although mostly sweet, there are the savory kinds as well. This particular one is very common and traditional. It is steamed and made of rice which makes it healthy and gluten free. Jaggery is basically unrefined sugar, close to molasses but not liquidy. This is available not only in Asian markets but also popular chains such as Fiesta/Trader Joe's.
2 cups basmati rice :: 1 cup parboiled rice :: 1 cup jaggery chopped up
1 cup grated coconut frozen or fresh :: 1 cup dried coconut flakes :: salt+sugar
This recipe calls for making your own rice flour. But it can easily be made with store bought rice flour. In that case, water has to be added incrementally to make the rice flour grainy instead of fine.
To make your own rice flour, soak the rice submerged in water overnight.
Take the soaked rice and lay it evenly on a surface to dry the water a little. Then take small amounts and blend it in a processor to get a rough coarse rice flour. Sort of grainy. The reason for mixing the two types of rice is so that the cakes are soft. Using a fragrant rice like basmati will release a desired aroma mixed with the aroma of the jaggery. Jasmine rice or other fragrant rice can also be used.
Take half cup of the frozen grated coconut and mix it in the rice flour you just made. Add a tsp of salt and 2 tsp of sugar with it as well.
Take the smallest little bowl or container to make the rice cakes. If it is too big it will break apart while steaming. The bowl I used was about 1.5" in diameter. Take some regular flour or fine rice flour to gently rub inside the bowl. This will ensure that the rice cakes will come out in a nice mold from within the bowl. Oh yeah, the bowl is to make the cake shape!
Take some of the rice flour mixture. Place some frozen coconut on top of that. Then sprinkle generous amounts of chopped jaggery and the dried coconut flakes. Close this layer with another layer of rice flour mixture. Now press the entire cake with your hands into the glass bowl.
You can use any steamer for this. Place the bowl upside down on top of the steamer and tap a little so that the rice cake falls nicely into the cradle of the wet paper towel. Cover the steamer and let each cake steam for five minutes. Enjoy these hot. Bon appetit!
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