One week-day, when I was in a hurry and time seemed to be ticking away a little faster, I knew I could not wait for the ‘cashew barfi mix’ in the wok to cook even a minute longer, and poured it onto a jelly pan a few minutes earlier than I should have. I willed, but it wasn’t enough to set the barfi in the next ten minutes, and I had to leave for work leaving the barfi mix in the pan. When I returned home from work that evening, the barfi was still a little tender. I chided myself for hurrying up things. In an effort to save the dish I decided to bake it. It would surely stiffen, I thought. A few minutes later a divine aroma drew me to the kitchen. Inside the pan the cashew mix bubbled merrily with an appealing, brown tinge, but it did not stiffen. We ate the ‘cake’ in bits and teaspoonfuls, prising it off the pan. It was a delicious disaster – one that gave me the idea for this recipe.
Salt enhances and balances sweetness. When I made it again, this time with an idea of what I wanted, I salted the cashews lightly, roasted them to golden brown, and then made the barfi. Hey presto! What I ended up with was very similar to milk cake; much lighter, much more delicious. I made some for my parents when I visited them this summer and they loved it. My mother liked it so much that she asked me to prepare more for a family function and everyone who ate, enjoyed the new variation. Some barfis were fondly packed and sent off to cousins. I knew then, that I had a delicious recipe to share with you.
On a different occasion Neela (a bud) tasted this variation and she said, “this reminds me of Savitri’s (another bud) milk cake.” I couldn’t have put it better. S makes barfis out of thick milk, the dairy version. When I first ate this barfi, it reminded me of her cakes. I didn’t know whether I was right, but when N said, I felt overjoyed. Just for the record, N is not vegan, and if she was reminded of ‘milk cakes’, oh boy! Means something, right?
The process of roasting the cashews to golden brown does that, and that pinch of salt. A warning; Even two pinches of salt can be too much. Just a pinch is fine, and it should blend well.
- This is an original recipe.
- Cashew barfis (roasted or otherwise) sold in shops, are made with addition of hydrogenated or non-hydrogenated fats apart from milk. They are not cholesterol free. My recipe is free of dairy, cholesterol and added fats. The only fat present is the fat inherently available in cashew nuts. The good fats, not the bad fats.
- If you use my recipe as is or use it as an inspiration please add a link to my post. Means much. Thanks.
- The advantage of vegan nut barfis is unadulterated taste of nuts and their flavour. Dairy products have strong flavours and mask the aroma and taste of prime ingredients.
The first part of the recipe is to roast cashew nuts in an oven. Cashew nuts can be roasted on stove top or oven, but I prefer the latter. Once the temperature and timer have been set in an oven, the nuts will be roasted uniformly, inside-out, without constant supervision. The second part of the recipe is to use the roasted nuts to make the cakes after powdering the cashews to a coarse consistency similar to that of sand (rawadaar) as shown below.
Recipe: Bhuna hua kaju barfi | Roasted cashew barfi
An original recipe
Gluten & casein free | Dairy free | Lactose free | Grain free | Cholesterol free | Vegan
Allergen information: Contains cashew nuts
Yield: About 35 pieces, 1 square inch each.
Cashew nut powder (I had about 2 cups of whole cashews, I think) – 268g | 2 + 1/4 cups approx.
or two of pink salt or powdered rock salt, very, very little but not to be omitted
White granulated sugar – 140g | 1 cup
Water – 1 + 1/8th cup
A jelly pan – 5 x 7 inches – greased with a drop of neutral oil
Parchment paper cut to line the pan. I grease it with just a drop of oil though its unnecessary.
A pan or wok with a thick bottom
A ladle to stir with
A piece of foil
Roasting the cashew nuts:
Pre-heat the oven to 150 deg. C for 10 minutes. Place the cashews in a single layer in a jelly pan. Sprinkle the salt over and toss. Bake for 30 minutes with the fan on. Every 10 minutes, open the door of the oven and toss the cashews around to ensure even roasting. It must turn golden brown. Cool to room temperature. Powder to a coarse, sandy mixture. You do not want to grind it too long as it will turn into cashew butter. Measure the powdered cashews. This recipe works for 268g of cashews. If yours is different, scale the recipe accordingly.
In a heavy bottomed vessel place the sugar and water. Stir and bring to a boil. Cook till reduced to a one-thread syrup. To check for one-thread consistency touch a drop of the syrup and stretch it between your index finger and thumb. If it stretches for half a centimetre forming a single thread and breaks beyond that, the desired consistency is reached.
Add the cashew nuts powder to the syrup and incorporate the powder into the syrup. Cook, stirring all the while for about 7-8 minutes on medium flame till the mixture swells slightly. The mixture should move as a single cohesive mass when you move it with the ladle, and not stick to the bottom of the wok.
Update: Two readers who made this informed me that it took them only 4-5 minutes to reach the correct stage. As seen from the comments section, one reader says it got overdone. Please note that I cannot predict the timing for the stage accurately as the intensity of burners across stoves varies a lot. After 3 minutes have lapsed, keep an eye on the mixture and as soon as it moves as a cohesive unit, pour it to the prepared jelly pan or plate.
Pour immediately into the prepared jelly pan. Let cool for 10-15 minutes. Mark the pieces with a sharp knife and scale. Cut along the lines when cool enough to handle.
This makes a very good offering for festivals, a delicious sweet to be served at weddings and on other special occasions, and a great gifting idea. It does not get spoilt for at least 2-3 weeks so makes an ideal edible gift for hostels or across country.
I haven’t tried making this with off-the-shelf salted cashews, but if you use them, make sure they are fresh, and clean them with a tissue or tea cloth to remove excess salt. Salted cashews, off-the-shelf come with more salt than I have used here.
Observation and troubleshooting: This is for any kind of barfi – dairy or non-dairy, not just this one.
If the mixture turns into a crumble instead of a thick molten lava kind of liquid it indicates that you have overcooked. I have never gone this wrong but next time, I will try making a crumble and find a way to recover it. In that case you could store the crumble, grind it to a sandy texture and use it as dust with ice creams, cakes etc.
If the barfi does not set but remains a little gooey, it means it is underdone. It can be easily rectified by cooking for 5-6 minutes in a pre-heated oven at about 150 deg. C. However, the pieces may not turn out attractive, as the barfi will swell in the oven. What you can do is wait for it to cool a bit after baking. Flatten the surface gently with the back of another vessel and then score the lines. It will still retain some cracks but does not look bad at all, and will still taste divine. I have done this myself so I know it works.