Have you heard about one-string or half-string consistency? Well, in cooking, when you prepare sugar syrup the thickness the syrup attains is measured as such. As the syrup is boiling, you take a bit of syrup in a (wooden) ladle and let it air i.e., cool. Then you take a bit of it between your thumb and forefinger. If the stickiness persists, the length of the string formed is a measure. It can be one string or two string or even three strings but to a length of whatever the chef prescribes. Different consistencies are required for making different sweets in Indian cooking. Read about it in a good post. I tried making pista burfi yesterday. I wanted to make it for a couple of reasons – one is to take a treat to all on an upcoming trip and secondly my wife’s favorite when we were dating in India was Pista burfi from the famed restaurant MTR. I followed this recipe. The ingredients are just two – raw pista nuts and sugar. It can’t get more simple than that. However, I was to realize pista burfi is more time-consuming than other nut burfi. The most time-consuming part was blanching the pistas. Blanching is a process where you soak the nuts in hot water for a while so that the skin comes off easily. Blanching almonds was so much easier when I tried a nut-burfi a few days back. Almonds have this more uniformly smooth surface. However, the pistas can be pecked with surface roughness making the skin stick more rigidly. It took me – the starter chef 🙂 – about an hour to blanch two cups of these nuts. It certainly drove me nuts!
I started making the burfis two hours before I had to step out to pick my wife. I thought two hours was more than sufficient. After I soaked the nuts in hot water for about five minutes, I did feel the skin coming off easily. So I drained and cooled them off. It was a mistake. There were many that were adamant. Tarla Dalal says soak the pistas for 30 minutes. I soaked the remaining in heated water for another 15 minutes and worked on it. It was 6:15 PM and I had 45 minutes to leave to the airport! I decided I still had enough time to make the syrup and spread the paste out for cutting. I had spread a bit of ghee over wax paper on a try ready to take the mixed paste in.
I poured the water into a pan and heated it up a bit. Then poured the sugar and stirred it till I got a clear liquid. The next goal was to achieve a single string consistency. This made me literally sweat as no matter how much I waited (well over 15 minutes), I couldn’t get it. So I quickly looked up on Google to find the link above. I could see the syrup frothing but didn’t make any attempt to clear it. It took so much time because I was making twice the amount of burfi (2 cups as opposed to 1). With ten minutes to leave, and keeping a very close watch on the stove, I tested satisfactorily for the one-inch consistency. I hastily tried to pour the crushed nuts to the pan, but it wouldn’t fall!!
So much soaking had made the crushed powder sticky. I had to scoop out with a spoon and had a tough time as the there was so much stuck between the mixer blades and the bottom of the grinding jar. As I started to mix, I definitely knew I would be late. The moment I saw the mix leaving the sides of the pan, I poured it onto the plate. It was semi solid at this point. The instructions said I should cut it right away as it would harden soon. But the knife wouldn’t move forward without pulling along much of its surroundings! I hurriedly finishing cutting hoping I could break the pieces only I was back from the airport.
After I was back, the mix was still sitting with much of the glorious liquid shine still in it. Cutting wasn’t any easier now. After dinner, I decided to put the mix back into the pan to heat it back up to the right consistency after some advice from the master chef. We scraped the paste off the paper, added a bit of milk and I was at it again. This time, the paste got to a point where I could roll it into a ball (sort-of) with watchful eyes of my wife. I knew this was it. I poured it back onto a new greased tray and was able to cut it easily with a pizza cutter. Finding utensils in the kitchen is a major challenge if you are going in there once in a while i.e,. I mean once in a few weeks or even if you just do the dishes. There are literally over a hundred different items spread across many drawers and if you count the spices and ingredients to keep track of, you can’t just remember with that once-in-a-while tryst. The good thing about my newest hobby is I can find thing more easily. Finding the pizza slicer took an effort as the burfi had reaching its pick-up point 🙂 already.
In the end the burfi was yummy. The pistas themselves weren’t that great I guess as we couldn’t distinguish its flavor easily, but it certainly was a good some-nut burfi.