Diwali (also called Deepavali), or the Festival of Lights, celebrates the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness. Celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and some Buddhists, it falls between mid-October and mid-November according to the Gregorian calendar. In 2015, Diwali lands on November 11.
New clothes, the lighting of diya (lamps and candles), family puja (prayers), and fireworks are all part of the festivities. Mithai (sweets) are especially symbolic of the happy occasion and are offered to the gods as well as distributed among families. Traditionally, households gear up for Diwali by preparing homemade mithai. However, this tradition is slowly fading away as modern families turn to sweet shops for their supply.
The prolific selection of mithai ranges from simple to more complicated delicacies. I decided to try my hand at one that seemed easy enough for a novice like me, laddu. These super-sweet, truffle-like sweets come in many varieties: chickpeas, dried fruit, semolina, wheat, and my coconut version below.
Coconut laddus for Diwali
Makes: 15 balls
1-1/2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes, pulsed a few times in a food processor to resemble confetti
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons rose water (optional)
3/4 cup condensed milk
1/3 cup toasted coconut flakes for rolling
Pistachios, broken into small nuggets
1. Combine the coconut flakes and the condensed milk in a medium saucepan. Add the cardamom and rose water and stir to mix. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly as it thickens.
2. When the mixture begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and the coconut starts to seep oil, remove from the heat. Scrape the ladoo mixture into a bowl and allow to cool.
3. When the mixture has cooled completely, scoop up teaspoonfuls at a time and form 1-inch balls. Roll the balls in the toasted coconut and push a pistachio nugget into the top.
4. Place in small muffin cups or arrange on a tray. Serve immediately or refrigerate for 4 to 5 days.
Note: For toasted coconut flakes, sprinkle the flakes in a single layer on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Toast in a 300 degree F. oven for 3 to 5 minutes, or until golden brown.
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