The only time I don't mind getting up from my cosy bed on a chilly winter morning is when the sweet smell of pitha wakes me up. However, the fast pace of city life is slowly taking away such delights from us. To keep this tradition going, I tried my hand at learning the art of making these wonderful winter staples for a week.
Patishapta was fairly easy to make. This soft, sweet kheer filled delicacy certainly gives the French crêpes a run for their money. Making the batter was a breeze although it's quite tricky, a thin rice flour batter was beaten to form a slurry-like consistency. For the filling, I simmered down milk with some jaggery and rice flour till it became a delicious, milky concoction. The first two crêpes came out good but things went south on the third one. The batter stuck to the pan and the pitha broke in the middle while folding. But good for me because the broken ones ended up being my snacking pithas. Overall, patishapta pithas sure take the top place in being a quick, delicious snack. I'd rate it a 4.9 out of 10 on the difficulty scale.
Who doesn't like a warm, steamy, gur-filled bhapa pitha on a chilly winter morning? Soft pillows made of rice flour topped with ooey-gooeyjaggery and coconut strands – sounds simple but is hard to perfect. Getting the dough right is the critical part. After adding water to the rice flour, it forms clusters which need to be sifted through a fine sieve. The sifted flour and water mixture is then moulded into the iconic bhapa pitha shape and filled with yummy jaggery which, if done right, melts into a luscious syrupy goodness. I went a little overboard with the jaggery and freshly shredded coconut. Since I did not have any pitha-making tools lying around, I had to improvise in creating a makeshift steamer. Unfortunately, my excitement got the better of me and I packed the fillings too snug which resulted in my pithas falling apart. After a couple of failed attempts and one changed vessel, I got the perfect bhapa pitha. If I had to rate it in terms of difficulty, I'd give it a 5 and a half.
For my final day I decided to take the bull by the horns and attempt to make the dreaded nakshi pitha. Making the base was a bit different from the last two pithas I made although the ingredients were almost the same. The rice flour had to be mixed with boiling hot water until it formed a soft yet firm dough. I used toothpicks to give the small discs of dough variegated 3D designs. This procedure was actually very calming and fun to do despite it being immensely time-consuming. Although the motifs lacked appeal, I proceeded to deep fry the ivory disks till they crisped up to a golden brown colour. The fried pithas were then soaked in a rich amber molasses syrup till all the crevices were well coated. Making this pitha took a lot of effort, which is why it gets a solid 9 in my book.
Perfecting pithas require expertise and shout-out to those who still do their part to keep the tradition alive.
Farnaz Fawad Hasan reads product labels when she's bored. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org