I don't think I can explain it better than the recent 1 minute emal post on Food52. I just couldn't resist sharing the recipe after seeing the short film.
This dish is a must do every year for the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi.. It celebrates the elephant headed god of all good , auspicious beginnings, (and I would include, the absolute patron of all things related to food).
Ganesha is depicted as holding a bowl of 'modaks' in his left hand. These sweet confections resemble little bags of money. These modaks are basically a sweet filling with either a fried wrapping made out of wheat flour or a steamed variety with a covering made of rice flour dough. The word modak is thought to be a corruption of the Sanskrit Madhu golaka (Madhu- sweet/ honey; golaka: sphere / ball).
Getting ready to make the steamed version always induced a low level anxiety in my mother every year. She used to say that the lord's mood determined if the modaks (or kozhakattai, as they are known in Tamil) would emerge perfectly steamed or turned out to be a disintegrated mess. The solution: always make a tiny 'Ganesha' by pinching a bit of dough between the thumb, index and middle finger.
The toughest part of making the modak is getting the rice flour dough right. too much water and the dough does not wrap itself well around the filling, too little and the skin cracks up while steaming.
The modaks invariably are made in odd numbers, usually 11, 21 and usually the amount of rice flour made far exceeds the amount of filling. The remaining dough is then seasoned with mustard, asafetida, chile and curry leaf. The mix is 'pinched' off into tiny bits and then steamed to make what are known as 'ammini' or 'mani' kozhakattai. These tiny morsels are highly addictive, don't know why, they just are!
- Makes give or take 15 - 20
- coconut FIlling
3/4 cup fresh frozen grated coconut, thawed
1/4 cup sliced almonds, crushed roughly (optional)
1/2 cup crumbled Jaggery (Gud / Panela)
1 teaspoon crushed cardamom seeds
1/4 cup water
- Rice flour dough (for the covering)
1 1/2 cups
1 1/2 cups
- Sift the rice flour with the salt into a large & deep mixing bowl. mixing the dough by hand is excruciatingly painful with the hot liquids et al , not to mention the very high possibility of obtaining a lumpy ball of dough that is terrible to shape. I found this fool proof technique to eliminate lumps and the occasional dislocated shoulder. *Drumrolls*. A Kitchenaid Hand mixer.. , yes the kind you use to whip eggs for a cake (except this operation uses the dough hooks).
- Fit a hand mixer with the dough hook attachment. With the mixer set at a low speed, slowly add 1 cup of the boiling water into the rice flour mixing it simultaneously. Add the milk gradually. The mix should now come together into a pliable ball of dough. If its still crumbly, add the remaining water teaspoon by teaspoon with the mixer running until it comes together. cover with a wet kitchen towel until ready to shape the modaks.
- Combine the water and the crushed jaggery in a glass bowl and microwave for one minute till the jaggery dissolves. Transfer into a skillet along with the coconut and almonds. Cook down until the moisture evaporates, but before the sugar hardens. Stir in the cardamom and remove from heat. Set aside to cool. Roll into small 1/2 inch spheres.
- To assemble the modaks, grease your fingertips and your left palm liberally with oil. Pinch off a dollop of dough, roll into a sphere and gently rub the dough with the oiled fingertips into forming a thin 2 inch circle. place the filling in the center of the flattened dough, and gently fold the edges of the rice flour 'skin' to completely cover the filling. pinch the top of the modak to form a peak. remove any extra bits and mix with the remaining dough. Set aside and repeat until the filling is finished.
- Heat about an 1/2 inch of water in a large wide pan or skillet(wide enough to fit a steamer). A classic bamboo steamer is perfect for the purpose. layer it with a banana (or napa cabbage) leaf before placing the raw dumplings on top of the leaf. Gently place the modaks on the steamer and steam them for 15 minutes.
- transfer the modaks to a plate and enjoy them warm. Any remaining rice flour dough.. there's a whole other recipe for using that up,