Wednesday, February 16, 2011

coconut burfi

Sitting with my laptop outside in 60 degree weather? In the middle of February? What sorcery is this?!

...I'll take it.

I've been basking in the glory that is the sun for the past few days. A welcome change after frigidly cold January weather. Reading Bécquer for lit courses, being distracted by birds whilst in philosophy, drinking iced coffees in between classes without feeling like an idiot for ordering an iced coffee in the middle of winter; it's all so poetic. Or perhaps I've been reading too much post-romantic Spanish literature.

In any case, the main point is that I love this weather. I love being able to enjoy my ten-minute walk to work without my hands numbing over to the point where I can't even tell if they're still attached to my wrists. I love being able to sit outside during my one-hour break between classes instead of wishing ill upon every person who opens the door to Starbucks and lets the draft in. I love not having to borrow friends' sweatshirts [and failing to return them in a timely fashion...sorry, Matt] because of being absurdly under-dressed for the chill.

I am extremely cold-sensitive, in case you were wondering.

Luckily, Cville has been blessed with gorgeous weather this week. And how better to enjoy the weather than by doing something charitable?

Tomorrow evening, the MSA is hosting a Pakistani Cultural Bazaar to raise money to help rebuild the lives of the flood victims. I knew I wanted to help out as best as I could, so I offered to make something of the food variety. [Will also potentially be providing my services as a henna tattoo artist if need be, but that has yet to be solidified.] Anyway, at first I wasn't quite sure what to make. Cookies? Brownies? Cake balls? Oreo truffles? ...nah.

This is a cultural event, after all. A time to appreciate, what for most people are, foreign customs and values, to think of those who are severely under-assisted and need our help and support, and be unified by shared compassion and humanity. I wanted to make something that showcases the FOB within me, that will bring a little bit of Pakistan to everyone who attends. And that can only mean one thing:

Mithai. Specifically, coconut burfi.

Burfi is one of my favorite Pakistani desserts. Plain burfi is basically condensed milk cooked over medium heat with sugar until it solidifies into a dough. The dough is poured into a pan and left to set, then cut into small pieces and devoured. Burfi comes in a variety of flavors, and can be prepared with fruit [usually mango or coconut], spices like cardamom, or nut flours [almonds or pistachios]. I will never in my life be able to replicate the burfi my uncles buy for me from the mithai shops in Karachi, which is probably be a good thing because I can eat that burfi by the pound, but nevertheless, I can attempt.

Mom made these for the Eid party we threw back in the fall, and since then I've been pestering her for the recipe. She graciously [read: finally] obliged my request, and showed me how to make them when I went home last weekend. The recipe is, to my surprise, extremely easy, and extremely quick. Cook time is about 15 minutes total. Cool time is a bit longer, about 2 hours, but if you're like me, you'll just stick the pan in the fridge once it's cooled for like half an hour and eat it after 15 minutes of refrigeration.

 Coconut Burfi 

You'll need:
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese [never use skim or fat-free dairy when baking, unless specified; it throws off the texture]
  • 1 heaping cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 pound unsweetened coconut [note: This is not coconut flour, nor is is shredded coconut. It's as if you ran unsweetened shredded coconut through a food processor and pulverized it into a powdery crumbs. Can be purchased in any international super market.]
  • 2 drops kewra [can substitute with 2-3 drops coconut essence]
  • food coloring, as desired

Line a 9x13-inch pan with aluminum foil and set aside. In a medium, shallow pan over medium heat, melt butter. Add in ricotta and sugar, and stir until melted. Add in kewra and food coloring. Reduce heat to very low and add in coconut. Stir until coconut absorbs all the liquid, 10-15 minutes. Be sure to stir frequently to prevent coconut from burning. The coconut mixture should be firming up. Once all the liquid has been absorbed and coconut has had time to cook some, pour the dough out onto lined baking sheet. Press dough evenly across the pan and flatten out with the back of a spatula [or your palm]. Leave burfi out to cool and set, at least 45 minutes. Cut burfi into small diamonds and serve.

Burfi will stay good for 3-5 days in an airtight container. If refrigerated, will stay good for up to a week.

I suppose it's not necessary to color your burfi, but I think it gives it a unique touch. For this batch, I went with about 5 drops of green food coloring. Also, the reason I ended up using 3 pans was because I used a total of 24 oz of coconut rather than 16 [and adjusted the ratios accordingly].

What I love about this recipe is that it's not overly sweet, and the coconut is not overpowering. It's a relatively light dessert, as far as mithai goes [which is pretty much on the opposite spectrum of "light"], and very palatable for people who aren't huge coconut fanatics. I am, though, which means that I am one happy camper with this recipe.

Here's to hoping that tomorrow's Bazaar is a success!


  1. So good! And no worries about the sweatshirt. ;)

  2. Looks very authentic.Actually better than the one I made>You put the right amount of food color.That's exactly how it looks in the methai shops back home.Way to go Sabeen!

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