I used to make thekua too but that wasn't something that you would remember for long. It was like any other deep fried pastry that tastes sweet and good. But after spending a few years in Jharkhand when I tasted the thekua that used to be made at Chhath (a festival worshiping Sun God) I knew I had to learn it from my neighbors. There is a technique of making thekua that I didn't know till then.
The perfect thekua, often called as khajoor should be cracked at the margins, crisp on the outside and softer and crumbly inside. The sugar crystals caramelize on the outside giving it a nice sheen. Arvind used to like it so much that I had to learn to make this desi cookie.
Some people make it with all purpose flour or maida but I prefer making it with whole wheat flour and desi ghee. It is so much more tasty this way, all the old fashined cooks make their thekua with whole wheta flour and ghee, some of them even use jaggery instead of sugar. I will share the jaggery thekua too sometime soon.
This time I made a fried version as well as a baked version. The deep fried one was crisp and perfect but the baked one was a bit chewy but I liked it as the taste was the same (for almost 80% less ghee than the fried version).
The fried ones keep well in an airtight container for about a month but the baked ones become harder after 2 weeks. So consume the the baked thekua within 2 weeks at the most.
you need just a few ingredients for this.....
whole wheat flour or atta 500 gm
ghee 100 gm for rubbing (shortening)
desiccated coconut or grated dried coconut 1 cup
sugar 1 cup
milk about 1.5 cup
more ghee for deep frying
to proceed .....
Follow the instructions carefully about kneading the dough. It is crucial in making of the perfect textured thekua.
Mix the first four ingredients well, rubbing it between your fingers so that it resembles like fine breadcrumbs.
Heat ghee for frying in a wide kadhai or pan.
Now scoop out a part of the mixture (enough to make a batch of 8-10 thekuas) and sprinkle milk on it and mix so that it starts binding when pressed in your fist. It should not become like a dough, just enough moist to make marble sized balls from the mixture. This allows cracking of the surface, making crisp thekua or khajurs when deep fired at low temperature.
Now flatten each ball with your palms and press with a fork twice at right angles to make a mesh design. There is a traditional wooden stamp to carve designs on thekuas but I don't have them.
Drop this first batch of thekuas in the medium hot ghee and fry on lowest flame turning in between to allow even browning. A nice aroma comes when it gets cooked and also the cracks appear on the surface.
It takes about 20 minutes for one batch if you have made small thekuas, the cooking time depends on how big and thick the thekuas are. Making them smaller is better if thekua is new for you. The cooked thekuas remain a bit spongy to touch but get firm once cold.
Drain from ghee and let it cool. Repeat with the mixture for another batch till you make all of them. Cool and keep in an airtight container.
These are the fried thekuas..
For the baked version I arranged the shaped thekuas on a ceramic plate smeared with ghee and baked in the grill option of my microwave for 30 minutes on one side and the 20 minutes on the other side Timing can be adjusted according to the thickness of khajoors.
Here are the baked thekuas..
One thing to note, the UP version of thekua has become more rich with lot of nuts added but real thekua only has coconut bits. The UP version is often called as Khajur and some people make the khajur in elongated shape just like dates (khajur or chhuara) with a stuffing of coconut and raisins in it. I will try and share that version too some day.
The thekua or khajur used to be the best food for journey in older days. People used to carry dabbas of thekua and laal mirch ka bharva achar for long journeys and this used to become a snack or meal as and when required. Imagine the sweet thekua smeared with laal mirch ka achar, it was a deadly combination. Just like matthi and aam ka achar, that was another classic journey food.
People used to add loads of nuts and raisins to the thekua when it was made for journeys. I now understand it was a way to pack nourishment in small condensed doses.
Granola bars of the older times these thekua would have been...