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What Is Balushahi?

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  • Written By: Dan Harkins
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 25 August 2016
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In South Asia, particularly in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, balushahi is a popular sweet that is made in much the same way as the glazed cake doughnut of western cultures — except there is not a hole in the middle. This breakfast of after-meal treat is made of cake flour, ghee butter spread and some baking soda rolled into a ball or disk. It is then deep-fried in melted ghee before soaking in a sweet liquid that will harden to a sugary frosting shell.

The cake flour of balushahi takes the most precision to execute. A common recipe involves maida flour, baking soda, clarified ghee or butter, a tatric acid and some water. Only proper measurements will produce malleable and flavorful dough balls, with about 1.5 cups (355 ml) of flour to about 0.5 cup (about 118 ml) of water. For this amount of dough, a pinch of baking soda will be needed as well as 0.25 tsp (1.2 ml) of tatric acid and 2 oz (60 ml) of clarified butter or ghee. Some also add a little sugar, honey, cardamom or citrus zest to the dough.

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The balushahi requires enough clarified ghee, butter or oil to submerge it in a pan or deep fryer. If a shallow frying method is used, the dough balls will need to be turned halfway through the frying process. As the frying medium is brought up to temperature, tennis-ball sized balushahi are formed. Often, the balls are then flattened to fat discs, and small indentations are made in the center, before adding them to the fryer; this latter dish, which is more popular in southern regions of India, is called badushah.

Since these cakes alone will not have much sweetness, the finishing touch of frosting is a crucial element. It is just sugar and water, simmered until syrupy in a pan. Many also add a little cardamom or zest to elevate the taste. When the balushahi are fully browned, not blackened, they are fully submerged in this sugar liquid for at least 15 minutes.

After removing the balushahi from the frosting mixture, they are often left to harden completely. Some sprinkle them with cocoa powder, pistachio slivers or powdered sugar. This dish is more prevalent in Mughal dominated areas of North India like New Dehli and Uttar Pradesh; however, it is a popular offering in southern coastal regions too, from Tamil Nadu to Kerala.

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