No one does decadent desserts better than (sweeping generalization alert:) South Asians during festive holidays like Diwali. With the cornucopia of traditional goodies eaten, the festival of lights should really be called the festival of sweets. “Mithai” the name for South Asian sweets consists of items like “galab jamuns” “laddoos”, “barfis” and “halwas” and are a cross between confectionary treat, snack, and a dessert of sorts.
Feeling peckish? Well these little nibbles are eaten in a grazing fashion on their own, with a cup of steaming chai, or as an end note to a savoury meal. If you are thinking these goodies are made with just regular sugar and flour, you will be surprised.
Ingredients like rice flour, chickpea flour, semolina, lentils, pumpkins, carrots, condensed milk, and raw sugar act as a canvas. Next, almonds, pistachios, cashews, pistachios, and raisins are added for texture and unexpectedness. Aromatic spices like cinnamon, cloves nutmeg, and cardamom impart their flavour and then everything is glitzed up with silver or gold leaf or a syrup spiked with rose water or saffron.
Other than eating mithai, the art of making and gifting is part and parcel of the festival of lights. Weeks before Diwali arrives, women from varying generations work together to churn out dozens of varieties. Mithai-making is a social activity and sharing the abundance is mandatory. It’s also customary to exchange beautifully decorated boxes of mithai with close ones. Recently, I noticed Canada’s Chocolatier, Purdy’s getting on the South Asian bandwagon to celebrate Diwali with their version of Coconut Burfi, colourful favour boxes, and Nellie the chocolate elephant. Say what?
While I love galab jamun and many other mithais, I wanted to create my own interpretation of a Diwali sweet. Following tradition, I turned this confectionary making into a social activity with my Mom. We listened to Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, delightedly gabbed and worked meticulously.
These chocolate twirls are fairly easy to make, but provide opportunity to flex your skills with some kitchen techniques (something that excites me). Making a sugar syrup and working with a favourite in my kitchen – phyllo pastry. Oh – and the “trick” for working with phyllo dough is just to be patient and move slowly. The paper-thin dough does rip easily, but take your time – it will work out.
My chocolate twirls are somewhat evocative of baklava and that dessert’s sweet nut filling, but my interpretation is better than the original. (Yes, that was bold statement!) Baklava makes appearances in many Mediterranean cuisines and is prepared by assembling layers of phyllo dough brushed with melted butter and filled with crushed nuts such as almonds, walnuts, or pistachios. I took inspiration from Baklava, but utilized the same principles as traditional mithai of using the phyllo as a blank canvas, adding texture and unexpectedness with nuts and chocolate, permeating it all with spices, and then adding a luscious syrup.
These twirls are playful (something I gravitate towards) and are definitely outside the box. Think of them as an upscale Diwali sweet. The result: light, flaky layers of phyllo dough that ooze with warm chocolate, texture, and incredible flavour. Flaky, sticky and slightly too sweet goodness. These chocolate twirls will bring your kitchen alive with their delicious aroma and make your heart sing. Decadent. Luxurious. Delicious.
They can be nibbled on when they cool, served warm with a cup of steaming chai tea, or served hot with vanilla ice cream as dessert. Happy Diwali!
Decadent Diwali-Inspired Chocolate Twirls
½ cup of pistachios
½ cup of walnuts
½ cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup of jagger (gur)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground chili pepper
½ cup of butter melted
12 to 15 phyllo sheets
½ cup of white sugar
1/2 cup of water
1 to 2 cardamom pods
Thaw the phyllo sheets as per the package instructions.
In a food processor coarsely chop nuts, chocolate, cinnamon, cardamom, chili pepper, and jaggery. Pour into a mixing bowl. Set aside.
Place a phyllo dough sheet on clean surface. Brush with melted butter, stack another layer of phyllo dough on top of it. Brush with melted butter again and layer one more layer of phyllo dough. There should be a total of 3 layers of phyllo sheet stacked on top of each other. Cut the sheets into 4 equal quarters. Place a tablespoon of chocolate-nut powder on the narrow edge. Fold the quartered sheet on both the long edges, like ½ inch. Then make another ½ inch fold along the narrow edge covering the filling. Carefully roll the sheet towards the other narrow edge. Brush the twirls on all sides with melted butter and place them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake at 370F for 15 to 20 minutes or until the twirls turn golden brown.
While the twirls are baking, prepare the sugar syrup. Boil sugar and water for 5 minutes on high. Add cardamom and simmer for another 5 to 7 minutes or until the syrup thickens. Once the chocolate twirls are baked place them on heat proof dish, drizzle the syrup on top of it. Let sit for few minutes until the syrup is absorbed.