Sunday, December 9, 2012

Mahamri (Coconut & cardamom doughnuts)

This recipe is one that is very popular in Kenya and Tanzania, especially amongst the people who live in the coastal towns of both these countries. It will make an appearance during various celebrations especially during Eid, a Muslim religious celebration. In our house, these were a staple during Christmas, weddings, birthdays you name it. A Mahamri is basically a type of doughnut whose star ingredients include coconut milk and cardamom. They are not overly sweet, and are a great accompaniment to spiced chai (tea cooked with aromatic spices), pigeon peas cooked in coconut curry, or even any kind of meat dish. I learnt this recipe from one of our oldest family friends-Mama Asha-while I was still in Kenya. I am happy to share it here with you.
SERVING SIZE: 16 Mahamris
-Rolling pin.
-Mixing Bowl.
-Strainer (for frying).
-Deep frying pan (I used a "wok").
-Baking sheet
*Cling foil and a food-storage bag (if you decide to store the dough for later)*

-3 cups all-purpose flour that has been sifted to get rid of lumps (NOT self-raising flour).
-3/4 teaspoon of rapid-rise yeast.
-8 tablespoons of granulated sugar. If you like your food sweet, you can add up to 10 tablespoons-1/2 cup of sugar.
-1 teaspoon of finely ground cardamom.
-1 cup heavy coconut milk for kneading the dough (I use a 13.5Oz can of heavy coconut milk).
-2 cups vegetable oil for frying the mahamris (I use Canola).
-In your mixing bowl, combine your dry ingredients-flour, yeast, sugar and cardamom.
-Slowly add the coconut milk a little at a time, as you knead the dough (you can use your mixer to do this, just add the hook attachment).
-If you're using your hands to knead the dough, make sure they're clean and rotate the mixing bowl each time you add some coconut milk and knead. This will ensure proper distribution of the milk in the dough.
-keep kneading for 15 mins. The dough should be soft, but not sticky. After 15 mins of kneading, use a knife to cut through the dough. If you see small holes in the cut of the dough, your dough is ready for the next step.
-Lightly grease a container (that has a lid) with some cooking oil, form your dough into a ball, place it in the container and cover it. Let the dough proof (rise) for at least 3-4 hrs. I let mine sit (covered) on the counter and proof overnight, then I cooked them the following morning. The dough should double in size.
****If you would like to reserve the kneaded dough to cook at a future time, at this point, wrap the ball of dough in cling foil right after you have finished kneading it (do not let it proof!). Place the wrapped ball of dough into a food-storage bag, and place it in the refrigerator. This dough will keep for up to two weeks. When you are ready to cook your mahamris within these two weeks, pull the dough out of the freezer and let it defrost in your refrigerator a day prior to cooking them. On the actual day you intend to cook them, remove the dough from the refrigirator, remove the cling foil from the dough and let the dough sit on the counter, covered, for at least 3 hrs in order to proof. When the dough feels softened, then proceed to the following steps.*****
-Deflate the risen dough by gently pushing it down with your hand. Divide the dough into 4 equal balls. Flatten each ball and use your rolling pin to form a disc of about 7 inches in diameter and 1/4 inch thickness.
-Quarter each disc (cut it into 4 equal pieces).
-Place these pieces of dough on a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with a clean cloth. Place the baking sheet on the counter and let the pieces further proof (rise) for 15 mins.

***Pour the vegetable oil into your frying pan and heat it on medium heat.***
-Test your oil for readiness by dropping a small piece of dough into the oil. If the dough stays at the bottom for at least 8 seconds then raises to the surface, your oil is at perfect temperature and you're ready to start frying. If the piece of dough rises up too fast after dropping it in, then your oil is too hot. This will result in a mahamri that looks cooked on the outside, but is still doughy in the center-YUCK (reduce the temperature of your stove)!
-Drop in four mahamris at a time into the hot oil. Drop the mahamris away from you to avoid getting burnt by the hot oil.
-Use your strainer to splash oil over the top of the mahamris in order to help them puff up. As soon as you see the bottom side of the mahamris have turned light brown and the top part has puffed up, it is time to turn them over using your strainer. 
-Keep turning the mahamris until they are all a nice golden brown on all sides. Once you achieve a color similar to the ones in the picture below, it is time to remove them from the hot oil and place them in a container lined with paper towels (to absorb any excess oil). Repeat this process until all the dough pieces have been fried.

-Allow them to cool for a few minutes and enjoy!!
***I had mine with a plate of mbaazi (chickpeas in coconut curry sauce) for breakfast, with a hot cup of masala chai (spiced tea)-DEVINE! ***