Indian sweets / Mithais/ Recipes

Bengali Bhapa Pitha / Tekeli Pitha / Steamed Rice Cakes for Sankranti

Celebrating Sankranti with another traditional and family recipe called Dhakai Bhapa Pitha or steamed rice cakes and Preeti Mixer Grinder Zodiac.

“Give a bowl of rice to a man and you will feed him for a day. Teach him how to grow his own rice and you will feed him for life.”

Rice is staple grain for millions on this planet. And in India rice is considered as auspicious grain. From birth to marriages this tiny white grain has immense importance and significance in Indian culture.

Most of our festivities too centered around this divine grain and Sankranti, the only festival which we follow as per Solar calendar (Hindu calendar is Lunar based) too focused on this tiny little grain. Sankranti is the major harvest festival of the country and hence also celebrated as thanksgiving day – this is the day we thank and acknowledge all those who assisted in making the harvest possible. Hence these three days of celebrations are devoted to mother Earth, us and animals and livestocks who made it possible.

bhapa pitha recipe tekeli pitha

It is customary to celebrate the festival of Sankanti by preparing sweet dishes that are prepared with freshly harvested rice (paddy), sugarcane, date palms, sesame and so on depending upon the region’s crop cycle.

The wide array of pithe-puli platter that we prepare during this time, specially in Bengal and in other eastern states, rice remain the prime and important ingredient. Right from drawing alpanas to decor the courtyards, to prepare sweet dishes, we need rice and rice powders. Though store bought rice powders are also available now a days but these are too fine and almost flour like. Moreover tradition dictates that the Sankranti sweets should be prepared with good quality of rice, specially some recipes need par-boiled rice powders and others need husked rice or atap chal as we call in Bengali.

bhapa pitha kerela puttu recipe

 

But over the years I found that few mixers can do this grinding job perfectly. Grinding the rice to powder with perfect texture needs good and sharp blades without getting too much heated up. I had used the Preeti mixer grinder zodiac for this purpose and to my surprise all it takes 2 minutes to grind the rice perfectly to my liking.

preeti mixer grinder zodiac review

 

Dhakai bhapa pitha is a traditional dish of Bangladesh now but once a upon a time when hearts and lands were not divided, it used to be one of the most sought after pithe recipes of Bengal. But food has their own lineage and historical routes that does not confine within  political or religious borders, it transcends borders, melts cold hearts, creates memories and thus the same bhapa pitha is known with different names in different regions. In Assam it is keteli pitha / or tekeli pitha as it is steamed on the mouth of tea kettles. In Birbhum, it is known as dhunpi or dhunki pitha as it is steamed in matir shora or clay disc. Kerala’s famous puttu is also strikingly similar to this, in respect of ingredients and technique.

Bhapa pitha looks easier to make but only if you are an expert. For the first timers like me, there are many challenges that one faces and hence the important points and tips to make good and moist bhapa pitha are listed below.

  • Recipe demands that rice powders should be mixed with a liquid. Warm water and warm milk or even normal water can also be used here. Mixing means do not knead the rice powder with water/ milk. Use your fingers and very lightly and gently mix the water with the rice flour till it looks like breadcrumbs. By this time you will feel that the rice flour is moist (not wet) enough.
  • Dough testing – clump together a small portion of dough in your palm, it should be able to hold its shape but when it should also yield (that is it will crumble easily) to the slight pressure from your thumb.
  • Cover the rice flour mix with a kitchen towel and let it stand for 30 minutes. This will ensure more moisture to the flour.
  • While sifting the flour, do it very gently.
  • While filling the container with the rice flour, coconut and jaggery do not press it too tight and too loose.
  • Steaming time will entirely depend upon the equipment or the kind of steamer you are using it. Whether the pitha has been steamed sufficiently you will come to know after 5 minute by slightly touching it. It should not crumble.
  • Texture of the finished steamed pitha should look fluffy and not grainy or powdery.  If you have eaten Kerela puttu, it should look and feel like that.
  • Once done, serve bhapa pitha immediately with date syrup or date palm sap. If bhapa pitha are not for immediate consumption, then cover them with a damp cloth and keep it in covered vessel. I kept mine in bamboo steamer. For later use, steam again the bhapa pitha and serve.

Bhapa Pith / Tekeli Pitha / Steamed Rice Cakes for Sankranti
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Bhapa pitha / tekeli pitha or steamed rice cakes are staple morning breakfast in many regions and also a special sweet prepared during makar sankranti, Indian harvest festival.
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Indian / Bangladesh
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • Rice flour : 2 cups
  • Warm water / milk : ½ cups
  • Salt : ½ tsp
  • Grated coconut : 2 cups
  • Jaggery / gur : as required chopped into pieces
  • Date palm sap / jhola gur / date syrup to serve
Instructions
  1. Wash and soak the rice for 7-8 hours, dry them completely (under hot sun) and then grind it to slightly coarse powder.
  2. You can use store bought rice powders too.
  3. Mix in the salt throughly with the rice flour.
  4. Sprinkle some warm water / milk over the rice flour. Mix it with your fingers very lightly.
  5. Amount of water needed will depend upon the quality of rice flour. Some rice flour absorb more water, some absorb less. Adjust accordingly.
  6. Do this step still you feel that all the rice flour is sufficiently moist (not wet). There should not be any dry flour left out.
  7. Cover and let it stand for 30 minute. This will ensure more moistness to the rice flour.
  8. Check the rice flour for dough testing - clump a small portion of rice flour between your palms and it should be able to hold its shape and also should crumble easily when pressed slightly with your thumb. This indicates that the dough is ready for steaming.
  9. Sift the flour mix through a sieve. This will take time so do it patiently. And while sifting do not press the rice flour against the walls of the sieve. You should do it very gently.
  10. Meanwhile ready your steamer. Bring the water to boil, place the steamer over it and as soon as the steams started coming out of it, place the pitha on it.
  11. Now take a small bowl / katori. Spread flour mixture in the small bowl lightly in a way that only half the bowl is covered.
  12. Spread a layer of coconut, followed by layer of jaggery, followed by another layer of coconut. Finish by topping it with more damp rice flour and press very gently.
  13. Now wet a cheese cloth or plain cotton cloth, squeeze out excess water. spread the wet cloth on the bowl of flour.
  14. Gather the corners of the cloth with the bowl inside. Give it a tight squeeze and carefully flip the bowl with the help of the cloth on the steamer. I have used my bamboo steamer for this purpose.
  15. Give a light tap on the bowl, two three times and un mould the pitha carefully. Take the bowl out and cover the pitha entirely with the cloth. Cover the steamer with a lid and let it steam on medium heat for 10 minutes.
  16. Timing again is very relative, depending upon the kind of steamer you are using. So use your judgment.
  17. Once done, pitha should have a fluffy texture now and will not crumble when touched.
  18. Carefully unwrap the pitha from the cloth and place in a plate with the help of a spatula or spoon.
  19. Soak the hot cloth in a bowl of water and then repeat the steps.

Happy Sankranti

Sukanya

{This post is sponsored by Preeti Mixer Grinder Zodiac . This is not a paid review. Views expressed here are reserved with the author of this post}.

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