The story of is a romantic one in Bangladeshi cuisine. You love it, you hate it and then if you haven't had it for a while, you dearly miss it.
These are rice cakes filled with coconut and jaggery and steamed in a special pot. We normally have it during winter mornings as a breakfast or snack in the afternoon. It can be savoury as well.
The authentic form of this pitha, is white but I made it pink using beetroot water while preparing the dough. Beetroot gives a nice earthy flavour to the dish.
Bhapa pitha is quite technical and hard to get right. This is the first thing I helped my mom/grandmother cook as a six year old and my love for food and cooking started there.
Due to the cake's structure people always complain that there is not enough jaggery or coconut filling inside. The caramelised pineapple coconut and sticky chilli caramel sauce makes sure this isn't the case for this dish. Why don't you try making it?
For the bhapa pitha:
1¼ cups rice flour
½ a beetroot
50g shredded coconut
1/4 tsp salt
For the caramelised pineapple:
¼ of a pineapple
25g brown sugar
50g shredded coconut
1 tbsp lemon juice (add more if you like it tangy)
A pinch of salt
For the chilli caramel
½ cup caster sugar
1 Bird's eye chilli (adjust to your liking)
¼ tsp salt
For the pineapple crisp
1/8 th of one pineapple
Caster sugar, to sprinkle
Black sesame seeds, to sprinkle
Micro basil/mint leaves to garnish
Pre-heat the oven to 150°C in a fan forced oven.
Peel the beetroot skin, cut into smaller chunks and put it in a pot/jug with one cup of water. Using a stick blender, blend this mixture and then strain through a fine sieve. Keep the beetroot water for flour the mixture. You can also use a normal blender instead.
Mix rice flour with salt in a bowl. Add 1/2 cup of beetroot water gradually with the rice flour mixture, mixing it well with each addition. Mix it well at the end so all the flour is moist and keep it aside for 10 minutes.
Pass the mixture through a medium sieve to get even and breadcrumb consistency. Not too wet.
Meanwhile for jaggery and coconut mixture, grate Jaggery to coarse crumb. If you are using fresh shredded coconut, then just mix well with jaggery. If you are using packet shredded coconut, mix it with grated jaggery and put the mixture in medium heat on a frying pan. Add water if required. This will make the coconut soft. Keep aside to use as filling for the pitha.
Soak the cheese cloth in water and squeeze the excess water before using the cloth. Repeat the process each time you steam one pitha.
I used a bamboo steamer for my pitha (if you have traditional bhapa pitha steamer, use that). Line the surface of the bamboo steamer with baking paper. Make several holes in it so that steam can come through. Add sufficient water in a saucepan on top of which you can put the steamer without it touching the water. Bring the water to boil on medium heat.
I used small ceramic dipping sauce cups for my pitha. Fill the inside of the pot with rice flour mix, add jaggery coconut mix in middle (make sure you put sufficient amount) add another layer of flour mix on top. Pat the mix to nicely fit in the cup.
Once the water is boiling, cover the cup with the damp cheese cloth, carefully flip over the cup and place it on top of holes of baking paper in the bamboo steamer. After 15/20 sec carefully unfold top of the cheese cloth and take the cup off carefully. The pitha should still hold the shape (like in the pic). Fold the cheese cloth and then close the lid of the bamboo steamer and let it cook in steam for about 4 mins. Once done, carefully place the pitha on a plate, unwrapping the cheese cloth.
Repeat the procedure for the next pitha.
Meanwhile, for the caramelised pineapple, peel and core half a pineapple and cut into small cubes. Put in a non-stick frying pan with brown sugar and salt. When sugar is close to caramelisation add the shredded coconut and cook till the pineapple is caramelised on the outside. Set aside.
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For the chilli caramel place caster sugar with 1 tbsp of water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Finely dice the birds-eye chilli and add to sugar when caramelising. Once the caramel is a deep amber colour, start adding the cream in small additions and whisking consistently. Once all the cream is incorporated add cubes of butter and whisk until melted. Stir in sea salt and then transfer to a jug for serving. (You can adjust the amount of chilli to put in as per your taste).
For the crispy pineapple, cut pineapple halves to thinnest segment possible without it falling apart. Line a baking tray with baking paper and spread the 12/15 segments. Sprinkle sugar and black sesame seeds on top of the segments. Put another backing paper and tray on top (pineapples are in between 2 trays) and keep in the oven for about 15 min. Check in between and keep longer if required. Take it out before it starts burning and leave it aside to cool. It will crisp up.
To serve, put the pitha in the middle of a dessert bowl spreading the caramelised pineapples all around it. Put the pineapple crisps in between and sprinkle micro basil or mint leaves. Drizzle the warm caramel sauce generously before eating.