In August, the undisputed monarch of mithais is ghewar. Crowned with rabdi and laden with pistachios, this six-inch disc of a dessert heralds the Teej and Raksha Bandhan celebrations.
The shell of the ghewar is made of all-purpose flour, gram flour and desi ghee, which is topped with mawa or soaked in sugar syrup. Traditionally, the four varieties of ghewar are: plain, soaked in sugar syrup; unsweetened; plain, topped with rabdi; and paneer ghewar, in which the batter is mixed with paneer. But now one can find the honeycombed sweet seeping into the world of pastries and chaats.
Rajasthan is considered to be the birthplace of ghewar and new-age bakeries in Jaipur are giving it a modern twist. Pastry chef Tejasvi Chandela of Dzurt Patisserie says, “Ghewar is very sweet and I felt that saccharine taste could be chipped away by giving it a little bit of a tang.” She did a classic ghewar, layered it with a rabdi-inspired entremet flavoured with cardamom and saffron and topped it with a wheel made of clementine juice for some tartness to cut through the sugar. She demonstrated this pastry for a masterclass at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris earlier this year. Keeping in mind storage and logistical issues, Chandela might introduce a small batch of the clementine ghewar entremet at Dzurt this festive season.
Oven the Bakery in Jaipur has a ghewar cake exclusively for this festive season. It is a vanilla sponge cake soaked in rose and cardamom syrup and topped with a ghewar. The frosting is a blend of cream, cream cheese and mawa.
In Mumbai, pastry chef Girish Nayak of the Bombay Sweet Shop has turned the ghewar into a tart. “Since the monsoon is all about stone fruits, our latest is a Cherry Bomb Ghewar Tart. The traditional ghewar is layered with vanilla bean mascarpone kheer and house-made cherry jam which is topped with a layer of malai cream,” he says. They also did seasonal mango and strawberry ghewar tarts earlier this year. The ghewar tart is permanently on the menu.
Savoury is in too. Natasha Gandhi, who took part in season 5 of MasterChef India, is an Instagram chef now. She recently did an unsweetened ghewar on her feed (@natashaagandhi) and topped it with creamy mushroom sauce and chilli flakes. This just goes to show that ghewar is a blank canvas for creating both sweet and savoury versions.
The Raw Native café in Surat, Gujarat, gives regional dishes a contemporary makeover. They serve a ghewar chaat in which a sweetened ghewar is immersed in a spicy chole ki sabzi. It is drizzled with coriander and tamarind chutneys and tiny rosettes of labneh are piped on top and then garnished with fresh coriander.
Delhi-based food and beverage curator Eeshan Kashyap has been experimenting with ghewar chaats at home. He tops tiny, unsweetened ghewars with chutneys, boiled potatoes, chickpeas, green chilli and onion and finishes off with sweet curd and a sprinkle of pani-puri masala. “You have to eat it very quickly because the curd makes it soggy. It has everything a chaat should have,” says Kashyap. Since this recipe is under trial, it’s not available to buy, but it’s the perfect DIY for those who like to experiment with food.
The most dramatic version is Tresind Mumbai’s ghewar chaat with nitrogen vapours. Served with avocado and kachaalu, it is one of the 10 plates that forms their degustation menu.
In a tasty chaat or a comforting tart—how are you enjoying ghewar this festive season?
Poorvi Singhal is a Jaipur-based food and travel writer.