Monday, December 8, 2014

Wintermelon Candy (Sri Lankan Puhul Dosi Pumpkin Preserve)


It's getting close to Christmas so all I can think about is yummy Christmas treats.  One such treat is Sri Lankan Christmas Cake.  This cake uses a lot of ingredients and this candy/preserve is actually one of the important ingredients needed to make the cake authentic. 

In Sri Lanka it's called puhul dosi and it is made out of ash pumpkin (also known as wintermelon in Asian stores).  Most cooks buy this ingredient from the store already made to put into their Christmas cake.  Unfortunately, in the United States we don't always have it available to us and it can be very expensive to buy a prepared package of this candy online or from a specialty store.  So my mother and I decided that we would make it ourselves after we saw the raw wintermelon/ash pumpkin at our local Asian market.   We actually made 3lbs of puhul dosi for less than $5 dollars and that would be the cost of one pound if we bought it already prepared. So this is also a very economical way to go about getting this ingredient ready for your Sri Lankan baking needs.   

It's very easy to make, but the most important part is to make sure you really squeeze out all the liquid from the pumpkin before you proceed to cook the candy.  If you do not do this, your candy will not set up correctly. 

This candy can be eaten on it's own or added to rich desserts like the Christmas cake I am making this week.  We also use it in another well known cake in Sri Lanka called Love Cake.  So if you want to make all your ingredients at home or don't have access to Sri Lankan puhul dosi, here is a recipe you can try at home.

2lbs of Wintermelon/Ash Pumpkin
2lbs sugar
2 Tbs semolina
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
3-4 drops rose essence or 3 Tbs rose water

Wash wintermelon (ash pumpkin) well and then scrape out all the seeds.  Take a vegetable peeler and peel the skin off the melon. 

Cut cleaned and peeled wintermelon into chunks and grind in the food processor.  The next step is to squeeze all the liquid out of the melon pulp. There will be a lot of liquid.  You must get the pulp as dry as possible before proceeding.

 Then place in a pot with the sugar and salt.  Simmer on medium heat until sugar melts well and starts to thicken.  Then add semolina and stir well.  It is necessary to keep stirring this while it cooks so nothing burns on the bottom of the pot. 

Finally in the last 5 minutes of cooking add the cardamom powder and rose water or essence.  Stir well.  When the sugar can be placed on a plate and start firm up quickly, the candy is done cooking.  Place on lightly oiled parchment paper lined baking sheet and spreed out evenly.  Gently push the edges to form a flat edge.  When the candy starts to cool, score into pieces.  Place in a safe place to set up overnight.  Cut into pieces and store in an airtight container.

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