I realized I don’t bake very much anymore. I don’t know how this happened. Several nights a week after dinner I scour through my cookbooks and online to find something to bake. I always feel like eating something sweet after dinner and trying to satisfy my sweet tooth with fruit is essentially fruitless (hehe). But after dinner I want quick satisfaction, so I head over to the cupboard and snack on a few chocolate chips.
I want to bake marvelous cakes and pastries. I could look at baking recipes for hours, but when it comes down to the actual execution I’m always hesitant. I think it has something to do with me the fact that me baking always yields a tornado-like scene in my kitchen. I have enough counter space and yet without fail I manage to make a huge mess to cleanup and that leaves me feeling bitter. But of course if my baking project comes out as planned, I guess the tornado-scene is just the collateral damage to an otherwise successful (and delicious!) feat.
Back to my laziness, these vermicelli squares are a godsend for the ultimate lazy sweet satisfaction seeker like myself. It’s an easy recipe with just a handful of ingredients and not too many bowls and most importantly — no flour dust storms in the kitchen. It also looks like you spent hours making it, when in actuality these squares require no effort at all. My sister-in-law makes these and I never saw them before she made them one day. At first I thought they were some sort of baklava, but they’re just Pakistani vermicelli with sweetened condensed milk, cardamom, butter, and nuts. When she told me the recipe, I was shocked that it wasn’t something more complicated. Either way, it’s a win-win situation and those post-dinner sweet cravings will be thoroughly satisfied with these sticky and sweet squares.
Sweet and Sticky Vermicelli Squares (or Diamonds!)
Makes an 8″x 8″ pan
4 tablespoons butter (unsalted or salted, doesn’t matter)
1 packet (about 200 grams) of Pakistani or Indian Vermicelli (found in Pakistani or Indian grocery stores)
1 (scant 2 cups) can of sweetened condensed milk
1 cup milk
2 cardamom pods, seeds removed and crushed slightly in a mortar and pestle
pinch of salt
1/2 cup crushed almonds and pistachios, you can add more or less
Grease an 8″ x 8″ baking dish and line it with parchment paper.
Heat a large pot on medium heat and add the butter and allow it to almost get to the brown stage (about 2-3 minutes). Watch the butter closely because you don’t want it to burn. Add in the cardamom seeds. Next, tear the vermicelli into the butter and cardamom and allow the vermicelli to toast a little. Keep stirring until the vermicelli begins to soften. Add in a 1 cup of milk and let the milk evaporate, stirring constantly. Pour in the sweetened condensed milk and lower the heat to medium low. Mix in the sweetened condensed mik, until combined and keep stirring occasionally until the vermicelli is soft, but still has a little bit of a bite to it, about 20-30 minutes. Allow the vermicelli to cool for 5 minutes.
Next, transfer the vermicelli to the 8″ x 8″ baking dish and press it down with a spoon, so that it is evenly pressed into the baking dish. Press in the nuts over the vermicelli and leave it at room temperature for an hour or two. Put out the parchment paper and cut the vermicelli into squares or diamonds. Serve at room temperature.