My mother made those sweet ones meticulously, making the batter adding grated coconut to soaked rice and phova, grinding on the stone, allowing that to ferment and make thick dosas on the cast iron tawa on charcoal stove, drizzling ghee. Her preparation used to vary, and many a times I've seen her struggle to get the right results because those days nonstick tawas were not in vogue! Sometimes they got charred and stuck to the pan, frustrating her. Sometimes they turned out just perfect, fluffy spongy and golden brown.
According to my experience, a good surnali should have a stiff crusty golden bottom surface and spongy light upper. the appearance of hundreds of craters through which we can see the golden bottom surface is the indication that they have come out perfect! If you add jaggery to the batter before fermenting it, sometimes the surnalis ferment more, getting sour and they tend to stick to the pan. Eliminating the addition of grated coconut in the batter ensures even texture and fluffiness.
They also taste less sweet. So, my suggestion is to add jaggery after the batter gets fermented. You can powder jaggery, run that with some amount of the fermented batter in the mixer along with turmeric powder and then mix in Eno salt just before making dosas.
Surnalis better be roasted on the nonstick tawa on one side, without covering a dome lid. If you cover them with the lid, the upper surface gets spoiled with steam condensation, and you may not find as many craters as you find over those that are roasted uncovered. Also be sure not to raise the gas flame too much. Allow the pan to heat well, and then maintain it at medium heat. Also make sure that you drizzle oil or ghee only after the upper surface forms craters and gets dry.
Eat them piping hot, with fresh butter or ghee melting over them. The unmistakable aroma of caramalised jaggery and butter/ghee make them taste heavenly. You can't resist eating just one or two. They are so light! You can also prepare some upma as savoury accompaniment to surnalis for breakfast.
Dosa Rice(Or any good white rice) - 2 cups
Methi(Fenugreek Seeds) - 1 Tsp
Thick Phova(Beaten Rice) - 3/4 cup
Curd - 1/3 cup(About 2 Tbsp)
Salt - To Taste
Powdered Jaggery - 1 and 1/2 cups or according to taste
Turmeric powder - 1/4 Tsp
Eno Salt - 1 Pkt
Water - QS
Ghee - OS for roasting dosas
Wash rice and methi seeds, soak in water at room temperature for 4 hours.
Wash thick phova and soak in beaten curd for 2 hours.
Grind soaked phova to a thick fine paste without adding water, keep aside.
Grind soaked rice with methi to a thick batter that should feel like fine Bombay rava when you take a little batter and rub that with your thumb and index finger.
Mix both the batters, add salt and beat well.
Add very little water if necessary, to make a batter of dropping consistency.
Cover and allow to ferment overnight or for 8-12 hours at room temperature.
Once the batter gets fermented, take a cup of the batter in the mixie jar, add powdered jaggery and turmeric powder and run the mixer till jaggery has melted and well blended.
Then add that to the remaining batter, mix in Eno salt, beat well and make 5-6mm thick dosas by spreading a ladleful of the batter on the hot nonstick tawa.
Allow to roast on medium heat without covering.
You can see the colour at the bottom surface changing as the upper surface gets dry.
As craters form and the upper surface gets dry, drizzle a teaspoonful of ghee and allow the dosa to get golden brown at the bottom.
Remove from tawa, transfer to a platter and serve hot with fresh butter or ghee.
Traditional surnali is made with buttermilk. If you use buttermilk, add 1/2 cup of plain buttermilk instead of 1/3 cup curd and reduce the amount of water added while grinding rice and methi.