Thursday, June 28, 2007

Starting on sweets...

I've not cooked desserts as I thought they were time consuming and messy. How wrong ! Had four packets of milk leftover and decided to cook rasgullas- with the taste of the soft spongy K.C.Das rasgulla that I had in Calcutta a decade ago still fresh in my mind..

Once the basic principles are understood, it is very tough to go wrong. I've never made these sweets before, but these came out perfectly edible.

The Principle :
Bengalis rule the world of milk sweets because they learnt and accepted the principle of 'spoiling' or curdling milk to extract milk solids. Curdling milk intentionally is alien to most Indian cuisines and is seen as a mistake - not one you intentionally do. To this date, most Indian language have a distinct negative connotation to curdling - that is apart from Bengal and Orissa, where sweets made from milk solids were popular.

Legend has it that the rasagulla was traditionally made in the Puri temple, from where it moved with the brahmins to West Bengal, where it soon became very popular.

The basic principle of most milk sweets is simple : curdle the milk and separate the milk solids. Further cook the milk solids with sugar.

For rasagulla, the milk solids are kneaded into a smooth dough, and cooked in hot sugar syrup. I've listed two ways of cooking up rasgullas below :

The long way
Boil milk on a gentle flame, skimming off the skin as it forms on the surface. Add lemon juice to make milk curdle. Filter the solids.Cool and knead well to the consistency of chappati dough. Kneading is the key to supersoft rasgullas. Shape into small tight balls.

Boil a cup of sugar in 1.5 cups of water. Add cheese balls to the syrup and pressure cook for one whistle. Cool and let the balls soak in the syrup.

The short way.
Buy a block of readymade paneer and blend it into a smooth paste. Add a spoon of maida and a couple of pinches of baking powder. Knead into a smooth dough. Shape into small tight balls and boil in sugar syrup as above.

Variations: Try using various cheeses ( ricotta, mozarella, cheddar..), mixing them with flour, if they do not hold their shape.

Related sweets
Make the balls double normal size and they are called Rajbhog.

Let the cooked balls soak in thick sweetened milk and it becomes Roshomalai.

Mix some orange extract with the milk solids before kneading and you get Komola bhog.

Sponge rasgulla :
Knead the milk solids with a bit of maida and baking powder to puff up the balls while cooking and you get sponge rasgulla

Get comfortable cooking with paneer and a whole world of sweets is waiting to be discovered.

Blend paneer, sugar and corn flour together. Stir and cook for a couple of minutes. Coat with nut crumbs / dry fruits. Shape, refrigerate and serve.

Mishti Doi
Boil milk till reduced to half.
Heat a pan and add sugar. Cook on low heat till sugar caramalizes. Mix well with milk. Add yogurt and let the magic begin.

Cham Cham
Cook exactly as you do rasgullas. While serving garnish with slivers of nuts/ dry fruits and serve.

Boil milk till reduced to half, add blended paneer, sugar and keep stirring till it thickens. Set in a tray. Garnish and serve. (No need to knead cheese.)

Hang curd to drain off all water.Mix with sugar, saffron and cardamom. Churn. Garnish with dry fruits.

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