Thursday, May 30, 2013

Desserts from the heart of Bengal...

Desserts , what we say Misti plays an important role for the people of Bengal. Whether your child did good result in class, weddings in on cards or a guest coming to our house, Bengalis bring sweets for their loved ones. Sweet is itself a celebration of our life in Bengal and of course all over India. Most of the sweets are made of freshly made chhana what is made of curdled milk and sugar. There are some sweets which are deep fried and then coated with sugar syrup. It is always an art to prepare these Bengali sweets which require practice and patience.

Chhanar jilipi :::

This is one of the authentic desserts from Bengali cuisine and almost every Bengali's favorite. You wont find this dessert in any other corner of India except authentic Bengali sweet shop. Though it is time consuming and lengthy process but once you prepare and serve to your loved ones, it is sheer bliss and heavenly delicious. I as usual modified a little according to my taste.

Ingredients:::

For 30 nos..
Chhana / cottage cheese made out of 1 lbs whole milk,
1/2 cup dry mewa or dry milk powder,
1/4 cup of semolina or suji,
2 tbsp of maida or all purpose flour,
1 tbsp of powdered sugar,
1 tsp of elachi or cardamon powder,
a few drops of kewra essence, Optional,
Oil for deep fry.

For Sugar syrup..
3 cup of sugar, 
4 cup of water,
1 tsp lemon juice,
2-3 nos. of crushed elachi or cardamon.

Method:::
1. Take a big bowl, add chhana / cottage cheese and knead lightly until it becomes smooth and not sticking your palm. Now add dry mewa, moida, sugar, cardamon powder, kewra essence and suji one at a time and knead nicely to make a smooth dough. Cover the dough with wet paper napkin and let it stand for 15 mins.
2. In the mean time, take sugar and water in a big flat vessel and let it boil sprinkling lemon juice. Lemon juice will help to take out dirt from the syrup and wont allow to crystallize sugar syrup. 
3. When sugar syrup becomes little thicker or two thread consistency,then keep the flame very low to keep it warm.
4. Now make 3o balls from the dough and on a flat surface, sprinkle little maida or all purpose flour and roll into a thick rope shape and then carefully make it round like coil fixing the end under the coil shape with little touch of oil or water. Make it three or two and half round. Be extra careful while doing this part to avoid breaking. Repeat the process to make the rest of the jilipis.
5. Now heat sufficient oil in a wok or kadai and fry one or two at a time on low flame until it becomes light golden brown. Be careful with the temperature of oil to avoid burning them. If you feel temperature is too low then make it medium for a minute or two then again turn the flame to low again.
6. When jilipi becomes light golden brown then transfer it to sugar syrup and let it soak in warm syrup for sometime. Fry rest of them carefully and soak in warm syrup. 
7. When it becomes almost double the size then take off from sugar syrup and keep in a flat plate or serving plate. You can sprinkle some crushed pistachios or cashew nuts on top of that. Serve warm or in room temperature.

You can keep in refrigerator for two weeks. In that case, keep them along with sugar syrup and make it little warm while serving. 
Try to fry one first and if it breaks while frying trying sprinkle little semolina or all purpose flour and make the dough again if you are doing for the first time. Make sure chhana or cottage cheese properly squeezed to take out extra water. While kneading chhana should be oily and comes out of your palm while kneading.
You need to practice 2-3 times while making perfect ones.

Chitrakut :::
First time I heard about this dessert from one of my Facebook friend and then got inspired. I was hesitant to prepare this sweet as I never tasted before. But then on a special day I tried with left-over paneer or cottage cheese when I was preparing rosogolla. It is simply delicious dessert exclusively from Bengal with little patience and  lots of love.
Ingredients:::
for 10 nos...
one cup home-made paneer,
1/2 cup khoya / mawa (dry-milk powder),
1/2 tsp suji / rava, 
3/4 cup moida / all purpose flour,
1 tsp ghee or clarified butter,
a pinch of baking powder,
1/4 tsp cardamon powder.
for sugar syrup...
2 cup sugar,
2 cup water,
1/4 tsp of kewra essence, optional.

Method:::
1. Mix moida / all purpose flour with melted ghee / clarified butter unless you can give a shape when you hold in your fist. Add little more ghee if needed.
2. Crush paneer adding cardamon powder, suji and khowa / dry milk powder and baking powder. Now moida to the paneer mixture. Mix thoroughly rubbing with your palm until it becomes a nice soft dough. You don't need anything to make it soft dough but still if you feel dry and cracked then add few drops of ghee or milk to make it soft. Cover it for 10 minutes with a dampen cloth or paper napkin.
3. In a flat vessel , add water with sugar and let it boil up to two-thread consistency. Once it is done, add rose or kewra essence and keep it warm on low flame.
4. Now make 10 balls out of the dough and give an oval or triangle shape. Heat sufficient oil in a kadai or pan. When oil comes too hot then bring it to very low flame and then fry it two or three in a batch on low flame. 
5. Fry until both the sides become light golden in color and then take out from the kadai.
6. Now put into sugar-syrup and let it soak into syrup for 5-10 minutes. Once it is soft and spongy , your chitrakut is ready and serve it garnishing with pistachios or any finely chopped dry fruits and sprinkle khoya or dry milk powder on the top of it.
For two-thread consistency, you take a two drops of sugar syrup in between forefinger tip and thumb and let it cool little and pull apart gently. If two threads are formed and don't break then it is called two-thread consistency.
You can prepare mawa or kheer boiling half n half milk or whole milk with dry milk powder too at home. You must use home made paneer.  
Make small shape with dough as after frying and then soaking in sugar syrup it will become double the original size.
 

Rangalu r puli :::

Puli or pitha is a kind of dessert what you will find only in eastern parts of India like Assam, Bengal ,Orissa , Bihar and Bangladesh. Basically pitha or pithe are made of new harvested rice, jaggery and freshly scrapped coconut and fried, baked or steamed and then cook in sugar syrup or sometimes in thickened milk too. These desserts are prepared in special occasions in winter time. This particular dessert, a Bengal delicacy , is prepared with sweet potatoes, coconut and jaggery / molasses. Here I have followed Jayati Saha's recipe from one of the famous Facebook community.

Ingredients :::

for 8 nos..

3 medium size sweet potatoes or ranga alu,

1 cup all purpose flour / maida,

1 cup date molasses / jaggery,

1 1/2 cup freshly scrapped or frozen coconut,

for sugar syrup...

4 cups of sugar,

4 cups of water. 

Method :::

1. Heat pan, add jaggery /molasses with little water and when it melts , add coconut and cook on low flame. Stir continuously until it becomes semi-dry and sticky. Let it cool. Your fillings is ready.

2. Boil sweet potatoes in 2-3 cups of water or bake until soft. Drain extra water completely if you are boiling and then peel off the skin. Take potatoes in a big bowl and mash with a fork or hand. Add all purpose flour / maida little at a time and knead for sometime to make a dough.

3. Take small amount from the dough and then make small flat disc and fill with coconut filling and bring all the corners together and seal it to give a round or oblong shape. Your ranga alu r puli is ready. Make all other pulis ready and place in a flat plate.

4. Boil water and sugar in a large pan until water comes to almost half in quantity.Keep it warm on low flame.

5. Now heat sufficient oil in a wok or kadai. Fry all the ranga alu pulis one or two at a time on low flame. Once it becomes golden brown from all the sides, take off carefully from kadai and then put it on warm sugar syrup. Let it stand for minimum 10 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

You can also boil milk with palm molasses or jaggery and then add these pulis into it too. All the sweet potatoes are not same so may be you want more or less all purpose flour / maida to mix with boiled potatoes. Take one or two drops of ghee or oil while preparing the dough and the shapes on your palm.

Sandesh ::::::


Sandesh ,what actually means 'news' , is a specialty dessert of Bengal culture and festivity. It is like a messenger of joy and happiness what comes with any good news apart from rosogolla. It is made of freshly made chhana or paneer or cottage cheese in different ways. Here I m sharing the simple recipe of Sandesh and you can add any flavor with that. 

Ingredients:::

for approx. 20 sandesh...
1 gallon whole milk ,
1 cup white sugar,
half cup vinegar or lemon juice,
half cup khoya or dried milk powder,
1/4 tbsp rose essence.


 Sandesh getting ready..
Method ::::
1. Boil milk in a big vessel and add vinegar while boiling. Stir continuously until greenish water or whey comes out. Let it rest for couple of minutes and then pour into muslin or cheesecloth to take out greenish water and then run cold water to wash out vinegar or lemon juice smell. Now squeeze out extra water properly and your 'chhana' or cottage cheese is ready. Hang it along with the cheesecloth for one hour.
2. Transfer 'chhana' from the cloth to a wide plate and then break into small pieces . Add khoya or dried milk powder, sugar and rose essence into it and knead to make a smooth ball while pressing with palm.
3. Heat a pan on low-medium flame and transfer the dough to the pan and stir continuously on low flame nicely mixing everything together.
4. After 15 mins or when paneer or chhana comes all together or not sticking the corner of the pan and little oily then switch off the flame and let it cool for sometime.
5. Now grease the molding with oil or ghee and then take small portion of the cooked 'chhana' and start pressing carefully on the mold (shown above in the pic) and take little more and press again slowly and then slowly take out from one corner. Be very careful while doing this step to avoid breaking the whole shape. Your sandesh is ready.
6. Repeat with rest of the 'chhana'. Then let it cool for one or two hour or you can keep in refrigerator.
I brought the different molds from India. But you can give any shape what you want like. You can add any flavor like mango, saffron or kesar and others too.

Chomchom :::
This delicious Bengali dessert is not so popular like rosogolla or rosmalai outside North-Eastern parts of India.This homely sweet is more like rosogolla but the shape and sugar syrup consistency and of-course preparation time are different. I used to see my aunt to prepare for any festivals or when her son-in-laws used to come home. After a long time, I had this chomchom here in USA and now this is my second favorite after rosogolla.

Ingredients:::
for 25 chomchom...
1 gallon or 3 1/2 litre milk,
one big cup of white vinegar or lemon juice,
4 tbsp semolina flour or suji / rava,
5 cups of sugar,
1/2 tsp cardamon / elachi powder,
one cup of khowa or dried milk powder for garnishing,
some cherries for garnishing.

Method:::
1. Boil the milk and then add vinegar or lemon juice and stir continuously until the greenish water , what we say whey, comes out.
2. Take a cheesecloth or any thin cloth on a strainer or big vessel and pour the curdled milk onto it and keep under cold water to rinse gently. Now tie together the opposite ends of the cloth and squeeze out extra liquid and hang for minimum 1-2 hours. Your paneer or chhana is ready now. Sometimes you can keep for 4-6 hours.
3. Take out paneer from the cloth and spread on the big plate and sprinkle semolina and cardamon powder and knead nicely while pressing with your palm. Once your palm becomes oily then divide into 25 portions and take one portion and give oblong shape or flat shape from each part. Your chomchom is ready for cooking.
4. In the mean time, take a big vessel or pan and then add sugar and 7 cups of water and mix nicely and boil it for 10 minutes. Once water starts boiling , drop all the chomchom into the water, what we say sugar syrup and cover the pan for 45 minutes on low-medium flame. Once sugar syrup is almost thick in consistency then take out the chomchoms and roll over on khoya or dried milk powder and place half cherries on the top of it and serve.
Paneer / cottage cheese made sweets are very delicate and if you don't follow the steps either it will break while boiling in sugar syrup or become hard. Kneading is very important to do with your palms very carefully and continue unless oil comes out of paneer dough. Don't let it stand for more time once kneading is done.
I used dried coconut powder instead of khoya. You can add 2 tbsp of lemon juice while making sugar syrup to avoid crystallizing. I added little water to avoid the same while cooking chomchom after every 10 minutes.


Kesariya Rosgolla :::
 I prepare rosogolla or cottage cheese balls regularly but first time tried adding saffron strings after reading Suchididi's recipe I tried this simple recipe. With light flavor and color of saffron gives normal rosogolla a fine touch and of course you will get more appreciation from your guests and loves ones.

Ingredients:::
for 10 rosogollas..
1 litre or 1 qt of whole milk,
6 tbsp of vinegar or lemon juice or buttermilk,
1 cup of sugar,
2 cup of water,
one pinch of saffron threads,
very little rose water.

Method::: 
1. Boil milk in a heavy bottomed steel pan nicely and once milk starts boiling , add 2 tbsp of vinegar or buttermilk and keep on stirring until milk starts to curdle and greenish water or whey separates. Let it boil for sometime.
2. Pour everything on a cheesecloth to take out greenish whey and wrap cheesecloth on itself to squeeze out extra water and let it stand for minimum 5-6 hours.
3. Open cheesecloth and take out paneer or cheese and while kneading paneer or cottage cheese add a pinch of saffron threads and then knead nicely to a smooth dough from that paneer or cottage cheese until your palms become oily and paneer is not sticking. Make medium size balls or depending upon the size of your choice. It will become double in size after boiling.
4. Boil water adding sugar in a large saucepan. Once boiling starts add rose water and paneer balls and let it boil for minimum 15 mins on medium flame. Simmer for some more time. Your kesariya rosgolla is ready for serve.
Mix one tbsp of vinegar or lemon juice or buttermilk at a time while milk starts boiling unless and until greenish water comes out. I use 1:2 for sugar and water but if you want more sweetness then use 2:1 proportion for sugar and water. The secret of soft rosgolla is always how good you are kneading paneer. Use your palms while rubbing paneer/cottage cheese.

Chhanar Payesh / cottage cheese pudding :::
Chhanar payesh is one of authentic dessert what you will find only in West Bengal. I heard about this name first time from Suchismitadi what she suggested me to prepare for parties but never happened. Pudding with home made paneer or cottage cheese or what we say chhana is very delicious and very tempting too. Small pieces of paneer cooked with thickened milk with pistachios and saffron and little drops of rose water make your home so festive mood.
Ingredients:::
1/2  gallon or 2 lt whole milk,
half cup vinegar or lemon juice,
2-3 nos. broken cardamon,
1 no. bay leaf,
1 cup sugar,
half cup of chopped pistachios and almonds,
few strands of saffron,
1 tbsp rose water or kewra.
Method:::
1. Boil half of milk. Once milk starts boiling, add vinegar or lemon juice to it and stir unless milk curdles or green water comes out. Pour everything on a strainer to take out greenish water / whey. Run cold water on paneer / curdled milk to wash off any smells of vinegar or lemon juice. Let it stand on the strainer for minimum 40 minutes.
2. Add bay leaf and cardamons to rest of the milk  and boil on medium flame to reduce 1/3rd of it stirring occasionally to avoid burning at the bottom of the vessel. Add sugar and let it simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Break paneer / cottage cheese into small fragments and then slowly add little at a time to the milk stirring milk occasionally and let it cook on low flame for another 10-15 mins.
4. Once done, pour on the serving bowl and garnish with chopped dry fruits and saffron strands and a few drops of rose water or kewra. Serve chilled.
If you don't wash paneer properly under cold water then milk will be spoiled when you will add crumbled paneer to it specially if you are using lemon juice. For safer side, boil one cup of water adding 4 tbsp of sugar in it and then cook crumbled paneer with sugar syrup slowly for 5-7 minutes. Then add cooked paneer to thickened milk.

Komolabhog :::
A pure winter-special dessert made out of chhana or cottage cheese carefully mixed with orange juice is almost-extinct dessert from Bengali tradition. I dint know about this dessert till I had it once at a party of our member from St Louis Bengali association. His wife, Nibedita prepares awesome desserts and that was a perfect Bengali dessert. I tried so many times and delighted my guests all the time.
Ingredients :::
10 cups of whole milk,
4 cups of fresh orange / tangerine juice,
1/4 tsp cardamon powder,
one drop of orange essence
1/2 cup of grated orange skin,
a pinch of saffron soaked in warm milk,
3 cups of sugar,
4 cups of water,
Method:::
1. Boil milk in a heavy bottomed steel pan nicely and once milk starts boiling , add orange juice at a time and keep on stirring until milk starts to curdle and greenish water or whey separates. Let it boil for sometime.
2. Pour everything on a cheesecloth to take out greenish whey and wrap cheesecloth on itself to squeeze out extra water and let it stand for minimum 5-6 hours.
3. Open cheesecloth and take out paneer or cheese and add cardamon powder and one drop of orange essence. 
4. Take paneer / cottage cheese on a big flat plate and knead nicely to a smooth dough from that paneer or cottage cheese until your palms become oily and paneer is not sticking. You can do this using food processor. Use pulse option for 40 seconds. 
5.Cover the dough with a wet cloth or wet paper napkin and keep aside for 10-15 mins. Then, make medium size balls from the dough.
6. In the mean while, add sugar, cardamon and water in a pressure cooker and let it boil. Once it starts boiling, bring the flame to medium heat and add paneer balls carefully into sugar syrup. Cover the pressure cooker without whistle and let it cook for 12-14 minutes. Switch off the flame and let it cool. Serve hot.
No need to run cold water on paneer at step 2 as you need orange flavor for the dessert and you can use saffron soaked in warm milk while boiling milk at step 1 or mix roasted saffron soaked in 1/4 tsp of warm milk while kneading and add little while making sugar syrup. But I dint have saffron while making this dessert. That's why I used a pinch of orange food color and orange essence. When you prepare this dessert and refrigerate two days before, then komolabhog nicely soak in sugar syrup and no need to add thick sugar syrup too.  
Cheesecloth is a  fine muslin type cloth which is easily available in any big superstore in UK n US.


Nalen Gurer Payesh:::

Nalen or Khejur gur means liquid date palm jaggery prepared from squeezing out the liquid from Palm tree. The taste and aroma is way better than simple jaggery.In winter only, you can find Khejur gur in India specially north-eastern parts and people prepares payesh or rice pudding with this jaggery .
Payesh or rice pudding is a sweet I think everybody prepare at home mostly in India. On my birthday, my mom used to prepare for me and after coming from temple with dad,I used to have this payesh sitting at our courtyard under the warm Sun ,in January.
Now whenever I miss my mom as she is very far away in India ,I prepare this dish.

Ingredients :::
1 litre or half gallon whole milk,

1 cup Gobindobhog / kaala jeera / Basmati rice,
1 disc of Nalen gur,
a hand full of raisins.

Method:::
1. Wash and soak the rice for some time.If you are using Basmati rice don't soak in water.Just wash and keep aside.

2. Take a pan,boil of two cups of water and mix nalen gur with that and stir until it becomes nice thick liquid.
3. Boil milk in a heavy deep bottomed sauce pan nicely.When milk starts boiling ,add rice and stir well on medium flame. Be careful otherwise milk will overflow while boiling.
4. Stir occasionally to check that rice is cooked or not and as soon as milk starts thickening ,you have to stir frequently to avoid burning the milk from bottom.
5. Once rice is cooked ,add jaggery syrup to the milk and stir gently to mix the syrup in milk.
6. Let it boil on very slow flame to thicken the milk more. Actually milk should reduce to half and when you take one tsp it should flow to the corner.
7. Once done, take off from flame and keep aside to get cold and set properly.Serve hot or cold garnishing with raisins or any other dry nuts.

Now some people add bay leaf while boiling the milk and add extra sugar also.You can add more khejur gur syrup if you need more sweet. But at my home this measurement goes very well as my hubby and son don't like more sweet. Don't put directly jaggery in boiling milk will become curd immediately.You will easily get Nolen or Khejur gur in any Bangladeshi store allover in USA.NEVER USE NON-STICK PAN FOR PREPARING THIS DISH BECAUSE MILK STICKS AND SCALD BADLY FROM BOTTOM OF THE PAN.

Rosogolla in pressure cooker::::



Rosogolla is a very special sweet cheese balls soaked in sugar syrup. Though this sweet dish was originated in Orissa,India. But all time favorite for Bengali's. There are varieties of rosogolla ,but here I tried the easiest and instant process to prepare on the eve of Bengali New Year this time. Believe me,it was hit for the first time. Every body after seeing the photo requested me for the recipe..so I thought why not I post here for everybody.I followed two recipes of my friend Padmaja and one which was given to one of the orkut communities by Moitrayee.

Ingredients:::
half gallon / 1 litre milk,
1 or 2 medium size lemons,
1 tsp cardamon powder,
2 cup sugar.

Method :::
1. Take a big saucepan / pot , boil milk and stir sometime while boiling. That helps milk little thicker.
2. Now squeeze lemon juice in a bowl or cup.
3. And pour lemon juice in milk and keep on stirring to mix nicely until you see the milk starts to curdle and greenish water comes out.Add more lemon juice if you needed.
4. Now take off the pan from heat and strain curd which is chhana or paneer on the big filter. Run cold water on chhana or paneer to wash extra lemon juices and then let it be there for 20 mins to strain excess greenish water.
5. When water drops stop completely,then press gently to take out if there is more water from paneer / chhana.
6. Now take a deep bottomed bowl, take chhana and start kneading to make a smooth dough.
7. Once you will feel little oiliness in your hand while kneading then keep aside for 5-7 mins .
8. Now make small balls from the dough and keep on the paper napkin to soak excess water if there are any left.
9. Now take 2 cups of sugar and 2 1/2 cups of water and cardamon powders / broken cardamons in a big pressure cooker for boiling .
10. Once boiling starts bring on to medium flame and then add gently those balls to sugar syrup and close the pressure cooker without weight. Let it cook for 12-15 mins.
11. Once done, turn off the flame and let the steam comes out from the pressure cooker and let it cool.Don't touch otherwise there is chance to break. You can open the pressure cooker for cooling too.
12. Gently shift the rosogollas in a big serving tray and serve hot.

While making rosogollas , I did not find any thin cloth to tie Channa to take out excess water. That's why I kept on a big tea filter .And Kneading is most important part of this sweet ,how much smooth you knead the dough more soft rosogollas you will get.And if you feel extra water sprinkle a little all purpose flour while kneading. You can make sugar syrup more sweeter using 1:1 proportions with sugar and water too.
Cheesecloth is a  fine muslin type cloth which is easily available in any big superstore in UK n US.