Saturday, May 15, 2010

Indian Cooking Challenge - Ras Malai

For this month's Indian Cooking Challenge, we are making Ras Malai which is an Indian dessert made of spheres of homemade cheese (paneer) that have been cooked in syrup and then soaked in cream. ICC is the brainchild of Srivalli, and every month she sets about to challenge members to recreate traditional Indian snacks and sweets that have been long forgotten, or relegated out of the home kitchen to restaurants.

Now I have made paneer (homemade Indian cheese) before and blogged about it. The process itself is straightforward. You boil whole milk, add an acidic agent like vinegar or lemon juice, and separate the curdled cheese that is formed.

I've typically seen or used paneer in savoury dishes like Malai Kofta, so it was interesting to see this same cheese is used in a dessert! its transformation comes about by soaking and cooking the paneer in sugar syrup, and thereafter soaking it in sweetened milk that has been reduced down to almost cream consistency.

I followed the ICC recipe to the letter and I was pleasantly surprised that everything came together so well.
  • Paneer. Check.
  • Sweet syrup and cooking in a pressure cooker. Check. Yes, no explosions or fragmented paneer even with the use of a pressure cooker, which I am deathly scared of.
  • The only part I found a little trying was in making the "Ras" - the creamy milk which is the final abode of the sweet cheese balls. You have to boil. And boil. And boil the milk down till it reduces to half. That was pretty taxing, and I had to constantly scrape out thickened cream that was starting to get burnt at the bottom of the dish.
And finally, the result.

Well, here is where the dessert turns a little sour. I'm really impressed that everything came out so well, but I'm not so fond of the actual taste of the dish. I know, quite a let-down. I think its because I have such a sickeningly sweet tooth, so get this folks, this dessert wasn't sweet enough for me!
I  know. Shoot me!
So, the next time if I make this, I'm toying with trying to sweeten the cheese itself with sugar before proceeding on. I'm sure Ras Malai purists are rolling on the floor with angst as they read this, but hey! To each his own!

Ras Malai (I halved the original ICC recipe)

For the "Malai" - Cheese Balls
1 litre full cream (whole) milk
2-3 Tbsp vinegar
1 tsp AP flour

Sugar Syrup
2 cups water
4 Tbsp sugar

Ras - Milk Cream
3 cups full cream (whole) milk
4 Tbsp sugar
saffron, crushed pistachios, slivered almonds, 2 curshed cardamom pods - to decorate

1. Malai - bring milk to a boil.  Add vinegar a tablespoon at a time. The milk will curdle and the cheese will separate out. Only add enough vinegar as to change the color of the separated water from white to a light green color. Drain the cheese in a cloth-lined sieve and place a weight on it to extract a smuch water out. See my more detailed post on making paneer.
2. After an hour of drying, place paneer in a bowl, add flour and knead for about 2-3 minutes. The paneer should not feel wet. Roll into small balls.
3. Bring water and sugar for syrup to boil in a pressure cooker. Add malai balls. Close pressure cooker and cook for about 10 minutes or 2 whistles.
4. Remove malai balls and squeeze gently to remove excess syrup.
5. Heat milk for "Ras" in a heavy-bottomed or non-stick pan, stir occasionally until milk is reduced to half its original volume. Add sugar and cardamom.
6. Add malai balls into milk cream mixture.
7. Decorate with pistachios and almonds. Serve chil


FoodLovers said...

looks yummy ...i also enjoyed this challenge iam sure you did the same loosk perfect

Divya Kudua said...

Talk about similar experiences..:):).

I was very disappointed with the results too,the paneer balls were cooked for the specified time,when they did not actually double in size,I was apprehensive,but I went ahead with the recipe anyway.I too did not like the taste,if at least it was tasty,I did not mind gobbling it down.But the milk was too good,I removed the paneer balls,added some chopped nuts to it,chilled it and served it.It was too good.

I got quite a few mails regarding this which,in fact says,I should have cooked it for a longer time if they did not puff up or were not soft.Anyway,waste of time and energy..:):)

Sounds much more easier to go to a sweet shop and buy Picture perfect Rasmalais with absolutely no effort..:):)

And are not alone in this..:):)

Anonymous said...

They do look delicious! I used half and half instead of reducing the milk to half its quantity. I am lazy bum and don't have so much patience...took a short cut...

The first day when i tasted it, as soon as I made them even I felt the paneer balls were not sweet enough. The next day, after soaking in the cream for for few hours, it tasted good and sweet enough for my taste.

Sayantani said...

ohhh but they look delicious Ann. these are my fav desserts and love having the kheer or the ras more than the rasgullas in it.

PJ said...

Hi Ann,your rasmalai does look tempting..I am so glad to see you take up Indian cooking in such good spirits and enthusiasm..

Since it was my first try I didn't have the guts to try it with large quantities of milk and I used the smaller measurement and thank god they came out well.

Marisa said...

This looks very interesting indeed! Never heard of using paneer in a dessert, but very willing to give it a try. Maybe the cheese sweetens up if left in the milk for a bit longer like one of the commenters suggested?

Yenta Mary said...

My ras malai looked perfect, too, and tasted awful. I agree -- not enough sweetener, no salt ... no flavor! Others seemed to have used sweetened condensed milk for the custard, and I think that likely is a huge improvement. But it was fun making the paneer, which I'll absolutely do again!

Arlette said...

this look a very intersting desset
and making panir is similar to ricotta cheese. I should give this a try.

Jaya Wagle said...

I have a question for you girl: How is your waistline surviving all these cooking challenges that seem to be either deep fried, seeped in ghee or sugar or all of the above?
I am amazed at your tenacity to follow the whole process to the T. I just buy the canned rasagullas from the Indian store, squeeze out the syrup and then soak them in the "Ras", which I admit is a pain to cook but since the paneer balls are taken care of, that is one less step to do. :)

tasteofbeirut said...

I am impressed with your diligence with a cuisine that is quit challenging! Also, I checked and really don't feel bad, the syrup has only 4 tablespoons of sugar! That is not enough even for me!

Bong Mom said...

To satisfy your sweet tooth, cheat. Get a tin of Rosgulla, Squeeze out the syrup, not totally, a bit. Dunk in this creamy milk that you made.

Also use evaporated milk + some amount of condensed milk to hasten the reducing process

Love RasMalai, but have never sweated over it ;-)

Mallugirl said...

u make this dessert look so easy.