When we first moved to the states, we called home to a small town called Orangevale. Usually when you hear California, you think of beaches, Hollywood, even snow peaked mountains, but orangevale was none of those things.
That meant growing up there were no desi restaurants or stores, a luxury my younger siblings never realized they had. (I’m glad). It was a treat when an uncle would bring these milk cakes from one of my favorite sweet shops in la. I never really connected with them, but I would always look forward to their arrival (the sweets haha).
Imagine my surprise years later in college when I discovered how easy these were to make with ingredients that can be found anywhere. I guess it’s fortunate because although nowadays it’s not hard to find desi stores and restaurants, I can tweak the flavors to my preference – aka tone down the high amounts of sugar when bought from outside
Cooking time: 30 min
Yield: 4 servings
- 6 cups whole milk
- 2 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
- 1/4 cup Condensed milk
- 1 tsp cardamom powder
- 1 tbsp ghee/butter (optional)
First we’ll prep the chena which you might also know as ricotta. This is the base for a lot of dishes and is essentially paneer but with less of the whey pressed out. You can use this to make rasgullah, rasmalai, rabdi, or use this technique to make paneer for more savory dishes. Take 6 cups of whole milk and bring it to a boil.
When it does boil, keep the vinegar and a strainer on hand. The separation will happen quick and when it does, try to strain it quickly. This makes sure the curds stay airy and soft. You’ll see a yellowish liquid leftover, that’s whey! I try to usually save this to put in smoothies as a high protein source (also because whey wreaks havoc environmentally and the Greek yogurt industry is struggling with this now. I almost wondered why the protein industry doesn’t just recycle it but just my musings).
You could refrigerate it as a way to prep this in advance, but it tends to get dense. If you decide to keep it in advance, try to break it up and microwave for 30 seconds to loosen it up before we combine it with condensed milk. Its so pretty!
Bring up the pan on low, you’re gonna keep it low throughout the whole cooking recipe so the curds don’t burn! Add the ghee and let it glaze the pan before adding the chena. Let it coat.
After about 2 minutes, add the condensed milk and cardamom. It’s really important that the cardamom is a dust so that there aren’t bites of it in high doses. You can use a spice grinder if you have whole ones, just make sure you’re grinding the seeds and remove the husk.
Keep folding until everything is incorporated and get rid of any large clumps. I like to add almonds and pistachio as garnish. Usually putting it on the bottom of whatever mold or on top depending on the look I’m going for. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving 🙂