Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Sondesh

Norom paker Sondesh (Ultra soft sondesh)  








Once you have had your success with Sondesh a delicate sweet from Bengal you realize its one of the easiest desserts to make but all you need is patience, strong hands and a will to knead a good amount.

Before I give the very easy recipe what you need to know is Sondesh can be categorized broadly under 'Norom Pak' the soft melt in the mouth variant which is cooked for a few minutes to make cotton soft sweets and then there is the 'Kora Pak' the hard variant which lasts longer than the Norom Pak but quite honestly isn't of the melt in the mouth texture. Then there is 'Kacha Golla' a softer variant which is not even cooked or hardly cooked to keep it ultra soft.



Now I was born in the city of sweets at least the city of Sondesh, Kolkata , but I am very particular about the kind of sondesh I eat. If its coloured I will give it a skip, if it has too much of fragrance from artifical attar I detest it. I like mine in the purest form with natural falvourings such as rose or saffron or pistachios or almonds.

When it comes to Sondesh I cannot remember my maternal grandmother, 'Dima' who stays in a house which is more ancient than her 92 years. Not that she has ever made sweets but my Dima was always the sweet connoisseur or rather one who staunchly believed when it came to sweets it must be traditional. There is one of the oldest sweet shops in Calcutta located near her home called , 'Bhim Chandra Nag' established somewhere in 1848 and while I was growing up she would ritually send me to get sweets from the sweetshop to feed me a huge number of sweets. Later in my late teen years I would protest saying that it seemed irrational since at times I did not want to eat sweets. Only after I passed out from college and suddenly stepped into adulthood did I realize how much I cherish these silly rituals.



Today when I made these soft sondesh and fed my 92 year old grandmother at first she refused them saying she has lost her taste and doesn't enjoy sweets and then when I informed her that I have made it myself she ate an entire square and said that it was fantastic. I guess that brought me all the joy.



Then there is my Mimi (maternal uncle's wife) who is a true magician in the kitchen when it comes to Bengali dishes and when her approval came for the sweets I knew I have passed in the art of making sweets. Funnily enough I realize it now that I have begun writing that I did not follow anyone's recipe but I will share those very important tips which are essential

What you need for 16 squares of Sondesh

1.5 litre full cream milk
1 tbsp to 2 tbsp non fruit vinegar diluted with 1 tbsp water
6 tbsp castor sugar
50gm finely chopped pistachios which have been blanched from before
2 fat green cardamom
Ghee or clarified butter for greasing

The process is pretty simple. Bring the milk to a roaring boil in a large pan and slowly add the diluted vinegar and keep boiling till the cheese is formed and you see the greenish whey and the floating cheese. Turn off the gas stove and cover with a lid with no holes and let it stand for 5 minutes.

Now gather the cheese in a cheesecloth or muslin cloth and hang it to drain it of whey for 15 minutes.

In the meantime dry roast the cardamom for 2 minutes and take out the seeds and pound them to a fine powder. Blanch the pistachios and finely chop them.

After 15 minutes take the cheese in a large flat bowl. It helps to have a raised fence around the flat plate greased with ghee from before for ease of working with the cheese. Start mashing it using both your hands and then use the heel of your palm to make the smoothest dough ever. Your Sondesh's success depends completely on this process of kneading.

After 5 minutes add the sugar and cardamom powder and knead for 15 minutes. In the end it will be a soft dough. Now take the smallest possible wok in proportion to the amount of cheese dough and place the dough in it and cook this on low heat for just about 2 minutes to 3 minutes.



Let it cool down and knead with some amount of the finely chopped pistachios for 10 minutes and then make 16 balls and shape them in squares on a greased plate. Finish off by sprinkling pistachios on each square.



For making Ultra soft Sondesh these following tips are crucial :-


  1. The milk must absolutely be 100% whole milk. No compromise on fat please 
  2. You must not use lemon to curdle the milk since it leaves a lemony smell which interferes with the flavours you use 
  3. If you want ultra soft melt in the mouth Sondesh you hand the cheese for 15 minutes else you can hang it for 30 minutes 
  4. You cannot compromise on the time for kneading because that dictates how soft your Sondesh will turn out 
  5. When it comes to flavouring know that Sondesh is supposed to be delicate so if you are using rose flavour where you use 1 tbsp rose water per 500ml of milk used for making cheese its best to not use cardamom because then the flavour of cardamom will overpower the flavour of rose. When using saffron no other flavouring is needed. 


Rose flavoured Norom Paker Sondesh



2 comments:

  1. This looks absolutely stunning... Can feel the softness from the pictures itself.. Haven't tried my hand on them yet... :-)

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    1. Oh thank-you . Do try them - I am sure you'l make superb sondesh :)

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