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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Rasgulla - A Cottage Cheese Dessert

Rasgulla or Rosogolla is possibly the most well known Bengali dessert. These are made from cottage cheese also known as paneer. Fresh paneer is kneaded into small balls and then cooked in syrup. The result is light dumplings which have a slightly sponge like texture. These absorb the syrup and are generally not overly sweet. In comparison to "gulab jamun", these are definitely much lighter and spongier in texture and not as sweet.

As a child, I refused to try this sweet. I tasted it for the first time when I was in the 7th grade and was delightfully surprised by the light, not too sweet, refreshing taste. In the last few years, I have only eaten the canned version found in the Indian store and those leave you with a tinny after taste. So, when my cousin requested that I make this when he visited me, I was more than happy to oblige. Oh and they turned out so good, that I haven't been able to eat the tinned ones ever since. I used my paneer recipe and then experimented with the method from my friend's blog. My conclusion was that the recipe is not too difficult and the returns on effort are truly worth it. Now, one of my friends is expecting her first child and has been craving this sweet for a while. I wish I were in the same city as hers to prepare it for her, but as that is not possible, giving her the recipe is the next best thing I can do. This one's for you M!

Freshly prepared paneer made from Whole milk - Refer to the paneer recipe post for the method of preparation and ingredients
2 cups of sugar
5 cups of water

After you have rinsed out the milk solids separated from the whey water and drained out excess water, you will then knead the paneer to bring all these milk solids together. At this stage, knead the paneer for a couple of minutes. At the end of the kneading process, the paneer should come together into a soft dough. At this stage you are ready to roll the paneer into small balls. Use a light hand to roll out the balls. Remember these balls will puff upto almost double the size upon cooking, so roll them out into balls about an inch in diameter. This will ensure that the rasgulla is not too big and can be eaten easily. 

Once all the balls are rolled out, dissolve the sugar in water to create a simple syrup. Use a deep vessel which can be covered with a lid. Heat the syrup till it starts boiling and then add these paneer balls into the syrup gently, one at a time. Now at this stage, if your paneer is not well kneaded or the balls have become too dry, they may start cracking or disintegrating. So add one or two balls and observe them for a minute before proceeding with the rest.  Then add the remaining balls to the syrup annd cook these in the open pan for 5 minutes. Then cover with a lid that has a vent. Use a lid with a vent, else the syrup may boil over (you need to release the steam generated while the paneer is being cooked). If you have a pressure cooker, remove the whistle from the lid and then use the pressure cooker to cook the paneer balls. Cook these covered for about 5-7 minutes (this is when they will double in size). Then, take off the lid. At this stage the paneer balls would have doubled in size. Then add about 1/4 cup of water and cook it uncovered for a five more minutes. Your paneer has now been converted into the delicacy that is "rasgulla". Rasgullas as accompanied by the syrup, so do not scoop them out of the syrup. Let them cool down in the syrup. Do not cover the pot before the rasgullas cool down. Keep it in the fridge for at least an hour before serving. Serve cold as dessert.

Squeeze out excess water, and it is ok to drain the water completely. Then as you start kneading the paneer, add a tsp or so of water at a time to get it together into a dough. A little moisture is needed to give the paneer it's dough like texture upon kneading. If while kneading it, it feels too crumbly, then add a tsp of water and knead. You know you have kneaded enough when the paneer gets a playdough or clay like texture. Hands will get slightly greasy upon kneading the paneer. Do not use low fat or skimmed milk. Fat content is needed, else you will not be able to form the paneer balls. Cover the rolled out paneer balls with a damp cloth (not wet), especially during summer and if you live in a dry climate. This will prevent the paneer balls from developing cracks.  


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