Today I tried my hand at something very different from my usual items of interest – I made a highly popular and versatile Indian dessert called Barfi/Peda. It is a class of milk based sweet that can take a variety of flavors, textures and colors depending on the maker and the idea. Traditionally cardomom, pistachio, milk, rose, saffron, almond, cashews etc have been the dominant flavor but these days there is a variety of new flavors making waves (think chocolate and some new fruit based flavors). Most of these desserts start with what is called as fresh chhena/paneer which is very easy to make at home. However easy does not mean No Effort and so, when on a time crunch or cooking on impulse, I choose to use the nearest substitution available here in US – Ricotta Cheese. Ricotta Cheese is an Italian (mainly) dessert cheese made from (primarily) sheep’s milk and belongs to the family of cottage cheese more than a cultured/aged cheese. It is as wonderful on its own as when used in dishes like cheesecake, cannoli, crepes, pancakes, beignets and other fried dough stuff etc. And here is the sweet little thing for us Indians. It acts as a great substitute of chhena in Indian desserts. I have made a very popular Indian Cheesecake using Ricotta, called Chhenapoda and while it was not the absolute authentic version, I can vouch for it’s effectiveness as a close substitution.
Similarly, the other ingredient very often used in Indian desserts includes khoya (or heavily reduced sweetened milk, almost of a fudgy consistency). Again, since that is not exactly a common pantry item found here, I use sweetened condensed milk as a close substitution. And it works 🙂 Using these two items, you can try your hand a variety of desserts including peda, sandesh, kalaland, barfi etc… I tried making barfi using these items the result was good enough for me to keep this recipe in my favorites folder. Hope you feel the same 🙂
FYI, this came out to be fudgy, soft and smooth in texture. We loveddddd it 🙂
Ingredients: Makes makes 12-16 servings
1. 15 Oz Ricotta Cheese
2. 15 Oz sweetened condensed milk
3. 6-8 pods of cardomom
4. 1 tbsp minced pistachio (optional)
5. 1-2 tsp rose water (optional)
1. De-skin and de-seed the cardomom pods. Then crush the seeds coarsely using a mortar-pestle or a coffee grinder.
2. Heat a heavy bottomed pan on medium high. Add the condensed milk to it. Now add the ricotta cheese and mix well to remove all lumps and get a smooth, pasty mixture.
4. Keep stirring the mixture continously till it reduces to a cake batter like consistency, about 15-20 mins. Remember – stir continously to avoid burning, take ample care to avoid the hot splatter and finally do not overdry the mixture since cooling will make it way firmer than what you have in the pan.
5. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 odd minutes. Then transfer it into a baking/pie dish and set it uniformly. Put the dish in the fridge for at least 30 mins.
6. Sprinkle pistachio and rose water before serving. Serve cut up into pieces.
1. You may choose to use different flavors like kewra, khus, or orange as well as different food coloring to pep up the dish. Add it just before turning the heat off.
2. You can add sweetened cocoa powder to come up with a chocolate version. I am going to try this some day for sure.
3. You can choose to keep the dish as dry or as moist as you want – just reduce the heating time by a few minutes to keep it a bit more moist and a little less fudgy.