Snacks & Treats
3 Simple Recipes For Indian Milk Sweets
BY JULIE VAN ROSENDAAL, Dinner With Julie
Nov 1, 2018
It was a visit to a sweet shop in Brampton, Ontario — and later, dessert at Calcutta Cricket Club in Calgary — that reminded me how much I love Indian milk sweets. Although I’m still learning about mithai, or milk-based sweets, I adore them all — the kheer (rice pudding), the mango kulfi (a rich, dense ice cream) and rasmalai (soft cheese dumplings in cardamom cream). The tradition of cooking with milk powder, milk, cheese and cream, often caramelizing it or infusing it with cardamom, is irresistible. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a sweet shop nearby, the sweet treats are simpler to make than you might think, and perfect for holiday parties.
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As usual, I referred to the latest book from my friend and well-traveled food tour guide Karen Anderson and her mentor, bestselling Calgary cookbook author Noorbanu Nimji. Cooking from any of Noorbanu’s books is like having her there in the kitchen, talking you through the process. Here are three desserts to start with — bite-sized gulab jamon is one of the best-known Indian sweets, and well worth learning how to make from scratch. Kheer, or rice pudding, is simple and inexpensive, the ideal comfort food no matter your age. This version is spiked with cardamom and saffron, and topped with nuts. And a new dessert to try, the ginger chai log is a brilliant take on the classic chocolate wafer cookie log spread with whipped cream; in this version, chai spiced cream is spread on ginger cookies, then refrigerated so that the cookies soften and the whole log can be sliced. Rich with cream, ginger and chai, it’s a perfectly festive dessert for Diwali and the holidays — and is becoming a new tradition around our house.
Gulab Jamon (Sweet dough balls in syrup)
These sticky bites are most often store-bought, but delicious made from scratch. Adapted from A Spicy Touch, by Noorbanu Nimji with Karen Anderson.
- 3 cups skim milk powder
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp plain yogurt
- pinch cardamom
- pinch nutmeg
- pinch saffron
- 1 cup whipping cream
- canola or sunflower oil, for frying.
- 3 cups sugar
- 3 cups water
- 1 tsp vanilla
- pinch saffron
- a drop of yellow food colouring
- 1/2 cup water
- finely slivered almonds and pistachios, for garnish.
In a large bowl, combine the skim milk powder, flour and baking powder, then rub in the butter with your fingers until it has the texture of breadcrumbs. Add the yogurt, cardamom, nutmeg and saffron. Add the cream and stir until the dough comes together. Add a little milk if it needs extra moisture. Knead for about 5 minutes, until the dough is no longer sticky. Shape into 45 small balls.
Heat a few inches of oil until it’s hot, but not smoking (about 350˚F), and cook the balls until evenly browned. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined tray and prick each one with a toothpick.
To make the syrup, bring the sugar and 3 cups of water to a milk with the vanilla, saffron and food colouring until the mixture is sticky. Place the balls in the warm syrup, add the remaining 1/2 cup water and simmer for about 5 minutes or place in a preheated 200˚F oven for 15 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with slivered almonds and pistachios.
Kheer (Rice pudding)
- 1/2 cup short grain rice
- 3 cups water
- 4 cups whole milk (or 3 cups milk, 1 cup half and half)
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
- pinch saffron
- 1/4-1/2 cup slivered almonds and/or pistachios, divided
Cook the rice in the water until the rice is soft and mushy and the water is absorbed. Add the milk (and cream, if using) and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.
Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring often to prevent burning. Stir in the condensed milk, cardamom and saffron. Stir in half the almonds and/or pistachios and simmer for a few more minutes, then pour into a bowl. Cool, then refrigerate until well chilled. Serve garnished with the remaining nuts. Serves 8-10.
Double Ginger Chai Log
This creamy cookie log is pure genius; a spiced version of the classic chocolate wafer cookie log softened by whipped cream. It’s not traditional, but a brilliant addition. From A Spicy Touch, by Noorbanu Nimji with Karen Anderson.
Note: it needs at least 8 hours in the fridge prior to serving.
- 2 cups whipping cream
- 2 tbsp icing sugar
- 1 tsp chai masala (spice blend)
- 1 (6 ounce/150 gram) package thin ginger cookies
- 1/2 cup finely diced candied ginger, divided
- 6–8 pieces whole candied ginger
Beat the whipping cream and add the icing sugar and Chai Masala just as soft peaks are beginning to form. Continue beating until thick. Reserve two-thirds of the whipped mixture for later use.
Line a baking tray with plastic wrap. Add half the diced candied ginger to the one-third of the whipped cream mixture. Use it to coat one side of each cookie with and then stack them together to form a log on the plastic wrap. Wrap the plastic wrap around the finished log and then place the log in tin foil and refrigerate it (and the reserved whipped cream) overnight or for at least 8 hours. Place the log on a serving dish and remove the foil and wrap just before serving.
Spread the reserved whipped cream over the log and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of candied ginger. Cut in diagonal slices — so that each piece has multiple layers of cookies and cream showing — and decorate with a piece of whole ginger. Serves 6.