Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Baked Malai Sandesh Recipe / Baked Sweet Cottage Cheese In Thickened Milk ~ Shubho Mahalaya


I wake up with a jolt and a pounding heart and strain my eyes to look through the dark room. Collecting my self and my thoughts I wonder what woke me up so early. I pick up my mobile and see the time. It's 3 a.m. in Dubai. My eyes fall on the missed call and I scroll down to see that Ma had called. In a flash everything comes back and my eyes light up with a broad smile. I take a deep breath and try to imagine the intoxicating aroma of the pristine white Shiuli Phool (Night Flowering Jasmine). Then I tip toe out of the room, walk downstairs and open the door. As I step out neither can I feel the nip in the air, nor can I see the dancing kash phool (Kans grass native to India) in the far horizon. It's still far from being cold and in the light of my house I can see only Palm trees. Sigh!! I am in Dubai and not in Kolkata, where my heart is. Today is Mahalaya, a very special day for Bengalis. I sit in my garden and call Ma. All she says is "Shon" (listen) and then the most familiar voice of Birendra Krishna Bhadra buzzes into my ears, as my eyes swell up with tears.



If you are a Bengali reading this, you know what I mean. For all my non Bengali friends, Mahalaya is that day of the year which heralds the forthcoming Durga Puja. On this day the artisan paints the eyes on the idol of the Goddess and is known as 'chokhu daan' in bengali. In my maternal grandparents house, I remember waking up at the wee hours and running to the Mandap (Hall) where Pal Moshai (the artisan) with the permission of my maternal grandfather would start painting the eyes of the Goddess. I still get goosebumps thinking about that moment. There would be tears in everyone's eyes, tears of joy as the artisan would finish the first stroke with his paintbrush. This would be followed by two things. One, my maternal grandma would place an earthen pot in the Puja Room. Then water would be filled in and Mango leaves placed on top and then a tender green coconut would be placed. She would fold her hands and request Goddess Durga to come and grace our family. This ritual would continue till Shashti. Two breakfast would be a platter filled with Phulko Luchi, aloor dum, begun bhaja and mishti.


Far away from all this festivity, I bake Malai Sandesh, which I will serve for breakfast along with Luchi and Aloor Dum, in my effort to familiarize my non Bengali family with Mahalaya. We all are familiar with Sandesh which is a famous Bengali sweet made from cottage cheese. Malai literally means the thick layer which forms when milk is thickened. Malai Sandesh is Sweetened Cottage Cheese cubes in this thickened milk topped up with nuts and saffron. I wanted to do a baked version and as you can see I have done individual servings in pretty ceramic tartlet tins. You can use Ricotta Cheese if you are in a hurry or make homemade Cottage cheese from scratch like I did. This dessert is a visual stunner and is ambrosia in a bowl. The perfect way to bring in the Bengali touch to your festivities. Also for my friends observing the Navratra fast The Baked Malai Sandesh is an ideal sweet to have after you have broken your fast.


Let's have a look at the ingredients and then come and bake with me Baked Malai Sandesh.

Baked Malai Sandesh Recipe / Baked Sweet Cottage Cheese In Thickened Milk ~

AUTHOR ~ PIYALI MUTHA
SERVES ~ 4
CUISINE ~ INDIAN / BENGALI / FESTIVE
TYPE ~ DESSERT / SWEET
TIME ~ 10 MINUTES PREPARATION + 30 MINUTES COOKING + 30 MINUTES BAKING (THIS TOTAL TIME IS IF YOU MAKE FROM SCRATCH)

INGREDIENTS ~

For the Sandesh~

250 Gms Cottage Cheese, preferably homemade, Channa in bengali, you can use ricotta cheese alternately
100 Gms Khoya, Milk Solids, skip if you don't have 
5~6 Tbsp powdered Sugar

For the Malai ~

1 Ltr. Full Cream Milk
350 Gm Condensed Milk

For Garnishing ~

Chopped Nuts of your choice

For Home Made Cottage Cheese ~

Yields ~ 400~500Gms Cottage Cheese, channa
Time ~ 10 Minutes Cooking + 15 Minutes Resting Time

Ingredients ~

2 Ltr. Full Cream Milk
2 Tbsp Lime Juice or Lemon Juice or White Vinegar

Method ~

1) Pour Milk in a deep bottom pan. Bring to a rolling Boil.
2) Remove from flame and add the lime juice or vinegar while stirring continuously. 
3) In a moment you will see the milk curdling and forming whey or light greenish yellow liquid separating out.
4) Take a wire mesh and put a muslin cloth over it.
5) Transfer the contents of the pan into it. The whey will be separated from the cottage cheese.
6) Wash the cottage cheese with running water a few times till no traces of lime or vinegar or lemon are left in it.
7) Now bring the ends of the Muslin Cloth together. Hold it up and squeeze out the water from the cottage cheese by pressing on the muslin cloth with your fingers.
8) Now place the cottage cheese along with the muslin cloth on a plate. Place a smaller plate just enough to cover the cottage cheese. Place a weight over this plate. This is done to remove all traces of water from the cottage cheese. Leave for 15 minutes.
9) Your cottage cheese is now ready for use.

Let's Make Baked Malai Sandesh in easy steps ~

1) On a large plate or clean working surface take the cottage cheese and crumble it.

** With the heels of your palm in an upward and downward motion knead the cottage cheese till it all comes together and is no longer crumbly.
NOTE ~ Don't over knead as then the heat of your palm will make the cottage cheese too soft to handle.

2) Add powdered sugar, khoya. Mix well and bring together all the ingredients again. Divide the mix into 4 equal parts.

3) Take the ceramic tartlet tins or ramekins or oven safe bowls and place one portion in each. Spread out the cottage cheese base with your fingers evenly.

4) Take a large oven proof tray. Place the tartlet tins in it. Fill with water till it touches about half the surface of the tartlet tins.

5) Pre heat the oven at 180 degree C. Place the trays and bake for 20 ~ 25 minutes. 

6) While the sandesh is baking, let's make the malai. Take a deep bottom pan. Add milk. 

**Cook the milk stirring intermittently and also scrape the milk solids off the pan walls from time to time.

** When the milk reduces to half the original amount, add condensed milk.

** Mix Well.

** Simmer for another five minutes and your Malai will be ready.
NOTE ~ If you can handle multiple tasks in the kitchen at the same time, you can make both the Khoya and malai while the sandesh is baking. In this way you can save time from the total amount of time. Also as the season of festivities is upon us, it is always handy to have khoya, rabri, malai etc. in the refrigerator. So make them in advance and keep them refrigerated upto a fortnight.

7) After 20~25 minutes, Remove the trays from the oven.

** Put a tooth prick and test if the sandesh is fully done. It should come out clean.

6) Remove the tartlet tins from the water bath. Pour the thickened milk over the sandesh upto the brim.

** Repeat the same with all the tartlet tins.

8) Preheat oven at 220 degree C. Switch on only the grill mode. You can either place the ceramic tartlet tins in an oven proof tray(do not add water), or directly into the oven. Place the tartlet tins in the top most rack of the oven for 7~10 minutes or till you get a lovely caramelized top. Remove from the oven.

Your Baked Malai Sandesh is ready to serve. Sprinkle lavishly with nuts, dried rose petals, saffron strands or anything you wish of your choice. Serve hot or cold according to your choice. The Baked Malai Sandesh makes for an elegant looking dessert at any of your festive or celebratory gatherings. It is so easy to make and requires few, easily available ingredients. Bring home yumminess and more smiles this festivity with my Baked Malai Sandesh.

WISHING SHUBHO MAHALAYA TO ALL MY BENGALI READERS WORLDWIDE



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