A friend of mine had rasmalai or ras malai in a restaurant and enjoyed it so much that he wanted to try making it. This is an Indian dessert consisting of soft cheese disks boiled in cardamom sugar syrup and served in thick saffron milk syrup, garnished with chopped pistachios. Although the recipe looks complicated, it only took us a little over 2 hours and turned out to be very tasty. If you have leftover milk syrup, you can even mix it with rum to make an eggnog-like drink!
Rasmalai (Sweetened Cheese Disks in Saffron Milk Syrup)
Yield: 4 servings
For rabri (thickened milk):
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1⁄2 cup sugar
- Pinch of saffron (optional)
For chenna (cheese):
- 5 cups whole milk
- 2-3 teaspoons lemon juice OR vinegar
- 2-3 tablespoons water
- 4 cups ice water OR ice cubes
For sugar syrup:
- 3 cups water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1⁄4 teaspoon cardamom powder
- 2 tablespoons chopped pistachios OR sliced almonds (optional)
Make rabri (thickened milk syrup):
- Pour 3 cups milk into a heavy-bottomed pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Add saffron (if using) and sugar when the milk comes to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to medium. Stir every 2 to 3 minutes to prevent the milk from scorching on the bottom.
- When a layer of cream forms, just push it aside.
- Boil until the milk thickens and reduces by about half. Set aside to cool.
- When the milk has cooled completely, chill it in the fridge. (Alternatively, put in freezer to cool faster, but check frequently to make sure you don’t freeze it.)
Make chenna (cheese disks):
- In a heavy-bottomed pot, bring 5 cups milk to a boil over medium-high heat.
- In a small bowl, stir together lemon juice OR vinegar and water.
- Add diluted lemon juice OR vinegar to the milk and stir until the milk curdles completely. Pour in more lemon juice or vinegar if needed, but too much of it will make the chenna hard. The leftover liquid (whey) will look greenish.
- Turn off heat, then add ice water or ice cubes to the pot and set aside for 2 minutes. This will help keep the cheese soft.
- Line a colander with cheesecloth and drain curds and whey through cheesecloth.
- Squeeze out excess whey, gather together the edges of the cheesecloth, and tie a knot.
- Rinse under the faucet to remove the taste of lemon OR vinegar. Squeeze out excess water.
- Hang it over a bowl for about 45 minutes to 1 hour for the excess whey to drain off. The cheese will be just moist, with no dripping water. It should not be sticky.
- Transfer the cheese to a plate. Knead well (squeeze with hands) for about 3-5 minutes until it is smooth and no longer crumbly. Do not knead so long that the cheese begins to release grease or fats.
- Make 12 equal balls and flatten them to make disks. If the disks are slightly cracked on the sides, roll the sides gently. Cover and set aside.
Make sugar syrup:
- In a heavy-bottomed pot, combine 3 cups of water with 1 cup sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves completely.
- Bring to a boil, then add cardamom powder.
- Add the cheese disks to boiling syrup gently.
- Cook covered for 8 minutes on a medium-high heat. The disks will double in size.
- Remove the disks one by one and cool on a plate.
- Squeeze them gently between your palms to remove absorbed sugar syrup.
- Add these to the pot of chilled, thickened milk. If desired, simmer for 1-2 minutes on low heat so cheese can absorb milk. However, do not overcook or the disks will break up.
- Allow to rest for few hours if desired.
- Chill and garnish with chopped nuts (if desired) before serving.