Rasmalai (Sweetened Cheese Disks in Saffron Milk Syrup)

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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!

Original recipe

 

Rasmalai (Sweetened Cheese Disks in Saffron Milk Syrup)
From HealthyIndianRecipes

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

For topping:

  • 2 tablespoons chopped pistachios OR sliced almonds (optional)

 

 

Make rabri (thickened milk syrup):

  1. Pour 3 cups milk into a heavy-bottomed pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. Add saffron (if using) and sugar when the milk comes to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium.  Stir every 2 to 3 minutes to prevent the milk from scorching on the bottom.
  4. When a layer of cream forms, just push it aside.
  5. Boil until the milk thickens and reduces by about half.  Set aside to cool.
  6. 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):

  1. In a heavy-bottomed pot, bring 5 cups milk to a boil over medium-high heat.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together lemon juice OR vinegar and water.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Line a colander with cheesecloth and drain curds and whey through cheesecloth.
  6. Squeeze out excess whey, gather together the edges of the cheesecloth, and tie a knot.
  7. Rinse under the faucet to remove the taste of lemon OR vinegar.  Squeeze out excess water.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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:

  1. In a heavy-bottomed pot, combine 3 cups of water with 1 cup sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves completely.
  2. Bring to a boil, then add cardamom powder.
  3. Add the cheese disks to boiling syrup gently.
  4. Cook covered for 8 minutes on a medium-high heat.  The disks will double in size.

Assemble rasmalai:

  1. Remove the disks one by one and cool on a plate.
  2. Squeeze them gently between your palms to remove absorbed sugar syrup.
  3. 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.
  4. Allow to rest for few hours if desired.
  5. Chill and garnish with chopped nuts (if desired) before serving.
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Honey Nut Brownies

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Like most brownies, this recipe works well gluten free.  It has an unusually bouncy texture when you bite into it.  If you’re using pecans, the ones on top caramelize a little and remind me of pecan pie.

 

Honey Nut Brownies
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From my Home to Yours
Yield: 16 brownies
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1/2-2/3 cup sugar, depending on how sweet you want it
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup gluten-free OR all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped nuts, such as walnuts, pecans, or toasted almonds

 

  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 325ºF.  Line a 9 x 9 inch pan with foil, butter the foil, and place on a baking sheet.
  2. In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter until just smooth. Set aside.
  3. Working with a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and salt together on medium-high speed until light and foamy.
  4. Add the honey, sugar, and vanilla and continue to beat for two minutes, or until well blended and smooth.
  5. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the chocolate-butter mixture, mixing only until just incorporated.
  6. On low speed, add flour and mix until it just disappears into the batter. You don’t need to worry about over-mixing if you’re using gluten-free flour.
  7. Using a spatula fold in the nuts.
  8. Scrape batter into prepared pan.
  9.  Bake for 60 minutes if gluten free OR 45-50 minutes if not, or until the brownies have risen and are beautifully brown, and a thin knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  10. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack, peel away foil and invert onto another cooling rack.
  11. Cool to room temperature right side up, then cut brownie bar into 16 squares.

Raspberry Blanc-Manger

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It’s hot and it’s berry season, so what better dessert than a light, fluffy raspberry blanc-manger?  This is a delicate, almond-flavored, mousse-like cake studded with raspberries, then topped with more raspberries and drenched with raspberry coulis.

 

Raspberry Blanc-Manger
From Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

Yield: 6 servings

For the blanc-manger:

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup ground almonds OR super-fine almond flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 (1/4-oz) packet powdered gelatin
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup raspberries

For topping:

 

  1. Set aside an 8-inch cake pan that is 2 inches high.
  2. Fill a large bowl with ice cubes and cold water. Have ready a smaller bowl that fits into the ice-water bath.
  3. Whip cream until it holds soft peaks.  Cover and refrigerate.
  4. Bring milk, almonds, and sugar to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally to make certain the sugar dissolves.
  5. While milk heats, put gelatin and 3 tablespoons cold water in a microwave-safe bowl or a saucepan.  When the gelatin is soft and spongy — it should take about 2 minutes — heat it in a microwave oven for 15 seconds (or cook it over low heat to dissolve).
  6. Stir the gelatin into the hot milk mixture, and remove the saucepan from heat.
  7. Pour the hot almond milk into the small reserved bowl, and set the bowl into the ice-water bath.
  8. Stir in vanilla, and continue to stir until the mixture is cool but still liquid; you do not want the milk to gel in the bowl.
  9. Very gently fold the cold whipped cream into the almond milk with a rubber spatula, then fold in the raspberries.
  10. Spoon the blanc-manger into cake pan, and refrigerate until set, about 2-3 hours.
  11. To unmold the blanc-manger, dip the cake pan up to its rim in hot water for 5 seconds, then wipe the pan and invert the blanc-manger onto a serving plate.
  12. Serve immediately or chill until needed.  Top with raspberries and serve raspberry coulis on the side.
  13. The blanc-manger can be covered and kept in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

Almond Crackle Cookies

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Almond crackle cookies are deliciously crunchy and fragrant, as well as amazingly easy to make.  In the time that your oven preheats, you mix together three ingredients and then dollop the batter onto baking sheets.  Voila – cookies!

Baking notes:

  • Dorie Greenspan also gives instructions for making the cookies in muffin tins, which leads to a prettier shape, but getting them out of the tins is finicky.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have let them cool for longer than 10 minutes, but by the time I tried to remove them, all but five (pictured above) were stuck fast.  The good news is that if you soak the tins in the sink, the cookies will soften and you can clean out the tins.  The bad news is that you won’t have many cookies.
  • If you bake the cookies on cookie sheets, they will be thinner and more crunchy, which I personally prefer.
  • The batter is fairly robust: The second time I made the cookies, I only had 1 cup of almonds, so I cut the sugar to 5 tablespoons and kept the full egg.  The cookies still tasted good.

 

Almond Crackle Cookies
From Dorie Greenspan’s Dorie’s Cookies

Yield: 20 cookies

  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 cups sliced almonds (blanched or unblanched)

 

  1. Position racks to divide oven into thirds and preheat to 325°F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.  Have a small cookie scoop or a teaspoon at hand.
  2. Whisk sugar and egg together in a bowl for a minute or so, until well blended and just a bit thick.
  3. Add the almonds and whisk until evenly coated with the mixture.  You need to use the batter right away — it separates as it stands.  In fact, it’s good to give the batter a stir or two as you’re spooning it out.
  4. Each cookie needs 2 teaspoons of batter.  Scoop the batter onto the baking sheets, leaving at least 2 inches of space between the mounds of batter, and flatten each mound with your fingers or the back of a fork.
  5. Bake for about 20 minutes.  Rotate the pans front to back and top to bottom midway through baking. The cookies should be toasted-almond beige, and dry and crackled on top.
  6. Transfer the baking sheets to racks and let the cookies cool for about 10 minutes.
  7. Carefully lift cookies off sheets with a wide spatula.  (If you used parchment paper, they release very easily.  You probably don’t even need to use a spatula.)
  8. If your kitchen is cool and dry, you can keep these in a tin or paper bag overnight. Keep them longer, and they might soften, a condition easily reversed: Place the cookies on a lined baking sheet and warm them in a 350°F oven for about 6 minutes; cool on the sheet.