I had absolutely no idea. None. Naive, unschooled, and having limited exposure to India food until the last few years I have become a little overwhelmed with the flavors and range available from this country.
Desserts are different between the north and the south. Roughly divided into two groups: milk based such as rasbari, peda, and burfi; the other having a central component of flour, typically rice flour such as lal mohan, malpuwa, halwa and ladoo. This dessert is a Punjabi creamy dessert. Traditionally, it is made from homemade fresh cheese called chenna or paneer. Also it is common to see the rasmalai in yellow and pink.
This recipe is the decidedly upscale version. Pichet Ong, named one of the top ten pastry chefs in America by Pastry Arts & Design he has worked at Chez Panisse, Jean Georges, La Folie and Spice Market. His collection of Asian-inspired desserts, The Sweet Spot, is an elegant but accessible book of over 100 recipes that include unique riffs such as chocolate fortune cookies, an indulgent Chocolate and Vietnamese Coffee Tart and a Spiced Caramel Popcorn that gets it's lift from mukwa, Candied fennel seeds from India. So much to learn, enjoy this in the meanwhile.
Rasmalai with Rose Water & Pistachios
Sweetened fresh ricotta with Rose Milk Syrup
Adapted from The Sweet Spot, by Pichet Ong & Genevieve Ko
3 quarts milk
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tblspn sugar
3 tblspns AP flour
1/4 tspn salt
Put the milk in a largesaugepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. As soon as it boils, remove from heat, sir in lemon juice. It will curdle within a few seconds. If it doesn't set the pan over low heat and stir slowly until most of the milk has curdled, removing from heat.
Set a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth over a large mixing bowl, with at least 2 inches between the bottom of the sieve and the bottom of the bowl. Strain the milk mixture through the sieve. Let sit for at least 20 minutes. If you want to let this sit for longer than 30 minutes, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.
After the liquid has been drained, transfer the cheese remaining in the cheesecloth to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add sugar, flour, and salt and mix on medium speed until well incorporated, about 5 minutes.
Using your hands, scoop the cheese into 1 1/2" balls, gently pressing into little patties about 2" in diameter and about 1 " thick; set on plate while you prepare the malai.
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tblspns plus 1 tspn sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 tspn dried rose metals, plus more for garnish
4 cardamom pods
1/8 tspn salt
3/4 tspn rose water (can substitute with vanilla extract)
1/4 cup (about 31 grams/1 1/8 oz shelled pistachios, toasted, salted
Put all of the ingredients into a large saucepan, stir well, and set over medium heat. Bring to a steady simmer and cook, stirring, until reduced by half and thickened, about 10 minutes.
Add the cheese dumplings to the malai and cook, stirring gently, for 2 minutes, then turn the dumplings over and cook for 2 minutes more. Divide the cheese dumplings and sauce among eight serving bowls, discarding the Cinnamon stick and cardamom pods. Garnish with the pistachios and rose petals and serve warm.
Variation note: In researching the many variations of this recipe out there most suggest serving this at room temperature. To do this finish as directed. Let it cool. When at room temperature, put the pan in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.