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Question Dear Kurma,
Can you please give me step-by-step instructions on how I can make
rasgoolas. I tried a recipe off the internet but it did not work very well.
Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you!  
(L, Australia)

AnswerDear L,
Here is a recipe for this famous Bengali sweet. It is from a wonderful book called "Lord Krishna's Cuisine - The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking", by Yamuna Devi. Yamuna's sweet recipes are unsurpassed. By the way, Rasgoolas are my all-time favourite sweet!

 

Rasgoolas

First some information...

rasgoolasJuicy panir cheese sweets, called rasgoola, are made with two basic ingredients: milk and sugar. Subtle variations in treatment determine the character of each variety. It matters little what catalyst you use to prepare the cheese: a citric acid solution, lemon juice or soured whey. Once made, the solid curds are immediately pressed to compact them, and then kneaded while still warm.

Professional Bengali halwais (sweetmakers) turn out immense quantities daily. Consequently, the cheese is kneaded with traces of fine semolina, flour or arrowroot which act as binders - a precautionary measure that helps keep the sweets in perfect shape while they are cooking. If the moisture content of untreated panir is not within a suitable range, the rasgoolas often crack, deflate or even crumble while they vigorously boil in syrup. Because I am attempting to present the finest standard of Bengali sweet making, the following rasgoola recipe does not call for binders. It relies instead on precise weight information and clear instructions.

For assured success in this recipe, you will need an accurate scale to weigh the warm panir, but little else in the way of ingredients or equipment. Unless otherwise specified, panir made from 8 cups (2 litres) of whole milk should be pressed until it weighs 270-285g (9½ -1O ounces). Alternatively, follow the instructions carefully, and to be on the safe side, bray the cheese along with 1½ teaspoons arrowroot or white flour to minimize excess moisture content.

In Calcutta's Dalhousie Square, the firm of K.C. Das specializes in rasgoolas, sandesh, and other Bengali delicacies. Shipping the sweets around the nation and selling thousands at the shop on a busy day, their production operation is impressive. During the night, huge quantities of milk are turned into cheese, and scores of cooks comfortably squatting on low floor seats hand-roll smooth, white cheese balls and slip them into cauldrons of heaving sugar syrup. After each batch, the syrup is replenished with more, keeping an even flow of activity batch after batch and never wasting a drop. (If you make rasgoolas in quantity, you need a strong heat source, large stoves and giant pans; but the procedures remain similar.

There are many different textures of rasgoolas. For example, one texture is achieved by momentarily pressing cheese made from raw milk and cut with a sour whey agent under a weight, then braying the cheese until smooth while still hot to the touch, and vigorously boiling it in a thin syrup. Once cooked, it might then be soaked in a perfumed medium-heavy syrup - one part sugar to one part water - to intensify the flavour.

Another texture is achieved by hanging cheese made with store bought milk and cut with a citric acid solution in cheesecloth and slowly draining it of whey for one or two hours.

A third texture is achieved by slowly boiling the cheese in a heavy syrup – say two parts sugar to one part water - and then soaking it in the same syrup. Further, sweets are sometimes cooked in two, three, even four successive syrups of different consistencies before soaking. Whatever your preference for syrup consistency, it must be maintained consistently throughout the entire cooking period.

In an attempt to present the most respected versions of rasgoola, I offer the following guidelines:

  • Add strained lemon juice only until solid cheese curds form; you may need more or less than the amount suggested.
  • 2. Use an accurate scale to weigh the cheese; it should weigh 270-285g (9 1/2 -10 ounces).
  • Use the recommended pan size to take full advantage of the quantity of sugar syrup and select a burner with the strongest heat.
  • Keep a clock nearby and use it when adding thinning water to
    the syrup to maintain a uniform consistency throughout the cooking.

Rasgoolas are served in Bengal for any festive occasion.

 

Now the recipe...

Every Bengali halwai and household has at least one or two favourite recipes for plain rasgoolas. Most recipes follow a similar procedure, but subtle variations are endless. Though experts agree that raw milk yields the best rasgoola, It is not available to most cooks. This recipe is especially composed for store-bought whole milk.

Preparation and cooking time (after assembling ingredients): 1¼ hours
Soaking time: at least 4 hours
Serves: 8

8 cups (2 litres) whole milk
3 tablespoons (60 ml) strained lemon juice
8 cups (2 litres) water
approx 7 cups (exactly 1.5 kg) sugar
1½ teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1½ tablespoons (30 ml) water
½ teaspoon (2 ml) khus or kewra essence or
1½ teaspoons (15 ml) khus or kewra water

Place the milk in a heavy 5-quart/litre pan over high heat and, stirring constantly, bring to a frothing boil. Reduce the heat to moderate, pour in the lemon juice, and ever-so-gently stir. Within 1 minute, soft white cheese curds should separate from the yellowish whey. If the cheese has not formed by then, add up to 1½ teaspoons (15 ml) more lemon juice. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside for 10 minutes.

Line a colander with three thicknesses of moist muslin and place it in the sink. With a slotted spoon, transfer the large pieces of cheese into the colander. Pour the whey and small pieces of cheese through a strainer and add the cheese to the colander. Gather the four corners of the muslin and rinse the bundle of cheese under a stream of lukewarm tap water for 10 seconds. Gently twist the cloth to extract excess moisture, then place the cheese in a colander resting in a 2-quart/liter bowl. Flatten the top, rest a salad plate on the cheese, and then balance a large bowl or pan filled with water on the plate. You may also use any other method that will exert weight on the cheese and allow it to drain. Press the cheese for 20-45 minutes, or until it weighs 270-285g (9½ -10 ounces).

While the cheese is draining, combine the water and sugar in a heavy 5-quart/litre pan and bring it to a boil over moderate heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high and cook, uncovered, for about 5 minutes or until the temperature reaches 105°C (220°F). Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting.

Unwrap the cheese and place it on a clean work surface. Roughly break it apart and press with white paper towels to extract excess moisture. Using the heel of your hand, spread a small amount at a time across the work surface. Gather the cheese into a mass with a wide spatula and repeat the process again and again for up to 5 minutes or until the cheese is smooth and fluffy and without a trace of graininess. Gather the cheese into a mass. Wash and dry your hands, then rub them with a film of oil. Divide the cheese into 16 portions and roll each into a uniformly round ball.

Bring the syrup to a boil over moderate heat. Add the balls, one by one, and gently cook for 1 minute. Raise the heat to high and boil vigorously, covered, for 20 minutes. To keep the syrup at the same consistency throughout the boiling, pour ¼ cup (60ml) of hot water down the sides of the pan (not on the balls) at 4 minute intervals. After the first 4 minutes, add the cornstarch-water mixture along with the ¼ cup (60ml) of plain water. The syrup should be a mass of frothing bubbles, the rasgoolas only visible when water is added to the syrup. The balls will swell and double, triple, sometimes quadruple in size. During the last 3 minutes, sprinkle the surface of the syrup with water every minute. Turn off the heat.

Cool for 10 minutes, then sprinkle with the khus or kewra flavoring. Gently shake the pan to cover the balls with syrup. Soak rasgoolas at room temperature for at least 4 hours. The longer they sit, the more they take on a new dimension, firming up and intensifying in flavour. They may be stored, refrigerated and well covered, for up to 36 hours, though they are served at room temperature. Serve 2 rasgoolas per person in a small bowl with a few tablespoons of syrup.

 

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