Sandesh (Bengali Milk Sweets)
Eastern India is renowned for its sweets; the date palms that thrive in the tropical climate provide a delicate sugar that’s used to create the many milk-based desserts, or mishti, that are the pride of the region. For these simple bite-size confections from Bengal, milk is turned into homemade paneer cheese and then combined with sugar and cardamom to yield a dense, fudge-like treat. This recipe first appeared in the tablet edition of our August/September 2014 special India issue.
- 8 cups whole milk
- 1⁄3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1⁄3 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. ground cardamom
- Golden raisins or shelled pistachios, for garnish
- Bring milk to a boil in a 6-qt. saucepan, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Add lemon juice and remove from heat; large curds will form. Using a wooden spoon, gently push curds together toward one side of the pot; do not stir or the curd will break into small pieces. Line a fine-mesh sieve with dampened cheesecloth; strain curds and discard whey or save for another use. Rinse curds under cold running water.
- Gather edges of cheesecloth together to form a purse. Tie edges around a wooden spoon. Place spoon over a large pot, balancing ends of spoon so that purse hangs freely. Let drain at room temperature for 1 hour; discard any liquid that collects in pot. Transfer purse to a colander and cover with a heavy-bottom pot filled with water; let cheese drain 1 hour.
- Unwrap cheese and transfer to a work surface. Using hands, knead cheese until a smooth ball forms, 2–3 minutes. Gradually add sugar and cardamom; knead until smooth. Heat a 12” nonstick skillet over medium. Cook cheese mixture, stirring occasionally, until slightly dry but not golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Using hands, divide dough into 8 balls. Press a golden raisin or pistachio into each ball.