When it comes to sweets, bengali sweets are in a league of their own, with virtually no contenders. The usage of cottage cheese for the preparation of these delicacies is time-consuming but is worth the effort put in. It’s a play on different forms of milk like cream, fresh cheese or simply reduced milk.
To make this dessert, you basically need some whole milk, sugar, water, saffron and cardamom. An easy short cut is to buy ready-made fresh cottage cheese or paneer.
This being the first time I tried making payesh, there is one simple rule I learnt which everyone should follow: be patient with the thing and it won’t fail on you :P
Cottage cheese sponge
- 300 g Cottage cheese or paneer
- 4 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups sugar plus 1/2 cup
Reduced Milk syrup
- 6 cups whole milk
- 10-15 cardamoms
- 1 envelope saffron
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Start by preparing the sugar syrup: Mix the water and sugar in a WIDE heavy bottom stock pot and bring it to a boil.
- Till the sugar syrup boils, prepare the cottage cheese balls which need to be cooked in sugar syrup: Knead the cottage cheese or paneer till it forms a soft dough.
- Divide the dough into nutmeg size balls and roll between your palm and finger till it forms a smooth ball without any cracks.
- Once the sugar syrup comes to a rolling boil, put the cheese balls. Word of caution here – ensure that the pot is WIDE enough to provide room for the cheese balls to double up in size.
- Cook for 15 minutes in the syrup. DO NOT move the cheese balls since they can crumble or break.
- After 15 minutes, remove the syrup from the heat and let the cheese sponges cool down.
- As the sponges cool down, one can get started on reducing the milk. This is a simple process though. Pour the milk in a heavy bottom pan and bring to a boil. The milk does need stirring from time to time so that it does not burn to stick.
- Once the milk boils, reduce the heat to a medium low and let it reduce to 2/3 the quantity.
- Add the sugar, saffron and powdered cardamom and mix
- Coming back to the cheese sponges, Once they cool down, squeeze the sponges slightly to drain the excess syrup and dunk in the reduced milk.
- Cook on low heat for another 15-20 minutes.
This is one dessert that tastes the same level of awesome when served warm or chilled so I’ll suggest making this one for yourself and trying both ways.