The first is Shrikhand, a simple dessert of strained thick yogurt mixed with sugar and flavorings like saffron and cardamom. I must confess that of all the profusion of Indian desserts that I know and love, shrikhand would never make it to even the top 20. I usually find it too thick and rich and cloying after a few bites. But I was making a typical Maharashtrian meal for some friends last night and decided to give it a try. After all is said and done, it *is* a low-maintenance no-cook dessert and when you make it at home, you have full control over how much sugar you add to it.
I got this recipe from an aunt (actually one of my parents' closest friends). She belongs to that band of Indians who settled in the US in the 70s, in the days when Indian ingredients and stores were few and far between in this country. Over the decades, she has tried and tested and perfected (and how!) ways of making Indian favorites using ingredients commonly found in American supermarkets. When she informally told me how she makes shrikhand, I tuned out everything else and filed away the instructions carefully in the voice recorder of my brain. When you collect recipes as I do, you quickly learn to memorize every detail when an accomplished cook is talking. Virtually every shrikhand recipe that I come across mentions that it is essential to use full-fat yogurt. According to my aunt, *low-fat* yogurt yields the best shrikhand (full fat is too buttery and non-fat is too chalky, as per her trials). Now, this is not someone who would ever compromise taste for the sake of low-fat anything, so when she says that low-fat tastes the best, I am convinced. She also mentioned that she prefers Dannon brand yogurt. I used Trader Joe's and it worked just fine. The taste of this shrikhand was so irresistible that I felt absolutely no need to add sour cream or anything else to it, as some recipes do. Thank you, Anju maushi, for sharing your recipe!
1 tub (32 oz/ 4 C) low-fat plain yogurt
3/4 C granulated sugar (anywhere from half to one cup, according to taste)
pinch of salt
1/2 t powdered cardamom
1 t warm milk
1 hefty pinch saffron threads
2-3 T chopped almonds or pistachios
1. Set a large strainer on a bowl. Line the strainer with clean porous fabric (eg. cheesecloth) or clean coffee filters. Pour the yogurt into the strainer. Cover the strainer/bowl and place in refrigerator overnight (8-12 hours).
2. Place the thick, strained yogurt into a fresh bowl. The nutritious whey that has dripped away can be used to knead paratha/roti dough, in dals or soups.
3. Add the sugar 2-3 T at a time, stirring every time you add some, at 3-5 minute intervals. This way the sugar dissolves evenly into the yogurt.
4. Meanwhile, stir the saffron into the warm milk and let it soak for 5-10 minutes.
5. Finally, after all the sugar has been mixed in, add a pinch of salt, saffron, cardamom and nuts. Stir and refrigerate until you serve it.
This shrikhand was delicious, and might be worth a try for those who think they don't like shrikhand much. Low-fat, schmo-fat...it was utterly creamy with just the right consistency, to my palate. And far less indulgent than most other desserts I can think of. Other delicious additions to shrikhand are nutmeg powder and charoli. At feasts in Maharashtra, shrikhand is often the accompaniment to puri-bhaji.
Fruity takes on shrikhand:
Strawberry Shrikhand from Ashwini
Blackberry Shrikhand from Manisha
Peach-Saffron Shrikhand from Suma
Amrakhand from Aarti
There is such a thing as "chocokhand" (chocolate shrikhand) sold as a novelty by some Indian dairies, but it looks like no blogger has tried making that yet :D
Strained yogurt is such a versatile ingredient. Among other things, it can be used to make sandwiches, frozen yogurt, tzatziki, and delicious dips.
There are so many parties and get-togethers this month that an over-abundance of desserts is almost inevitable. I swear I am making these sweets to take to holiday festivities and to share with lots of people and restricting myself to itty-bitty servings (that's not what her hips are saying). To continue with the sugar high, here is the other dessert I made this week: Lemon Squares.
I saw Key Lime bars being made on an episode of America's Test Kitchen on PBS and they looked irresistible- a sweet cookie crust baked with a sweet and tangy custard filling made quite simply with citrus juice and sweetened condensed milk. I used lemon instead of lime because it is what I had on hand. I also could not find animal crackers in the store so I subbed something called Teddy Graham Honey crackers. Sorry, cute little teddies who got blitzed to crumbs in the food processor :( I loved the graham cracker crust here, so I will continue to use it instead of the animal crackers.
1. Prepare a 8X8 inch square baking pan by lining it with foil (with some overhang) and lightly oiling the pan.
2. Preheat the oven to 325F
3. Crust: In a food processor bowl, add 5 oz. honey graham crackers, pinch of salt, 3 T melted butter, 3 T sugar and a dollop of molasses. Pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Pour it into the prepared pan and pat it down evenly (I used the bottom of a glass).
4. Bake the crust for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 20 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, make the filling: In a bowl, mix 1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk, 2 oz. cream cheese (1/4 of the standard pack), 1 egg yolk, pinch of salt, 1/2 C fresh lemon juice and 1 T lemon zest.
6. Pour the filling into the bakes crust and bake for 20 minutes. Cool for an hour, then chill thoroughly before slicing into 16 squares.
This dessert is really fun to make, for some reason. And tastes divine. These people agree.
To all my friends who celebrate it, here's wishing you a Merry Christmas!