It is that time of the year when I miss my family, my cousins and my home the most. The festive season in India has started in full swing and I wish I had been there. The markets must be overloaded with glittery shiny clothes and people must be rushing from work every other day to shop for their favorite attire. People who love to cook would be busy planning fancy meals, arranging parties and tons of milk would be sold for sweets and desserts. It’s the time of the year when we celebrate life, friendship and togetherness. Navratri followed by Durga Puja, Diwali, Christmas and then, New Year celebration; the air is filled with happiness, laughter and lots of joy! I say, indulge in food, laugh a little more, hug your loved ones, eat lots of sweet and let the worry take a back seat.
Bengalis are known for their love for food, especially fish and sweets. Even a daily meal consists of several courses, sometimes two types of fish dishes, followed by a rich meat curry along with rice and lentils and of course, a sweet dish at the end. I have seen Mom doing that all her life and I am glad she has slowed down these days. But whenever there is any occasion, even a tiny tiny get together, she puts on her chef’s hat and cooks up a storm! If you interested in knowing more about Bengali Cuisine, read this article on Bengali Cuisine by my friend Ishita. It made me smile reminiscing of the old days and made me a little bit homesick!
Most Bengali sweets are made with milk, curdled milk, thickened milk, solidified milk and sugar or jaggery. Mishti Doi (Sweetened Yogurt) is the most popular Bengali dessert, which is a must for any occasion, big or small. After a series of rich flavorful curries, few scoops of creamy chilled yogurt always helps in the digestion. While in some Indian states, they start a meal with something sweet; Bengalis on the other hand prefers to end it on a sweet note.
Sweetshops in India will make fresh batches of Mishti Doi every day and serve in earthenware pot. That makes life very easy for home cooks as they can easily strike off one dessert from their list. I don’t have the convenience of visiting any Indian Store nearby who would serve a fresh batch of my favorite Bengali sweet and that is why I decided to try my hand with it at home. I won’t say it tastes exactly how it’s served in Kolkata sweet shops, but for now I sure can deal with it, happily!
Typically, whole milk is boiled with sugar for long hours until it’s reduced to almost half and by that time, the milk would turn into a pale brown color. The short cut route would be to use heavy cream and caramelized sugar, which gives it both the richness and the color. I however decided to go ahead with jaggery, which adds a mild flavor and a very slight hint of brown shade. Plus it doesn’t taste overly sweet. If you have access to date jaggery, use that for a rich flavor that you could never imagine. Since I couldn’t find any, I used a normal light brown color jaggery.
Ideally, Mishti Doi is served with Rasgulla, which is yet another famous Bengali sweet made with curdle milk and sugar syrup. If you wish to make Rasgulla at home, here is the recipe from Soma’s blog. The season of chilled yogurt is almost over, yet I would suggest you to give Mishti Doi a try! It’s easy and effortless. Serve it with some dried nuts or fruits of your choice.