Creamy and fudgy prepared with just three ingredients, chanar sondesh is a favorite to many Bengalis. We bengalis are known for our sweet tooth and there are countless varieties of milk sweets in Bengali food culture. But sondesh is the dearest of all and we do considered it as auspicious. Mahalaya is tomorrow and I had to make chanar sondesh to celebrate the day.
Mahalaya is a very auspicious day in Bengali Calendar, marks the beginning of Durga Puja, which is just 7 days away! Growing up, we had to wake up at wee hours on this special day and listen to Durga Ma hymns playing in radio. My Dad had a cassette (still has it I think) and would play that later in the daytime, while Ma would prepare a festive Vegetarian meal. I am not a very religious person but spiritual at heart, so while I don’t listen to the hymn at wee hours, I do my little prayer and celebrate with all things delicious.
What is Chanar Sondesh?
Chhena or Chhana is fresh, unripened cheese. You will prepare it by curdling milk with something acidic like lemon juice or white vinegar. It is used widely in India to prepare different varieties of sweets. Chanar Sondesh is a variety of individual sized sweet fudge prepared with fresh Chhena or Chhana in different shapes and form. It’s very popular on Kolkata.
You can also sweetened the sondesh with white sugar but try to see if you can find this variety of jaggery because it’s unlike any you used before. I used date palm jaggery and so you can call it gurer sondesh too
Date palm jaggery not only gives a robust earthy aromatic flavor but also gives that gorgeous rich dark amber color.
What ingredients will you to need to prepare the Chanar Sondesh?
Fresh Chhena/Chhana – Make it at home as all it needs is whole milk and lemon juice/vinegar. Watch this video to learn how to make softest chhena.
Khoya/Khowa/Mawa – My Mom always made khoya at home but it’s way too much work. The process is extremely tedious where you simmer whole milk for hours, by stirring occasionally until it reduces and thickens enough to form dough. I use store bought and it’s easily available in any Indian or Middle Eastern stores. Check in frozen aisle. You can also look for solid milk.
Date Palm Jaggery – Date Palm Jaggery (Nolen Gur or Patali Gur) is a special variety of jaggery. You can find it mainly in Kolkata. The jaggery has a full-bodied perfumy aroma and gives the dark amber shade. You can definitely use brown sugar instead or plain white sugar, you could use date syrup too if you like. The taste will differ based on the sweeter you use.
Is Chhena same as Paneer?
It sure is, however Cheena is the soft fresh cheese, which still has some moisture and perfect to prepare sweets. Paneer is the next step where you will strain the fresh cheese for much longer time to drain out as much moisture. It can turn into a block that you can slice into bite size.
Can you use store bought paneer to make Chanar Sondesh?
No! Any Bengali sweets that calls for chhena or Chana needs fresh cheese. If you try to grate a block of paneer to make the sondesh, it will not work out.
Shaping the Bengali Sondesh?
- Traditionally, you should use sondesh molds/moulds. These are typically available only in eastern part of India and comes in varies different size and design.
- You could create the design by pressing the bottom of a pretty glass that might have some design in it (watch the video to understand better)
- You could also use some cookie molds if you like.
- The simplest method you can use is to level the sondesh dough in a container, let it set. Then slice it like how you would slice a brownie.
Storing the sondesh
The sondesh contains milk and thereby it’s better to store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
This festive season, make this delicious chanar sondesh and wow your guests. Either your design it pretty or just cut in bite size squares, chances are your guests will leave no leftovers.
Here are links to few other Durga Puja special dishes: