Chanar Payesh is a traditional Bengali dessert. Soft and spongy fresh cheese dumplings cooked in flavored milk. There are two different ways Chanar payesh can be prepared and this is how the payesh is prepared at my home.
What is Chanar Payesh
Chana (in Bengali) or Chenna (in Hindi) is fresh cheese prepared by curdling milk. In Bengali cuisine, a lot of dessert is prepared using Chana/Chenna.
Payesh is the Bengali term for North Indian Kheer. It is similar to creamy, rich milk based pudding. There are various different versions of Bengali payesh and I have already shared with you the most popular Bengali Payesh.
You must try this Khejur Gurer Payesh
So to break down the word, Chanar Payesh is fresh cheese milk pudding.
HERE IS THE RECIPE VIDEO
Ingredients you need for Chanar Payesh
The list of ingredient is small and very minimal.
Whole Milk - If you use low fat milk, the taste and the texture of the dumpling might not be as creamy soft as shown here. For all these traditional Bengali desserts that call for milk, I always use whole milk.
Lemon Juice or White Vinegar - You need Lemon Juice or White Vinegar to curdle the milk. If you are using vinegar, make sure to mix an equal amount of water to the vinegar to dilute it a little. Diluting the vinegar will create a soft texture of the curdle milk.
Ice Cubes - Keep a few ice cubes ready. For the beautiful soft texture of the curdled milk, it is important to cool down the temperature of milk a tad bit before adding the vinegar or lemon juice. I always drop a little ice cubes once the milk comes to boil to drop the temperature.
Bay Leaves and Green Cardamoms - We use Bay Leaves and Green Cardamoms to flavor the milk.
Sugar - We use White granulated sugar to sweeten the flavored milk. If you use brown sugar, or jaggery then the color will change.
Raisins and Almonds - Like most Indian pudding recipe, Chanar payesh too calls for raisins and almonds or cashew, but it's definitely not a mandate, and you can avoid.
Key points to remember when making the cheese dumplings
The critical part of this dish is to get the perfectly soft, spongy texture of the cheese dumplings.
- You have to use whole full fat milk.
- When you are making the chana/chenna make sure you use the ice cubes to drop the temperature of the milk and make sure you dilute the vinegar with water. You will realize by looking at my video that the curdled milk doesn't come together, it rather spreads evenly. An evenly spread curdled milk results in a smooth texture of the cheese.
- After straining the curdled milk, you have to take out all the water and leave it hanging to remove any excess water. But don't leave it hanging for more than 30 minutes. Leaving it hanging for too long will take away all the moisture from it. And here are not making Paneer so remember that 30 minutes time is crucial.
- Kneading the Crumbly chenna is very important, and please use your hand and not some gadget. Kneading for 10 minutes will turn the crumbly chenna to a soft, pliable dough. Your hands will feel oily too. Don't knead for more than 10 minute. You have to make sure to knead gently and follow the steps I shared in the video.
- When you are kneading the Chana/Chenna if it feels too wet, that means you did squeeze all the water out properly. Put it back in the muslin cloth or bag and squeeze off all the excess water.
- If the chana feels too dry, then you left it hanging for too long. Don't leave it hanging for more than 30 minutes.
- While shaping the dumplings, if you see cracks, then the chana was probably dry, or you might have kneaded it for too long.
- If you leave left over chanar payesh in the fridge, chances are the cheese dumplings will feel a little hard. Based on how hot the weather is, you could leave it at room temperature for a while before serving or just warm in the microwave to soften the dumplings once again.
Back in Kolkata, India, you can easily find Chanar Payesh in every other sweet shops. They serve this delightful dessert in a tiny earthen pot. Here in the US, I have not seen it anywhere, so I make at home and serve in tiny glass bowls!
If you never tried this Bengali sweets, you absolutely must and while it may feel like too much work, it will feel worth all the effort at the first bite!
Chanar Payesh/Chenna Payesh
For the Chana/Chena
- 5 cups whole full fat milk
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar or lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons water (if using vinegar)
- few ice cubes
For the flavored milk
- 4 cups full fat whole milk
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 green cardamoms
- ¾ cup white granulated sugar
- Small handful of raisins
- Sliced almond to garnish at the end (optional)
Start by preparing the Chanar/Chena
- In a glass mix the vinegar with water and keep it ready
- Also keep the ice cubes ready and the muslin cloth or nut milk bag ready to strain the curdle milk.
- In a heavy bottom saucepan, pour the milk and keep stirring at medium heat as you bring it to boil.
- Once it comes to a boil, switch off the heat and drop the ice cubes and stir around. Then pour the water-vinegar mixture and keep stirring. The milk will curdle and spread evenly.
- Strain the curdled milk and pour cold water to the curdle milk to wash off the excess vinegar. Then squeeze off all the excess water and tie it around. Keep it hanging, with some support, as it will continue dripping water. Leave it aside for 30 minutes. The whey can be stored and used in soup, stew, smoothie or daal.
- While the chanar is getting ready, prepare the flavored milk.
- In a heavy bottom wide pan or skillet, pour the milk, bay leaves, green cardamoms and sugar.
- Place it on medium heat and keep stirring as you bring it to boil, then lower the heat to medium low and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Keep stirring occasionally.
- Prepare the Chanar/Chenna Dumplings
- Remove the Curled milk from the bag to a clean plate. It will look very crumbly now, and you have to knead it to make it smooth.
- While kneading, just gently press it using the bottom of your palm. As you do that, the crumbly granules will start to smoothen. Knead for 10 minutes. To test if the Chena dumplings are ready or not, take a tiny amount of the chana/chenna and roll it into a ball. It should be smooth with no cracks.
- Divide the smooth chana dough into 16 portions, roughly 40 oz each.
- Take each portion and shape into small dumplings. You can keep them round or press gently to flatten a little.
- Make the Chanar Payesh
- Drop the dumplings into the simmering flavored milk and let the dumpling cook for 10 minutes.
- At the end, drop the raisins and stir it around.
- Let the Chanar Payesh cool down to room temperature before serving.