Roshogolla or Bengali Rasagulla is essentially spongy balls of indian cottage cheese (chhana) cooked in sugar syrup. There are various versions to the origin of this dessert, but this is the one I like, because this is the version my mom told me.
The year was 1868 in Bhagbajaar (Kolkata), a confectioner named Nobin Chandra Das was having a discussion with a bunch of freedom fighters who were concerned about the popularity of English desserts in India.
“Nobinda, these puddings and pies are becoming very popular. These days the youth prefer those to puli and pithe” said one of them.
“Can you think of a way we can change that? Your a master confectioner can you come up with something which is swadeshi and delicious?” said another.
Nonbinda thinks a little and says “I think I have an idea, let me try it out tonight and we can all taste it here tomm”
That evening the confectioner mulls around his kitchen, takes a bit of chhana and gives it a boil in sugar syrup flavored with fresh ground cardamom, a bit of rosewater and voila! One of the most popular dessert of India was created.
I do not have a sweet tooth, but this dessert has my heart. Its not fried and made from pure chhana (cottage cheese) and considered to be a safe comfort food when recovering from a fever or stomach upset (Not to mention the low calorie count per serving!). Since I grew up in Hyderabad and getting this from the Pada’r mishtir dokan (local sweet shop) was not really an option, my mom whipped some up in her kitchen. Recovering from a flu almost always involved mom feeding me some roshogollas and story telling.
This is a recipe that a lot of people requested I post, so here goes. Let me start by saying that this dessert is a tricky one to master and you might not get perfect result in your very first try, don’t let that discourage you. Here are a couple things that I learnt:
- Raw (non-homegenized/non-pasturized) Cow milk gives better result.
- After curdling the milk, gently squeeze out the extra whey and hang it for 45min-1 hour. This helps with having the right amount of moisture you need for the softness of the final product.
- While kneading keep in mind that less is more. As soon as you feel grease in your palm, stop!
- Boil it in a big stock pot that has enough depth for the chhana balls to expand, thats how they become spongy
- Keep aside half of the sugar syrup and add some in between cooking time to ensure the syrup doesn’t get too dense or too hot.
Time for Prep: 45 mins Time to Cook: 15 mins Yield: 20-25 Servings Level: Medium
- For the channa
- 4 cups (32oz) whole milk
- 2-3 tbsp lemon juice
- For the sugar syrup:
- 2 tbsp rose water
- 3-4 cardamon, crushed
- Saffron (optional)
- 1.5 cup sugar
- 4 cups water
- Making the channa:
- Bring milk to a boil, add the lemon juice and lower heat. In a few seconds you will notice the milk solids forming. Turn off the heat. When the water is completely separated (turns a greenish shade) drain into a colander lined with cheese cloth.
- Run a little bit of water on it to get rid of the lemony taste, drain.
- Gather the ends of the cheese cloth and bring them together, like a purse, slowly squeeze out the water. Be careful not to burn your hands as it is really hot.
- This is now my mom does it: Hold the ends with your left hand and using a pair of tongs hold the purse just on top of the solids with your right. Then slowly twist the cloth with your left hand. The water squeezes out without resulting in burning fingers.
- Hang it for 45 mins-1 hour.
- Preparing the Golla (Balls from the channa):
- Remove the channa from the cheese cloth, it should not be soggy wet nor should it be dry (The picture should give you an idea).
- With the heel of your palm mash the channa and knead. Collect from the sides, mash, knead. Continue for around 10 mins (or less depending on the pressure of kneading). As soon as you feel a little grease in your palm, stop. over kneading will result in hard Roshogollas.
- Now pinch out small portions and roll between palms to form smooth round balls no bigger than a quarter. (See picture)
- once done, cover with moist muslin and set aside while you prepare the syrup.
- Preparing the Rosh (sugar syrup):
- Place a large stock pot (or a pressure cooker) over medium heat.
- Add the sugar, water, cardamon and saffron (optional).
- Bring to a boil. Set aside around 1/2 cup of this syrup.
- Cooking the Roshagollas:
- To the rest of the sugar syrup add the chhana balls one by one.
- Shake the pan gently, to move the balls a little and cover immediately. Do not stir, that will break the chhana balls.
- After around 3-4 mins, open the lid and add half of the reserved sugar syrup and shake the pan. This step ensures that the consistency and temperature of the sugar syrup stays constant.
- After another 3-4 mins repeat the step above and add the remaining reserved syrup, shake the pan.
- Cook for 2 more mins. Check for the doneness of the roshogollas and switch off the heat. And add the rose water.
- To check for doneness:
- Take it out with slotted spoon, press a portion. If it springs back to original shape its done.
- Or take one of them out and drop it in a glass of water, if it sinks its done. (I prefer this method).
If you ask a non-bangali, they would say that let it cool and then serve. But a Bangali will always say that the best way to enjoy these are when they are fresh and warm! The second best way is to let it chill for a couple hours first.
- While preparing the Gollas from channa you can add 1-2 tsp of Sooji (Cream of wheat) or all purpose flour or arrowroot powder. This ensures that the chnana balls will not crumble when boiling in syrup.