Today is Dhanteras and Diwali is just a day away. Among the best Indian sweets that I can make so far, Rosogolla or Rasgulla tops the list. So, Diwali 2018 gives me the perfect platform to share this Rosogolla recipe, along with the tips and tricks and a little bit of history on everyone’s favourite Indian dessert: the Rosogolla. Read on and enjoy!
The story of the mighty Rosogolla
This Bengali sweet called Rosogolla is pretty interesting. Rosogolla (in Bengali) or Rasgulla (in Hindi) is a relatively new sweet made in Bengal for the first time by Nobin Chandra Das in 1868, whose son later founded the famous sweetmeat chain called KC Das. According to the book Sweetening Lives for 75 Years, written by KC Das himself, he mentioned that during those days Shondesh and other kinds of sweets made with pulses and other flours were popular. But the elite customers of the shop wanted something different. So, one day, Nobin Chandra Das created these sponge balls soaked in sugar syrup and offered to a guest. The guest was the son of a wealthy businessman Bhagwan Das Bagla, who was very thirsty. So, Nobin Chandra Das offered the boy a glass of water along with this sweet. The boy loved it. Soon, Nobin Moira became famous for his sweet.
But on the flip side of the Rosogolla story, still there is a lot of confusion on whether Rosogolla is first made by Bengalis or Oriyas. I am not going into the debate of whether Rosogollas are a creative property of Orissa or West Bengal, but I love the “spongy” version of the Bengali Rosogolla. There is a lot of technique and science involved in making those perfect, airy sponge balls that swell up in sugar syrup like balls of cotton. Let’s rather concentrate on that. There is a certain amount of joy to squeeze some of the sugar syrup out with two fingers and simultaneously checking out the sponginess of each Rosogolla before popping them into the mouth! In my Grandma’s times, as told by her more than three decades ago, during the Bengali-wedding feasts in olden days, there were people who would eat dozens of Rosogollas after an elaborate, heavy feast of non-vegetarian Bengali main course. In fact, there were certain mischievous Borjaatris (people from the bridegroom’s side) would keep on eating Rosogollas until the bride’s family had no Rosogollas to offer! Rosogollas have many stories, and each Bengali family will tell you about their own experiences of this sweet. Today, the flavour of Rosogollas managed to seep into other states of India and all over the world! Thesedays, foodies have come up with hundreds of different flavours of Rosogolla, and I hear that some of the flavours are mind-blowing. However, nothing can beat the classic Rosogolla. For Bengalis, it is pure happiness. Every Shubho Kaaj or auspicious work like birthday, Annaprashan, Upanayan, weddings, etc., is marked with eating Rosogollas. Never before exams, though, because of certain silly superstitions associated with its shape. Thankfully, a Bengali parent would proudly declare to his/her neighbours and relatives about his/her kids’ exam results with this sweet!
Today, you see an array of popular Bengali sweets like Rosogolla, Chanar Paayesh, Chanar Polau, Shondesh and Chomchom made with Chenna or curdled milk. But did you know that once upon a time in Bengal, people were completely unaware of how to curdle milk? It was the arrival of the Portuguese in Chittagong in the year 1517, who brought in the knowledge of making cheese along with them. Till the 16th century, there is no mention of cottage cheese in Bengali texts. So, it was the Portuguese who introduced three kinds of cheese to Bengal, and the most popular one being the common household cottage cheese that a Bengali can’t part with. Even after the Portuguese introduced Chenna or cottage cheese to Bengal, it took decades for a Bengali to accept it in their cuisine. According to food historian KT Achaya, deliberate splitting of milk was considered highly inauspicious by the Hindus in those days. So, splitting of milk to make Paneer or Chenna was not done in Bengali households. Offering the food made with curdled milk to Gods for Prasad and eating it on auspicious days was out of question! But slowly, with time, the acceptance increased. The huge inflow of Oriya workers (as palanquin-bearers and cooks) and the creativity of Moiras (sweet-makers), clubbed with the influence of Mughlai and British cuisines led to a lot of changes in the Bengali culinary food scenario. Soon there was an era when apart from the usual rice flour, sugar, pulses, jaggery and coconut, the new ingredient Chenna was a subject of interest and experimentation among Bengali confectioners who were constantly trying out innovative Bengali sweet recipes to impress the Bengali elite class during that time.
Tips and Tricks for the Perfect Rosogollas
The source of milk
Get local cow milk. Buffalo milk is too rich in fat. I don’t like the way Rosogolla made from tetrapack milk tastes. The Chenna made from tetrapack milk is much different that the regular cow milk!
The milk-splitting agent
When the milk comes to a boil, it is simmered and an acidic medium is added to it to curdle the milk. The splitting can be done with lemon juice, vinegar, citric acid or the leftover whey or water from a previous batch of Chenna. Personally, I don’t prefer lemon juice as it always leads to a lemony smell in Rosogolla, how much ever you rinse the Chenna with plain water. For me, the whey of a previous batch of Chenna or colourless synthetic vinegar works the best. Never tried with citric acid, but my mother says that it really gives good results. After the splitting is done, the Chenna is then left to drain on muslin cloth till most of the whey is drained out.
Texture of Chenna
After draining out the whey, the Chenna should still be soft and bit moist, unlike Paneer. Dry Chenna is a no-no! I add little refined flour or Maida while kneading, as it really improves the texture of the Rosogollas and helps them retain their shape. The Chenna has to be patiently kneaded with the end of the palm, so that it is lump-free and flawlessly smooth. The idea of kneading by hand in a certain way ensures that the Rosogolla balls become airy and light, just like how air gets incorporated into cream while whisking! Make Chenna balls with medium pressure: don’t press-in too much while rolling into balls. Also, the balls should not have any line, crack or crater. Each ball should be perfectly round and silky smooth.
The sugar syrup
The sugar syrup has to be very light. I like the ratio of 1: 6 (one part sugar and six parts water), better than the commonly used ratio of 1: 3. Cold water has to be sprinkled softly and fast in between, while the Rosogollas are boiling in sugar syrup. This is done to keep the water and sugar ratio intact. Also, the Chenna balls retain their shape and don’t disintegrate on doing so. The heavier the sugar syrup, the heavier the Rosogollas! Adding a small amount of milk is done while boiling the syrup, in order to remove the impurities as a scum.
The temperature of the sugar syrup plays a major role. First, boil the sugar and water on a high flame. When it comes to a boil, reduce flame to a medium. Add the Chenna balls and cover. Keep it on a high flame for the next 15 min. Then lower the flame to medium for the next 25 min.
The cooking vessel
The cooking vessel has to be deep and with a circumference big enough for the Rosogollas to accommodate after these expand into double the size! The vessel should always be kept covered with a lid. Only open quickly to sprinkle water during the process of boiling the Rosogollas in the sugar syrup.
Always remember not to cram-up the vessel with too many Chenna balls. When these expand on heating, these need to move around and go up and down. If you restrict this movement by adding too many Chenna balls, the balls will break and won’t expand!
Don’t get tempted to open the lid even after the Rosogollas are done and the flame is switched off. As soon as the flame is off, remove the vessel (with lid intact) from the burner and keep it aside, covered. Open the lid when the vessel is no longer hot: almost after 2 hours. If you open the lid as soon as the Rosogollas are cooked, the Rosogollas will surely flatten out and not be spherical.
I am sure these tips and tricks to make perfect Bengali Rosogollas will help you to make these beauties in the classic way. You can even make them in the pressure cooker. I never tried as I don’t enjoy shortcuts, especially during cooking!
Tips and Tricks and Recipe of Making Perfect Rosogolla!
- Fresh cow’s milk: 2 L
- Maida or refined flour: 3 tbsp
- Milk whey from a previous batch or White Vinegar around 20 ml dissolved in equal quantity of water
- Muslin cloth
- Sugar: 4 cups
- Water: 24 cups
- More water: 3 cups to be sprinkled during the process
- Milk: 3 tbsp
- A big deep and wide cooking vessel with a glass lid
- Make the Chenna. For that, boil the milk after filtering it through a muslin cloth.
- Once the milk starts boiling, simmer and add the vinegar-water or whey slowly and in batches, just enough to coagulate or split the milk. Run the ladle slowly through the milk while doing so. Once curdling starts, add vinegar-water or whey in even smaller batches until the whey appears clear and just changes the colour to green. Add 20 ice cubes and immediately remove the vessel from fire or the heat source. Allow the Chenna to coagulate into larger clusters, by leaving the vessel undisturbed for 5 min.
- After 5 min, allow the whey and the Chenna to pass through a muslin cloth. Filter the whey and retain the Chenna in the cloth. Wash the Chenna three times and tie the muslin cloth to get rid of excess whey. After 3 h, remove the Chenna. The Chenna should still be a bit moist and not completely dry.
- Gently knead with the end of the palm, adding refined flour to the Chenna for better binding. After 10 min of kneading, the dough feels super-smooth, airy and free from the tiniest lump. It feels oily to touch. Make small, equal-sized balls (around 35) out of the dough in such a way that the balls don’t have any crack or hole in them. Apply medium pressure while making the balls.
- Add sugar, water and 3 tbsp milk in the cooking vessel. On a high flame, allow the sugar syrup to come to a rolling boil. Remove the scum, which has undesirable sugar impurities. Reduce the flame to medium.
- The Chenna balls have to be carefully lowered into the sugar syrup. As explained earlier, don’t overcrowd the balls, as these need space to move around and expand. After the Chenna balls are added, keep it on a high flame for the next 15 min. Then lower the flame to medium for the next 25 min.
- Right from the time of adding Chenna balls to the sugar syrup, lid must be on the vessel all the time. Don’t open the lid often, as this deflates the Rosogollas. The Rosogollas don’t like temperature change!
- However, only open the lid a few times just to quickly (but softly) sprinkle water in batches. This is the time when you should pass the ladle softly around the Rosogollas so that they turn over. Remember to take special care not to break the Rosogollas.
- A glass lid helps to keep a watch on the size of the expanding Rosogollas. When the Rosogollas swell up to almost double the size and rise to the surface, they are ready. This takes almost 40 min. Remove the vessel from the flame and keep it covered unless the vessel is comfortable enough to touch: almost 2 h. Opening the lid too soon leads to deflation.
- Since my sugar syrup was already thin than the usual, I don’t need to add a thin sugar syrup at the stage when the Rosogollas are removed from fire. Enjoy the Bengali sweet after 2 h!
Wish you all a very Happy Dhanteras, Kali Pujo and Diwali. If you like my blog, please do follow me on Instagram and Twitter on @purabinaha. Please feel free to share the link of my blog and spread the good word. Happy eating!