Looking for a healthy version of Indian mithai? Here is a Sondesh for you...
Mithai is an Indian sweetmeat, a dessert that can be ate using your fingers. Finger food.
A Sondesh is a cheesecake modified to make an Indian (bengali to be precise) mithai that can be picked up using your fingers. Yes, most sweetmeats in India need to be picked up using our fingers and not a fork and spoon. We bite into our mithais more often than spoon them, unless it is a Gulabjamun or Rasmalai or Rasgulla, the syrupy ones. So the cheesecake was made using the local cheese (paneer or chhena) and was dehydrated so it can be rolled into a round sweetmeat or can be shaped into a mould, the end product being a finger food.
I enriched this sondesh with some almond powder and sweetened it with date syrup and bits of golden raisins. So the sondesh has all the good fats and proteins and just enough sweetness provided by a healthy mineral rich natural sweetener. I would never suggest adding artificial sweeteners. The complex sweetness of the Date syrup and golden raisins makes it quite interesting in it's flavors.
(makes 20 large sondesh)
whole milk 1 L
White synthetic vinegar or lime juice 1 tbsp or a little more
almond powder 1/2 cup or more or less depending on how much watery the mixtures gets
fresh cream 1/4 cup
golden raisins chopped 1/4 cup
date syrup 1/4 cup
halved almonds as many as sondesh made
Dilute the Lime juice or vinegar in 1/4 cup of water.
Heat the milk in a wide pan and wait till there is a thin film of fat on the surface that starts moving and jiggling. This is the temperature just before boiling point of the milk. This is the point you have to add the diluted acid (lime juice or vinegar) into the hot milk (yes we don't need milk thermometers in our recipes), slowly adding half of it first and then adding a tsp at a time till the milk curdles, the whey gets clear.
Strain the curdled milk and reserve the solids. The whey can be used for kneading dough for chapatis or breads or for making soups or congee.
Add cream and date syrup to the cheese (chhenna) and blend it warm in food processor, till smooth. It will look gooyi and thick.
Now add almond powder, half of it first and then adding slowly as you mix, till the mixture thickens but still sticky. You might need more or less than recommended almond powder depending on how much date syrup you add or the fat content of the cream (feel free to use either heavy cream or low fat).
Lastly, add the chopped raisins, mix well with a fork and keep the mixing bowl in fridge for about 4 hrs or till the mixture hardens.
Spoon out desired amount and roll between your palms to make balls, flatten them and stick half of an almond on top. Arrange in single layer in a flat box to keep, layer a sheet of butter paper if you need to stack the sondesh over the first layer. Else they all stick to each other and will be difficult to separate when required. The sondesh can be refrigerated for 3-4 days.
Serve at room temperature.
Detailed instructions are given so you can make it easily without fail so please do not get intimidated by the length of this post. This recipe of sondesh reminds of the Nolen gurer sondesh of Bengal owing to the taste of date syrup. You can use honey or home made date paste or even a small amount of sugar or cane jaggery of you wish. Date palm jaggery will be the perfect sweetener if you want the traditional flavor.
You would love the mild sweetness in this mithai I am sure. A great way to sweeten our festivals without threatening our health.