Dipped in flavored sugar syrup, these homemade cheese balls have been the pride of the Eastern state of Bengal for centuries. The Bengali Rasgulla, often confused with the darker Mauritian version, is a spongy, ball-shaped sweet served as dessert in Indian restaurants. It might be tricky to achieve the correct sponge-like texture of the chenna balls as a few minutes of overcooking or a slightly thicker syrup will totally ruin the effort of making them from scratch. It is best to make these rasgullas beforehand as they improve in taste as they soak up the flavors from the syrup. Taken almost verbatim from Ecurry, the recipe details every little tip to get the Bengali rasgulla as close to the authentic as it can get. Traditionally served in earthen/ clay pots, they are popular during festivities like Durga Nawmi where they are offered to the Supreme Goddess in celebration of the victory of evil over righteousness.
2 litres fresh whole milk
1/4 cup lemon juice or white vinegar
5 cups water + more if needed
2 cups white refined sugar
Orange extract or orange zest
Saffron or black cardamom
Making the Cheese/Chenna
- Pour milk into a deep, heavy bottomed pot. Bring the milk to a roaring boil. Add lemon juice/ vinegar.
- Add a little at a time (about a tablespoon) and lower heat. Keep stirring milk when adding lemon juice.
- After few tablespoons, milk will start separating and form a yellowish but clear whey along with curds.
- If too much of the curdling agent, the chenna/ cheese will be tough and also sour. Stop stirring mixture.
- Turn off heat and remove pot from the stove and allow the curdled milk to sit for about 8 to 12 minutes.
- Place a cheese cloth or fine cotton cloth over a colander or strainer over a large pot to collect the whey.
Collecting and Draining the Cheese/Chenna
- Carefully pour curdled milk into the lined colander. Give chenna/cheese a quick wash with cold water.
- This removes the smell of the curdling agent and it also prevents the chenna/cheese from getting stiff.
- Allow whey to drain for 15-30 minutes. Gather ends of cheese cloth and wring out any extra moisture.
- Hang it and allow any left over whey to drip out. Leave the cheese this way for about 1 hour to 2 hours.
- When squeezed, there should be no moisture out dripping but the cheese should not be completely dry.
- After draining, remove the cheese and soak it up in a layer of paper towels removing as much moisture.
Kneading the Cheese/Chenna
- If it still feels too wet and not so well drained, spread it out in a plate and cover with a wet cheese cloth.
- Leave for about half an hour. If the cheese is too wet, you will not be able to roll rasgullas into spheres.
- Knead the cheese by hand. After kneading, cheese should be smooth and creamy like mascarpone cheese.
- When gathered into a ball, it should do so easily without leaving trails and smears over the counter top.
- The kneading should be long enough so that fat in the cheese comes out and preventing it from sticking.
- The consistency should be almost like a dough, not stretchy like flour, after kneading about 30 minutes.
Rolling and Cooking the Cheese/Chenna to make Rasgullas
- Divide dough into 40 rough portions. Roll each back again until it has a smooth surface with no cracks.
- For the simple sugar syrup, the sugar is added in two steps with only a little sugar added the first time.
- Less sugar in the syrup allows cheese balls to absorb the syrup better. Add half the sugar to the water.
- Bring sugar and water to a boil until sugar has completely dissolved and the solution is in a roaring boil.
- Just adding the chenna balls, reduce heat to medium-high. After a couple of sets, the syrup will thicken.
- Add some more hot water and some sugar to replenish and bring syrup back to the original consistency.
- The level of the liquid should be just high enough that cheese/ chenna balls are completely submerged.
- Put a few balls in the boiling syrup, cover and cook. The balls should puff up in about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Uncover and release steam only once during the cooking process. Remove balls as soon as they puff up.
- Do not move around the balls as they are cooking. The cooking time will depend on the size of the ball.
- When it is done, the texture should be spongy and should bounce back when held down with a finger.
- Once each batch is cooked, remove them from the pan. Place them in some sugar syrup from that pan.
- Once all cooked, add the rest of the sugar to the remaining syrup. Simmer until all sugar is absorbed.
- Remove from heat and add a cup of cold water. Add orange extract, saffron or cardamom flavorings.
- Place the cooked rasgullas back in syrup and keep in the refrigerator. Garnish with nuts, if you wish.