Sunday, December 23, 2007

Two Tangy Milky Desserts

...one Maharashtrian favorite, and the other, an American favorite.

The first is Shrikhand, a simple dessert of strained thick yogurt mixed with sugar and flavorings like saffron and cardamom. I must confess that of all the profusion of Indian desserts that I know and love, shrikhand would never make it to even the top 20. I usually find it too thick and rich and cloying after a few bites. But I was making a typical Maharashtrian meal for some friends last night and decided to give it a try. After all is said and done, it *is* a low-maintenance no-cook dessert and when you make it at home, you have full control over how much sugar you add to it.

I got this recipe from an aunt (actually one of my parents' closest friends). She belongs to that band of Indians who settled in the US in the 70s, in the days when Indian ingredients and stores were few and far between in this country. Over the decades, she has tried and tested and perfected (and how!) ways of making Indian favorites using ingredients commonly found in American supermarkets. When she informally told me how she makes shrikhand, I tuned out everything else and filed away the instructions carefully in the voice recorder of my brain. When you collect recipes as I do, you quickly learn to memorize every detail when an accomplished cook is talking. Virtually every shrikhand recipe that I come across mentions that it is essential to use full-fat yogurt. According to my aunt, *low-fat* yogurt yields the best shrikhand (full fat is too buttery and non-fat is too chalky, as per her trials). Now, this is not someone who would ever compromise taste for the sake of low-fat anything, so when she says that low-fat tastes the best, I am convinced. She also mentioned that she prefers Dannon brand yogurt. I used Trader Joe's and it worked just fine. The taste of this shrikhand was so irresistible that I felt absolutely no need to add sour cream or anything else to it, as some recipes do. Thank you, Anju maushi, for sharing your recipe!

Shrikhand

SKand
(serves 4-6)
Ingredients
1 tub (32 oz/ 4 C) low-fat plain yogurt
3/4 C granulated sugar (anywhere from half to one cup, according to taste)
pinch of salt
1/2 t powdered cardamom
1 t warm milk
1 hefty pinch saffron threads
2-3 T chopped almonds or pistachios
Method
1. Set a large strainer on a bowl. Line the strainer with clean porous fabric (eg. cheesecloth) or clean coffee filters. Pour the yogurt into the strainer. Cover the strainer/bowl and place in refrigerator overnight (8-12 hours).
2. Place the thick, strained yogurt into a fresh bowl. The nutritious whey that has dripped away can be used to knead paratha/roti dough, in dals or soups.
3. Add the sugar 2-3 T at a time, stirring every time you add some, at 3-5 minute intervals. This way the sugar dissolves evenly into the yogurt.
4. Meanwhile, stir the saffron into the warm milk and let it soak for 5-10 minutes.
5. Finally, after all the sugar has been mixed in, add a pinch of salt, saffron, cardamom and nuts. Stir and refrigerate until you serve it.

This shrikhand was delicious, and might be worth a try for those who think they don't like shrikhand much. Low-fat, schmo-fat...it was utterly creamy with just the right consistency, to my palate. And far less indulgent than most other desserts I can think of. Other delicious additions to shrikhand are nutmeg powder and charoli. At feasts in Maharashtra, shrikhand is often the accompaniment to puri-bhaji.

Fruity takes on shrikhand:
Strawberry Shrikhand from Ashwini
Blackberry Shrikhand from Manisha
Peach-Saffron Shrikhand from Suma
Amrakhand from Aarti
There is such a thing as "chocokhand" (chocolate shrikhand) sold as a novelty by some Indian dairies, but it looks like no blogger has tried making that yet :D

Strained yogurt is such a versatile ingredient. Among other things, it can be used to make sandwiches, frozen yogurt, tzatziki, and delicious dips.

*** *** ***

There are so many parties and get-togethers this month that an over-abundance of desserts is almost inevitable. I swear I am making these sweets to take to holiday festivities and to share with lots of people and restricting myself to itty-bitty servings (that's not what her hips are saying). To continue with the sugar high, here is the other dessert I made this week: Lemon Squares.

I saw Key Lime bars being made on an episode of America's Test Kitchen on PBS and they looked irresistible- a sweet cookie crust baked with a sweet and tangy custard filling made quite simply with citrus juice and sweetened condensed milk. I used lemon instead of lime because it is what I had on hand. I also could not find animal crackers in the store so I subbed something called Teddy Graham Honey crackers. Sorry, cute little teddies who got blitzed to crumbs in the food processor :( I loved the graham cracker crust here, so I will continue to use it instead of the animal crackers.

Lemon Squares

LemBar
(adapted from this Cook's Illustrated recipe)
1. Prepare a 8X8 inch square baking pan by lining it with foil (with some overhang) and lightly oiling the pan.
2. Preheat the oven to 325F
3. Crust: In a food processor bowl, add 5 oz. honey graham crackers, pinch of salt, 3 T melted butter, 3 T sugar and a dollop of molasses. Pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Pour it into the prepared pan and pat it down evenly (I used the bottom of a glass).
4. Bake the crust for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool for 20 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, make the filling: In a bowl, mix 1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk, 2 oz. cream cheese (1/4 of the standard pack), 1 egg yolk, pinch of salt, 1/2 C fresh lemon juice and 1 T lemon zest.
6. Pour the filling into the bakes crust and bake for 20 minutes. Cool for an hour, then chill thoroughly before slicing into 16 squares.

This dessert is really fun to make, for some reason. And tastes divine. These people agree.

To all my friends who celebrate it, here's wishing you a Merry Christmas!

39 comments:

  1. lovely lovely! i love shrikand. and the lemon squars have set so beautifully. how tangy are they?

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  2. I've made shrikhand with Greek yogurt and it turns out just fine - since it's already been strained, you can skip the step of straining the yogurt. Also, if you want another kind of crust for the lemon squares, try digestive biscuits which should be available in the international section of any supermarket

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  3. I am with you about shrikhand in general! It is true that the quality of yogurt used makes a huge difference. I make shrikhand from homemade fat-free yogurt made from organic milk. No chalkiness whatsoever. I've never added salt though! I will the next time!

    Your shrikhand looks creamy and wonderful!

    Merry Christmas to you, too!

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  4. Both look simply sensational, especially that shrikand. got to give it a try.

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  5. I'm not a bog fan of Shrikand, but your recipe sounds delicious to try. Will give it a try soon.

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  6. I fell in love with Shrikhand after I ate it a Marathi friend's place...looked just like yours, delicious :) Lemon squares are perfect.

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  7. Hi Nupur,

    I second the suggestion about Greek yogurt. I use Trader Joe's 2% or fat-free yogurt. It works pretty well and is much less time consuming.

    Wishing you and your family a happy holiday season,
    Priya

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  8. These look delicious, and I have not come across them before. It is Xmas Eve here, and time for me to wish all of my blog friends a wonderful time with family and friends tomorrow. May it be a peaceful and blessed day where we can give a lot of joy to those around us. Have a great day.

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  9. Nupur,
    Your blog is one of the very few reasons I miss being back in New York (right now I'm being spoiled rotten in Madras) - so that I can try out all these yummy goodies! Both my parents are not supposed to eat sweets, so it would be quite cruel to make these here, but I can't wait to try them out when I get back.
    Thanks!
    Kamini

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  10. This makes me want to run and get a tub of yogurt now! Luscious shrikhand! :)

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  11. Beautiful desserts...I adore shrikhand :-)

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  12. Lovely desserts. A lovely ending to the year. Happy Holidays and a great New Year.

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  13. Nupur!!! Lovely recipes and I just love that shrikand!! Wishing u n family a very merry christmas n happy new year

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  14. Hi Nupur
    Am visting your blog for the first time and, to tell you, i am going to make shrikhand today and serve to my friends here in Botswana.
    Greetings to you from a fellow blogger, who loves cakes and currently into it.
    Do drop by the blog, whenever you can.
    Happy Holidays

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  15. low fat yogurt for shrikhand with no extra naatak..how cook is that!! thnks for sharing nupur :)..and those bars are lovely!!

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  16. I use my regular 3% milk to make shrikhand too - comes out just fine...and more than a pinch of salt! Helps big time with that colying sweetness...I love shrikhand, in small quantities.
    The lemon squares are looking fab too!
    A Happy New Year to you and your family, Nupur!

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  17. My husband LOVES shirkand, so I'll have to try it. I'm lazy to strain, so maybe I'll get the greek yogurt from Trader Joe's ;)

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  18. Nupur,
    Best wishes to you and your family for a happy and prosperous 2008!

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  19. Even I never liked Shrikhand before. But after I tried making it recently, I really started liking it.
    Never tried lemon squares. Need to try that sometime.

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  20. I never tried any dessert with Lemon so far, I have to try this. Happy Holidays.

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  21. Shrikhand is one of my favs!! ( but then so are most sweet ;) ) I have made shrikhand with full fat, tastes good, but cannot have too much! Stuffs u up!!! Will surely try the low-fat version!!!

    Lemon squares!! They have set so well!! Look YUM!!

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  22. Gosh hon, the Shrikhand looks so creamy good.

    Key Lime pie looks inviting too.

    Happy Holidays!

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  23. The Srikhand looks amazing! Can't wait to try it out..

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  24. Ummmmm, shrikhand! I could finish off a tub of that! I make this often as it is easy to prepare, but I use the full fat milk/yogurt. I will definitely try it with low fat. Thanks for sharing these secrets,I know quite a few accomplished cooks who don't give insider info. And the lemon sqares look so delicious, yum!
    Wishing you a Merry Christmas!!!

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  25. Nags, the lemon squares are "mouth-puckeringly" tangy :D but the sweetness of the condensed milk sets it off perfectly.

    Neha, well, straining the yogurt can hardly be described as a strenuous procedure...it practically strains itself, right?! :)

    Manisha, I can totally see how the quality of the milk and yogurt is at the bottom of all this...some skim milk tastes more watery than water itself, and others almost taste like whole milk. I still have not started yogurt at home (mostly because we don't have a big enough demand in this home). A little salt cuts off the cloying sweetness and really brings out the taste. Hope you are enjoying a lovely Christmas and that Santa came with lots of prezzies for Miss M :)

    Meeta, the shrikhand is ridiculously easy...you got to give it a try!

    Pavani, this shrikhand is delicious in small cups even for those who are not big fans (like me and you!)

    Namratha, yes, the saffron gives a very characteristic tinge to the shrikhand :) you can make it whenever the craving strikes...it is too easy!

    Priya, Greek yogurt is a lot more expensive than regular yogurt, at least where I live. And the straining: I would hardly call it time-consuming...it took all of 25 seconds to dump the yogurt into the strainer, and I enjoyed a full night's sleep while it strained itself :) Happy holidays to you and yours!

    Vegeyum, Thank you for the sweet wishes! I hope you have a wonderful Christmas with all your loved ones, with lots of joy to go around!

    Kamini, the sweets can wait, trust me... for now, I can only imagine the delicious food you are enjoying in Madras!

    Coffee, thank you! Great to see you here.

    Sunita, thank you, my dear!

    Aparna, Happy Holidays and wishing you a wonderful new year too!

    Padmaja, you are another shrikhand lover, eh? Wishing you and your lovely family a Merry Christmas and a very happy new year!

    Anamika, well, I'll keep my fingers crossed and hope that you and your friends enjoy this simple yet traditional dessert. You are such a talented artist, I am in awe of your sugarcraft!

    Rajitha, yup, I love recipes without the naatak too :) I have to thank my aunt for sharing the recipe.

    Anita, this was a rather hefty pinch of salt I used ;) it does help big-time. Happy New Year yo you and your family!

    Working, yes, it is so easy to make at home; and the shrikhand-lover will thank you for it :)

    TBC, Thank you for the sweet wishes. Wishing you and your family a wonderful new year too!

    Shilpa, I think for some of us, the lighter home-made one tastes better than the one made with the thick and heavy "chakka" :) Lemon squares are fun to make!

    Lata, lemons or other citrus fruits bring a wonderful flavor to desserts! Happy holidays to you too!

    Manasi, oh, this low-fat is worth a try...it will satisfy your sweet tooth without all the heaviness. Lemon squares are totally worth a try :)

    Cynthia, Happy holidays to you too! Hope you are enjoying a lovely Christmas today!

    Nehaj, let me know if you do...and if you like it :)

    Lydia, thanks! I am completely sugared out :)

    Namita, If you use your favorite brand of yogurt, something that tastes good plain, then the low-fat one should be as tasty as the full-fat version. Oh, I know those cooks who keep secrets, and to be perfectly honest with you, I have nothing but contempt for such selfishness.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family too!

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  26. Good try of your peanut Chikki my dear. I hope i also made as you. Shrikhand looks yummy I don't like ready made but some time like home.

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  27. Nupur,
    I have a full tub of TJ yoghurt - no reason not to try your Shrikhand. Both the desserts look super yummy.

    Happy new year to you and yours.

    Best wishes,
    Mamatha

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  28. Two beautiful dishes Nupur.. I can't remember the last time I tasted Shrikand but this version of yours is too simple and your description too tempting to not try! The Lemon squares look so cute and must be so refreshing to bite into. I had to pulse the teddy grahams too when i made my cheesecake... poor smiling teddies indeed. Wishing you a fabulous New Year ahead.

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  29. Nupur,
    I tried the Shrikhand - I just couldn't wait for the yoghurt to strain overnight - so I did it for just an hour. It tastes SOOO good. And I'm going to try it again with overnight straining. Thanks to you and your aunt for the recipe.

    Mamatha

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  30. I just stumbled on your blog and am completely enchanted! I am eager to try some of these recipes especially the chikki and jaggery! Thanks for broadening my world....Janice

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  31. Am able to view your blog after weeks today... enjoyed all the posts... will try for sure to get my 2007 update.

    Happy new year!!

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  32. Kajal, yes, I too prefer home-made shrikhand!

    Mamatha, LOL I am glad the yogurt thickened a little after just an hour :) and yes, with those lovely fragrant spices, it does taste wonderful. With overnight straining, it will be even thicker and creamier. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave your feedback, Mamatha! Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful new year ahead!

    Laavanya, oh, yes, you got to try it! Too easy for words :) you are right, the lemon squares were tangy and refreshing...made for a great dessert! Thank you for the wishes, and here's wishing you and your family a very Happy New Year too!

    Goddess Findings, welcome to "One Hot Stove". I truly hope you enjoy your time here! Thank you for stopping to say hi :)

    Raaga, thanks :) Looking forward to seeing your favorites from this year. Happy New Year to you and your loved ones!

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  33. Your shrikhand and bars both look delicious. Happy Holidays to you and yours, Nupur!

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  34. I have found that the sour cream gives the Shrikhand much more consistency, thickness than just adding the sour taste.

    I skipped it for a long time but once I started adding it I will not go back

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  35. I'm heading out to get these ingredients right now! I love yogurt dishes, and saffron is a particular favorite, so I can't wait to taste Shrikhand!

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  36. your shrikhand recipe was a huge huge hit!!.I had tried making shrikhand once before and it was a flop. But this time i drove all the way to the store just to get low-fat yogurt (you see the one i had was ognon-fat)...kudos to your aunt!! maybe she shud have a blog too...

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  37. Hey Nupur
    hope u r doing gud ! just tried ur shrikhand with fresh mango pulp.. and it is heavenly !! i vaguely remember eating it somewhere with not such gud memories, but coming from YOU, i was confident it wud be of our taste :) thnx.. really, when i try ur recipes, i become totally lazy to have any major input, coz anyways we wud end up loving them so why wastage of energy in thinking ;).. way to go !

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  38. Nupur,
    Also try the Brown Cow brand which comes with a cream layer on top variety, this makes the shrikhand really creamy like the one in India! Can't be counting calories though!

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