Kalakand is a traditional Indian milk cake, and my rose-flavoured version is made easier with the use of condensed milk, ricotta cheese and milk powder and a cardamom-flavored shortbread base for added texture.
Indians are devoted towards sweets, and our centuries-old love-affair with ‘mithai’ or sweets has given form to a plethora of desserts that skillfully use a combination of milk and its products, flour, fruits, honey, cane-sugar or jaggery and even everyday vegetables. Milk in its various forms can be transformed into rich and creamy desserts, which are formed into bite-size portions and packaged in brightly colored boxes, and are gifted to friends and family, during festivities.
Many Indian desserts are served as both a religious offering and celebratory dessert. Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights that celebrates the triumph of good over evil, falls on November 19th this year. Like any festive holiday, celebrating Diwali also means having friends and family over and indulging in food, glorious food!
Over the years, the great Indian ‘mithai’ has undergone many a transformation. While I love how some people have successfully innovated with traditional food, there is still the occasional disaster that I hear of in the name of Indian-fusion food(chocolate samosa, anyone?). I personally like giving some of my much loved Indian flavors a twist, such as in this coconut-‘ladoo’ inspired cake, and pairing unconventional flavors, such as this dessert jar where I layered dulce-de-leche with Indian carrot halwa and rice pudding.
This dessert is a take on one of my favorite sweets, the Indian milk cake, ‘Kalakand’. This sweet is traditionally made by painstakingly stirring milk with sugar for hours over a stove. It has a coarse, almost grainy texture from the milk solids. I made a version that comes close to the original kalakand, using store-bought ricotta cheese and milk powder. I couldn’t resist adding a twist to the classic, and made a cardamom-flavored shortcrust base to give it texture and crunch. I flavored the milk cake with rose water and studded with pistachios and almonds.
This version of kalakand is smoother in texture, but is just as deliciously lip-smacking. All the ingredients, except the rose water and rose petals that you see in the images, were from my local Coop store. Give it a go if you are looking for a quick and easy version of Indian mithai, that transports you to Diwali in India!
- For the kalakand:
- 350 grams ricotta cheese (I used Galbani ricotta, available at Coop stores in Switzerland)
- 250 grams sweetened condensed milk
- 1 tablespoon rose water (available at an Indian stores or other ethnic stores)
- ½ cup crushed pistachios
- ½ cup slivered almonds
- Dried rose petals (optional)
- 1 drop of pink food colouring (I used gel food colour)
- 2 tablespoons milk powder (Milk powder is available as Magermilchpulver in local Swiss stores)
- For the cardamom shortbread:
- 90 grams butter at room temperature
- ¼ cup (20 grams) confectioners sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 75 grams flour
- A pinch of cardamom powder
- Start by preheating the oven to 180 C (350 F). Line a baking sheet or pan with parchment paper.
- Prepare the shortbread base by combining the butter, cardamom powder, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, or using a hand-held mixer.
- Gradually add the flour, mixing till it is just combined.
- The mixture will be a little crumbly.
- Transfer the mixture into the prepared baking sheet or pan and spread by pressing the mixture down firmly, flattening it into an even layer.
- Prick holes on the surface, using a fork.
- Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, or until very lightly browned.
- Keep the shortbread aside and let it cool before you layer it with the kalakand.
- While the shortbread is baking, you can prepare the kalakand.
- In a non-stick pan, on low-medium heat, add the ricotta cheese and condensed milk, stirring it gently using a rubber spatula.
- Continue heating until the ricotta releases all its moisture and starts to thicken, and begins to form a thick mass. This should take around 12 minutes.
- Now add 2 tablespoons of milk powder and stir again, cooking the mixture for a further 5 minutes.
- The mixture should resemble more of a mass by now, and less of a paste.
- Add the rose water, food color and turn off the heat.
- Stir well, until the colour is uniformly incorporated.
- Slowly, turn the mixture out over the cooled shortbread.
- Add the nuts and rose petals if any, and press down on the mixture gently.
- The kalakand will set as it cools.
- You can cut it into pieces, using a knife greased in ghee. I got 12 pieces out of this recipe.
- Refrigerate if not consuming within 24 hours.
Make sure you prick the shortbread with a fork, else it will puff up in the oven.
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