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You Can — and Should — Make Indian Sweets
A joyful conversation with Hetal Vasavada
Indian sweet making “is about feel. It's a lot more tactile. And it takes time to know when it looks right.”
Not long ago, our colleague, the wonderful Holly Haines, did us the pleasure of introducing us to her friend, Hetal Vasavada. Hetal made her name on season six of MasterChef, which she was on with Holly, and which she told us some pretty great stories about on this week’s episode of Food with Mark Bittman.
Now, Hetal is known for her incredible desserts, which are themselves “not 100 percent American but not fully Indian,” so, a sort of American or European-style dessert with Indian flavors, perhaps, or vice versa. Think Jaggery Puffed Rice Crispies, Masala Doodh Tiramisu, Orange and Cardamom Cinnamon Rolls — all recipes from her book, Milk & Cardamom (also the name of her blog). Pretty fantastic. And, Diwali is right around the corner — October 24 this year — so this episode is both a celebration of that holiday, one that Hetal loves, plus a celebration of this dynamic chef. We had a lot of fun talking to her.
Please listen, subscribe, and review. The recipe featured in today’s episode — Shrikhand Parfait, from Milk & Cardamom — is below. Also! We’re giving away three copies of Milk & Cardamom. New Bittman Project members will have three times the chance of winning. Subscribe by Friday for your chance to win.
Thank you, as always. — Mark
Makes: 8 (8-ounce [227-g]) parfaits
Shrikhand has to be one of my favorite dinner party desserts! It’s mostly found in the Western states of India and is made of hung curd, a thick and creamy drained yogurt. It’s similar to Greek yogurt but 100 times creamier and thicker. It’s typically flavored with saffron and cardamom, and if you’re feeling fancy, you can add mango purée or rose water to it! I changed up the original recipe to add more textures to the dessert. Crunchy cookie crumbs, juicy fresh mango, fluffy whipped cream and thick shrikhand — all in one bite! — Milk & Cardamom
3 cups (680 g) plain Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon saffron
1/2 tablespoon (8 ml) warm milk
1/4 cup (30 g) powdered sugar
1/2 tablespoon (3 g) cardamom seeds, finely crushed
1/4 cup (30 g) unsalted shelled pistachios, chopped, plus more for topping
1 tablespoon (8 g) charoli seeds or pine nuts, plus more for topping
24 speculoos cookies (I prefer Biscoff)
1/2 cup (82 g) mango, 1/4-inch (6-mm) dice
Vanilla Whipped Cream
2 cups (480 ml) heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup (30 g) powdered sugar
2 teaspoons (5 g) vanilla bean paste or extract
To make the shrikhand, place a strainer over a bowl. Cover the strainer with 3 layers of cheesecloth. Pour the yogurt into the cheesecloth. Pull up all of the corners of the cheesecloth and twist it tight. Place a plate and a heavy jar or can on top of the cheesecloth. Refrigerate for 8 hours.
The next day, add the saffron to the warm milk and let it bloom for 5 minutes. Remove the yogurt from the cheesecloth and place it into a medium bowl. Whisk in the powdered sugar, bloomed saffron and milk, and cardamom. Whisk until well incorporated. Place plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the yogurt and refrigerate for 4 hours.
While the shrikhand is resting, toast the pistachios and charoli seeds in a skillet over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until fragrant. Once done, pour into a bowl and set aside to cool. Add the speculoos cookies to a blender and pulse until you have coarse crumbs and set aside.
After the shrikhand has rested, whisk the shrikhand for 2 minutes so it’s nice and fluffy. Spoon the shrikhand into a piping bag and snip off the tip of the bag so there is a 1-inch (2.5-cm) opening. Set aside.
To make the whipped cream, add the cream, sugar, and vanilla to a large cold bowl. Use a hand mixer to whip the cream on high for 5 minutes, until it forms stiff peaks. Spoon into a piping bag and snip off the tip of the piping bag so there is a 1-inch (2.5-cm) opening. Set aside.
To assemble the parfait, spoon 1/4 cup (21 g) of the speculoos cookie crumbs into the bottom of each cup. Pipe about 1/4 cup (57 g) of shrikhand on top of the cookie crumbs. Spoon 1 tablespoon (11 g) of mango on top, and then fill with whipped cream. Sprinkle the chopped pistachios and charoli seeds on top. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
Note: There are two types of cardamom, green and black. Black cardamom is dried over a fire pit, giving it a smoky, savory flavor. Green cardamom is picked before the plant reaches maturity and is sold as is, without any processing. The light, floral, vanilla-like flavor of green cardamom is found in almost every Indian dessert. I like to think of it as the vanilla of India! — Milk & Cardamom
— Recipe from Milk & Cardamom