Rasgulla is a popular Indian sweet made with Chhena. The preparation is very easy once you get a hang of it. It’s simply made by boiling soft Chhena balls in light sugar syrup. But its melt in mouth softness and milder sweet taste is appreciated by everyone.
There are many variations in preparing it, but the most famous ones are:
Plain Rasgulla; it is very soft and moist but doesn’t spring back to the shape like the spongy Rasgulla. Semolina is added sometimes to the Chhena as a binding agent. Usually flavored with rose essence or cardamom. This is the Odisha style Rasgulla.
Spongy Rasgulla; as the name suggests it’s texture is soft and spongy, that comes back to its original shape after you squeeze it. And there are no flavorings added. This is also known as Bengali Rasgulla.
Pahala Rasgulla; named after the place Pahala, this is the most famous Rasgulla in Orissa. It is popular because of its distinctive taste and caramel coloring.
Jaggery Rasgulla; In this preparation Jaggery is substituted for Sugar, giving it a distinctive flavor and richer appearance. Nolen Gur (Date palm Jaggery) is the most popular one to use, but since it’s available seasonally one can make it using the regular jaggery.
Since I get requests for this recipe a lot, I'll try to note down the preparation thoroughly from the very beginning. The basic and the foremost ingredient is soft Paneer or chhena. So first I'll go through the preparation for the perfect chhena for Rusgulla.
Making Soft Paneer/ Chhena
Chhena is the basic curd-cheese used in many different Indian recipes. Paneer is a slightly overcooked and pressed form of Chhena. Chhena is made by adding an acid to boiling hot milk, to separate the milk-solids from the whey. Then the curdled milk-solid(Chhena) is drained and collected for cooking usage. The remaining whey can also be used as the acid to make the next batch of Chhena, as well as in various other preparations. To make hard Paneer the Chhena has to be kneaded and pressed tightly, while still hot. But to make soft Paneer the Chhena has to be blanched in ice-cold water immediately, then drained.
Milk: Traditionally Cow’s milk or Water Buffalo’s milk is used to make Chhena. Since cow's milk is conveniently available, it is usually used to make Chhena at home. I prefer to use full fat milk, but 2% milk can also be used. But fat-free milk yields less amount of Chhena and it's also isn't as soft. And it also helps if the Milk is in room temperature.
Acid: Many kind of acidic elements can be used, but Key-lime seems to the best among them. few others are lemon, plain vinegar, citric-acid, curd, whey...etc.
The amount for acid per liter (Gallon is approximately 2 liters) of milk is
1 to 2 tbsp. Lime or Lemon juice (mixed with a cup of water)
1 to 2 tbsp. Vinegar (mixed with a cup of water)
1 cup yogurt
1/2 tsp Citric Acid (mixed with a cup of water)
2 cups Whey
More acid should be added if the milk doesn't separate.
Saucepan: I prefer to use an aluminum pan.
Put room temperature milk in a saucepan then put it on a medium high heat. Let it come to a boil, stirring occasionally so that it doesn't stick to the bottom. it should take about 20 minutes for a gallon of milk. At first it'll foam up(pic1) but wait till it gets to a continuous boil(pic3). let it simmer for 5 more minutes. Then switch off the heat.
Wait for 2 more minutes, then start stirring the milk in a circular motion. Gradually add the acid( I'm using lime juice) while still stirring. The milk will start to cuddle and separate from the whey. if the whey still seems to be cloudy then add some more acid, till it seems clear (pic7). Let it rest for a minute.
Arrange the Cheese cloth on a colander and pour the curdles milk to strain. Keep a pot under the colander if you want to collect and use the whey. Then start pouring cold water immediately(pic9). Wash the Chhena thoroughly making sure it's cold allover.
Gather the corners of the cheesecloth and bind it squeezing the extra water out of the Chhena. Then wrap it with a towel to soak up the extra moisture. For making Rasgulla you'll need to press it for 5 to 10 minutes with a heavy weight(pic12), making sure there is no extra moisture. Don't drain it for too long.
This is the soft Chhena(pic14). But for using it in sweet preparations you've to mash and knead it with light hand. That will get rid of any lumps and will make its consistency uniform.
The kneading has to be with the palm with soft storks. And you'll basically be stretching it with your palm. The Chhena usually is firm at first because it's been blanched in ice-cold water. But after a few minutes of kneading it gets softer and comes together perfectly.
Once it is softer you'll be able to knead it with your fingers. Knead it few more times, then all of it will come together. It should take about 15 minutes of kneading in total.
Making the Rasgullas
Ingredients for making the Rasgulla
Chhena (Soft Paneer) 1cup
Sugar 3cups, and a teaspoon
Water 5 cups, and 1 more cup
Cardamom powder 1tsp
Knead the chhena till it is smooth and out of any granulate. Then add the cardamom powder and a teaspoon of sugar. In this stage if it seems like the chhena is too watery then add a tablespoon of semolina. Mine looks like a good consistency, so I’ll skip adding the semolina. Mix it for a few more minutes till everything is well incorporated. Then take out small equal size proportions of the dough and shape it into a smooth ball using both of your palm. Set aside the shaped chhena balls, covering it with wet cheesecloth or kitchen towel.
Heat 5 cups of water with 3 cups of sugar in a flat bottom pot or saucepan over medium heat. Cook it till all the sugar dissolves and let it simmer for a few more minutes. Then add the chhena balls gently, one at a time. Add a few balls at one batch, making sure not to over crowd the pot, since the balls will increase more than double in volume.
Let the balls simmer for a few minutes then try turning them over with a silicon spatula, making sure not to poke or tear them. Then cover the saucepan with a lid and let it cook for about 8 to 10 minutes. If you have made smaller balls then they’ll cook faster, so cook it for 5 to 7 minutes instead. Switch off the heat and remove the cover. Then add one cup of water. The Rasgullas will sink down to the bottom, which means they’re thoroughly cooked and ready to serve :)