Sep 23, 2009

And the moral of the story is......

This one is going to be about a faux pas. As I have mentioned before, I end up stirring quite a fiasco at times, with my culinary experiments.  And I feel a lot better sharing those and not just the ones which worked. Makes me feel honest :) Last weekend, I tried very ambitiously, to make a very particular and popular (to boot) Bengali desert. This one is called Sandesh. A bit of back ground will help you assess the damage.

To oversimplify,   Sandesh is  sweetened cottage cheese made into different shapes- balls to complicated shell shapes -- topped with savory nuts and spices . It is one of those classical things that has survived the onslaught of culinary globalization and fusion techniques to become a part of the day-to-day life of Bengali households and festivities. It is still made with very age old techniques (my feeling is those are extremely well guarded secrets--never to leave the four walls of those stashed away patisseries, lovingly called,' moirar dokan') that makes these sweet dishes so very very unique to West Bengal.

You will find bad replicates in Indian restaurants and groceries and homes (including mine). My warning is never buy them. They will give you false message of what these sweets actually are. If you are so keen-- take the pain of traveling to West Bengal-- where there are streets lined with sweet shops who sells these beauties. The shops are often managed by round looking men , smelling of cottage cheese and sugar. And ahh!! that is when you know you got the real deal.

Having said that...I got overambitious. And tried to make Sandesh. I logged on to youtube and surely enough there were millions of (well rated) videos telling me what to do. Looked simple enough :)

I started off with substitutions right away

Cottage cheese for the paneer (the special cottage cheese you need for Sandesh)-- mistake no 1

 Instead of draining the cottage cheese using cheese cloth I used paper towels-- mistake no 2

Instead of kneading the cheese dough, I used the food processor. At this stage I must confess I gave myself a pat in the back. So many steps crunched out and still looking good. The cottage cheese creamy and soft. That should have been the warning. It was not supposed to be creamy.

I, for some reason that I cannot recall, decided to knead the (wet) cottage cheese. It just did not feel/ look right.

And now the actual horrifying thing-- I started adding all purpose flour--- all purpose flour to a sweet dish that was to have nothing but sugar and cottage cheese in it. Ha! the rest was, as they say --history in the breaking. I proceeded to add  two times the amount of flour than the cottage cheese; I then heated that ' dough' (that is what it was at that stage) on a cast iron skillet-- made the whole thing rubbery. Then I kneaded the 'dough' once again and then -- this is the best part--I made some balls out of that thing and proceeded to bake them for 40 minutes in a preheated oven (350F).

Took me a good hour, with varying types and amounts of cleaning up to do, cut myself in trying to get the dough out of the food processor. In the end-- all four balls ended in the garbage bin.  No, actually 3.5 of them. I had to half of what I made!

It was not bad...noo I am was not even terrible. It was inedible :)
Okay, I will concede to this...there are somethings that you can't experiment with or fiddle around with. And Thank God for that. I feel mortal :) Lesson well learnt.

Happy eating and healthy living!


sangeeta said...

Hi JW...first time here n while reading this i was reminded of the various sondesh of calcutta...jol bhora is a favorite...
i make it at home n that is very close to the original...actually i find it better...i am making it this diwali n post it soon.
your adventure with sondesh reminded me of my younger days...this is how you learn...

Palidor said...

Oh, that is too bad! I guess that sometimes it pays to take the extra time when preparing food. I wonder if you could substitute ricotta? I think ricotta is closer to paneer than cottage cheese is, and I know that ricotta can be substituted when making Ras Malai.

I've never heard of Sandesh, but it reminds me of Rasgulla, although Rasgulla is simmered in syrup.

Jhonny walker said...

Ah...Ricotta..maybe that will do the trick...Thanks Palidor.. I hate to make that mess again..but hopefully will try again...will keep you posted :)