I don’t know when my love for milk started. It was definitely not when I was a child. Not that I hated it, milk was just not my first choice of beverage. The “healthy” label that it was given kinda turned me off. Which, of course, led me to will myself to have lactose intolerance. Oh, those days. Those sad milk-less days.
And then, all of a sudden, I discovered the wonders of dairy. It is delicious. So creamy, so satisfying and so, so good. That is also when I discovered all of these Indian sweets that I had taken for granted and completely dismissed because they were milk based. I don’t understand my younger self at all. What was I doing with my life?!
Kesar peda were sweets that were always in the house growing up. They were so much a part of the norm that I never really appreciated them…much like milk. In fact, when I was researching about sweets to make for Diwali this year, I was really surprised at the number of times that this dish came up. Was this really a dessert that people consider special? Is this really made for holidays?
Yes, is the answer for both of those questions. Because it’s amazing. It’s whole milk cooked down until it’s thick and glorious, with some sugar, some spices, and basically you have every good thing in one little bite. It’s basically an Indian spiced milk fudge. Amazing. Never again will I shun milk – look at what I almost missed out on! Happy Diwali!
Kesar Peda (inspiration from here)
Sigh, no. I don’t expect you to stand by the stove as your 1/2 gallon of milk boils down to nothing more than a cup. So here’s a link to a shortcut recipe. I haven’t tried it (mostly because I was so tired from making it the original way), but I can’t imagine that it’s not delicious. Especially because when I was researching recipes for this dessert, the shortcut came up far more often than the long way. Go figure.
1/2 gallon whole milk
1 tsp. ghee or butter
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. saffron + 1 additional tbsp.
2 tbsp. cream
chopped pistachios or whole almonds for garnish
Heat a non-stick pan over low heat and add ghee or butter. Brush it so it covers all of the pan, bottom and up the sides. Pour in all of the milk. The next process is a lengthy one. Over the period of about 3.5 hours, the milk will reduce over low heat until it becomes a thick paste. You will need to stir it about once every 20 minutes to ensure that it’s not sticking to the bottom of the pan. At the 2 hour mark, you will be convinced that the all of the milk will evaporate into thin air, and you will be sad. But keep at it.
Milk solids will start forming at the 3 hour mark, at which point you will want to stir more often. When it’s very thick, but still has a little bit of liquid left to it, basically at the 3.5 hour mark, add the sugar and carefully stir it in. You will curse yourself for doing this, because sugar adds liquid, and you wll think that all of that time you spent to get rid of the liquid was all for naught. At this point, add the cardamom too. Stir it all together.
It will take about another half hour for the mixture to be really thick. Take the saffron, and heat it over a gas burner. This activates it. Add it to 2 tbsp. cream. Mix that into the milk/sugar mixture.
Take the mixture off the heat and let it cool until it’s able to be handled. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Take some of the additional tbsp. of ghee and spread it on your hands to ensure that the mixture won’t stick to you. Knead the picture until it is smooth. Taking golf ball size pieces, roll each piece into a smooth ball, flattening it out slightly, and pressing down with your thumb, before placing it on the baking sheet. Repeat until all the mixture has been used, adding more ghee to your hands, as necessary.
Place the nuts in the indentation and slightly press down to ensure that they have stuck. I think that peda taste better chilled, but they can also be enjoyed at room temperature!