On the second anniversary of my blog I’ve decided to celebrate with the recipe of an Indian dessert. In India, sweets are always a part of any celebration. My almond barfi is my own concoction following traditional dessert making traditions of Bengal. A barfi is a sweet delicacy made out of thickened full fat milk and sugar. The most popular variation of barfi is the kaju barfi made out of ground cashew nuts. I decided to make the healthier option and added almonds instead. Of course, my choice of using almonds was influenced by the easy availability of ground almonds and the expense and labour involved in buying and grinding cashew nuts.
Traditionally, Indians make their desserts out of milk products, nuts, natural flavours and flour made out of lentils, wheat or rice. The type of dessert and the ingredients used are very characteristic of the region they are from. However, India is now very cosmopolitan and every Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, Gujarati, Keralite, Tamilian etc. have eaten, or know of, the barfi, the rasogolla, or the peda. So, although the barfi is not characteristic of Bengal, it is one of the popular choices of the sub-continent.
The technique of a good barfi is to use equal parts of thickened milk (kheer) and sugar, which is then stirred continuously in low heat till it solidifies. So, in keeping with the original recipe, I’ve added an equal amount of almonds. Here, I am assuming that 1 litre of milk will reaches the right consistency , when it’s reduced to 300 ml . What also must be kept in mind, is that, different types of barfis are of different consistencies and texture. So, if your almond or coconut barfi is not rock hard as the cashew barfi, you haven’t made a mistake, it wasn’t meant to be! Bengalis are very fond of their ‘mishti’, which they buy from the innumerable dessert shops, round the corner of every street.
The art of making traditional desserts at home is slowly losing its charm because making sweets at home is quite time consuming. But my grandmother and her contemporaries were experts. I still remember the complicated textures, shapes and layers of flavours that used to come out of her kitchen. They form a significant part of my childhood memories. Some of those recipes and skills have been lost in time, what I have tried here, is to create something worthy of my grandmother’s kitchen. The enticing smell of warm ‘kheer’ and sugar was promising, as it brought to mind fleeting memories of my grandmother and her sweets for every season.
- 300 grams ground almonds
- 1 litre full fat whole milk ( You can also use 300 ml of condensed milk. If sweetened,reduce the amount of sugar to 150 grams)
- A handful of roughly chopped almonds
- 300 grams light brown cane sugar (you can use any sugar but I like the golden colour it produces, when heated.)
Preparation and cooking time: 1.2 hours makes 20-30 pieces
If you plan to reduce milk the hard way, like I did, then be prepared to be stuck to the stove for . I think the condensed milk version will be quite quick (I haven’t tried it yet). Pour the milk in a saucepan or a wok and turn on the heat. I use a wok for everything, as its shape ensures even distribution of heat! keep the heat on low and keep stirring. Add half the sugar in the beginning and keep stirring till the milk boils and thickens to a consistency of condensed milk. Add the rest of the sugar, the ground almonds and keep stirring it around. The mixture is slowly going to turn golden in colour, when it becomes difficult to stir, it’s ready. Spread the mixture on a cool plate or tray evenly. I lay a sheet of baking paper below it to avoid stickiness. Flatten the mixture and scour diagonally with a knife. Make around 20 – 30 pieces depending on the size you want.
Serving suggestions: Barfi’s are supposed to be had cold, as the name was derived from ‘baraf’, snow. So, let it cool, garnish with flaked or a whole almond and dig in!Written by Amrita Dasgupta - Visit my blog for more food and travel stories
I love to travel, discover new things, experience new cultures and then I get back home and experiment with the new food and recipes I discovered on my travels. My blog is about all those life experiences. If you’ve enjoyed this post, keep in touch with Drifting Traveller on Twitter and Facebook or by adding my blog to your RSS feed. Follow my blog with Bloglovin or Networked Blogs! If you really like reading the Drifting Traveller why not share it with people you know who'd like to read it too.