The Burfi Family – Milk Fudges
WHILE BENGALI MILK sweets such as sandesa and rasgulla are made with chenna cheese (milk curds), milk sweets of northern India are made with khoa, milk boiled down to a fudgelike consistency. Add sugar to khoa, and you have classic plain burfi. Other enduring varieties of burfi are almond, cashew, pistachio, coconut, squash, and carrot.
Today, most burfi found in Indian sweet shops is not made with true khoa, but with quick or instant mock khoa made by blending powdered milk with water, milk, or cream. Burfi made like this may look like the real thing, but its taste and texture fall far short.
In home kitchens, the ratio of sugar to khoa in burfi varies from region to region. The recipes in the class textbook, Lord Krishna's Cuisine, call for a small amount of sugar, showcasing the caramelized lactose sugars that intensify in flavor as the milk is reduced to a fudge. Add more as you please.
In the late 1960s, pera was one of the first sweets in the burfi family Srila Prabhupada taught his disciples to make. In 1969 he taught a few of us how to make a Vrndavana sweet called Vrndavana Pera melt-in-your-mouth milk-fudge balls rolled in sugar crystals. The recipe for it is on page 628 in the class textbook.
If you are following this cooking-class series, make a few batches of peras using different types of sugar, such as fructose, Sucanat, brown sugar, date sugar, turbinado sugar, Florida Crystals, maple sugar crystals, or a local sugar used in your part of the world. Find the types you most want to use in the service of Lord Krsna.
To cook down milk to make khoa, the basis of burfi, takes time. So while making khoa, concentrate on the holy name. Listen to a tape of Krsna conscious music or discourse. Watch the milk as it boils, and listen to the whisper of sound it makes in different stages of reduction. Relish the cooking, and think of pleasing the senses of the Lord. Think purity, quality, and cleanliness.
Yamuna Devi is the author of the award-winning cookbooks Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking and Yamuna's Table. She is a regular contributor to The Washington Post and Vegetarian Times.
(Makes 1 dozen pieces)
1-inch piece fresh ginger, scraped
3 cups milk
2 ½ cups (600 ml) cream
1 ½ tablespoons (22 ml) minced stem ginger or minced candied ginger
2/3 cup (160 ml) sugar, preferably unrefined
Finely grate the ginger, taking care to collect all of the liquid and fibers in a bowl. Transfer both the liquid and the fibers to a piece of cotton and wring out into a bowl as much ginger juice as possible.
Pour the milk and cream into a large nonstick pan and place over high heat. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil and cook until the milk and cream are reduced to a thick cream sauce. Add the ginger juice, the stem or candied ginger, and the sugar. Reduce the heat to moderate.
Stirring constantly, cook until the mass pulls away from the sides of the pan and holds its shape. Transfer to another pan or a tray and cool to room temperature. Divide into 12 pieces, roll into balls, and offer to Lord Krishna.