When I started planning for my Bengali Sweet Series, I know I had to start with the basics. While we have been making Paneer at home for many years now, we have only done, having savory dishes in mind. After making Paneer or Chhana as it is called in Bengali, we let it dry and then set it to form hard cheese to get the cubes.
I have made Ras Malai and Cham Cham, and since it’s been many years ago, I don’t even remember if I had given all this importance that I realized I should. Amma has made Rasgulla couple of times and I never came around clicking pictures, because it wasn’t as soft as it should be. In this course of events, I came to know that Konda and Hubby dear are very fond of Rasgulla. Imagine not knowing this of your own family!
Anyway, I decided I need to really work on getting that soft Chhana first. I referred a couple of sites like this and this and made my chhana. Each time about 4 liters of Milk was used. Though it might again vary on the type of milk you use, the curdling agent etc, the tips and tricks are the same for you to follow.
You can use Lemon Juice, Vinegar or Fermented Whey Water you saved up from the previous batch of paneer making. Whichever method you make, ensure your cheese is always washed thoroughly before kneading.
So to begin, for any Bengali Sweet, the chhana prepared or the fresh homemade cheese has to be soft and melt in the mouth texture.
Tips, Tricks to get soft Chhana
To achieve soft cheese, it is important not to add the curdling agent when the pan is still on the flame. Take the pan down, and add the curdling agent. Keep adding till the whey separates.
Now strain the cheese on to a muslin cloth, pour cold or tepid water over it for a couple of times, till you feel the souring or curdling agent is completely removed from the cheese.
Tie it over a sink for the whey to drip off completely. I only left it out for 30 mins before starting to cook with it.
When I read about Ricotta Cheese, its same as Paneer or Chhana. So in essence when we are making at home, our Paneer or Chhana is same as Ricotta Cheese.
Homemade Chhana for Bengali Sweets
Serves: 2 cups
4 liters Milk
4 tsp Lemon Juice / 1 cup of Fermented Whey Water (quantity of Lemon Juice will also vary )
Water as required
Have the lemon juice ready at hand
If using fermented Whey water, measure it and have it ready.
Have a bowl lined with a muslin cloth and keep it ready.
In a thick bottom pan, boil the milk till it boils over, simmer for 5 mins.
Remove it from flame, add the lemon juice slowly and gently stir for the cheese to separate.
When you see greenish water, pour the cloth to gather the cheese.
Pour water over the cheese couple of times to remove traces of lemon or the souring agent used.
Gather the edges of the cloth to tie the cloth and let it drain completely.
Ensure that the chhana is not completely dry.
Save some of the whay water to use later if required or you can ferment for next batch.
The cheese you get can be stored in fridge for further use or can be used right away.
If you want to use this for savory dishes, you can press it down to form cubes.