And then last month I celebrated birthday week for Alok and prepared one favorite dessert of his every day. On one of the days, it was this simple Malai Barfi.
I know the name "milk cake" is confusing because this dessert is not literally a cake. From my understanding, there are two kinds of milk cakes: one is Malai Barfi and the other is Kalakand. Malai Barfi is not literally made using "malai" but in two ways: curdling milk (chhena) or using alum powder to thicken it. To confuse you further, some people make Malai Barfi using milk powder too. Kalakand is essentially made from chhena + khoya. Kalakand can be made in two colors: completely white, or as I best know and love it: the cream-to-brown ombré effect. The granules that make up Kalakand are different from the texture of Malai Barfi. It takes hours to make Kalakand whereas Malai Barfi can be made in a short time. There is a fine line between the preparation, taste, texture and color of both, that is why many people call it the same, and even popular brands such as Gits have Kalakand Malai Burfi printed on their box.
Now that we have the difference between Kalakand and Malai Barfi out of our way, this is how I made the Malai Barfi.
Malai Barfi Recipe
Adapted from manjulaskitchen
1 liter milk
1½ Tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup + 1 Tbsp sugar [moderately sweet; add more if you like sweeter]
1-2 pinch cardamom powder
1 Tbsp ghee
Sliced pistachios for garnish
1. Heat milk in a saucepan on high heat, when it comes to a boil lower the heat to medium, take some milk in a ladle add lemon juice to it, let it curdle in the ladle, then mix it with the remaining milk to curdle it all. Could take a minute till you see the whey separating from the solids, but if you don’t then add another tsp lemon juice until you do.
2. Strain out about 2 ½ cup (600 ml) of the whey [it helps remove a little sourness] and continue to cook the remaining solids for 10 minutes on medium heat, stirring frequently so it doesn’t scorch from the bottom. When the whey evaporates and milk solids remain, add sugar + cardamom powder and cook until the mixture comes together like a soft ball.
3. Add ½ Tbsp ghee to the mixture, mix it well and switch off the heat. Use the remaining ghee to grease the plate you want to set your Malai Barfi on. Pat the mixture on the plate and press firmly from all sides to shape it, garnish with pistachios and let it cool down then cut into squares.
Following these ingredient proportions, I shaped my Malai Barfi into a 4.25x4.25 inch square with a height of a little less than 1 inch. After dividing into 12 pieces, and considering how satiating this milky dessert is, the recipe makes enough Malai Barfi for 4-6 people.
You could garnish your Malai Barfi with silver foil (chaandi ka vark) too if you wish to make it look more festive. Malai Barfi can easily be prepared a few days beforehand if you make it to serve guests, and refrigerated to last a few days too.
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