The first time I made Ras Malai was three years ago, the first year of my marriage when I was trying to woo my husband. The way to a man's heart is his stomach, they said. And when I posted the picture on my Facebook album, my relatives who have seen me grow up couldn't believe how the girl who once struggled making tea ended up making Ras Malai.
Ras Malai appears complicated to most people. It's something people rather go buy from the confectionery (in India) or perhaps get the ready-made brands such as the popular Nanak's Ras Malai (in the USA). I personally do not like Nanak's Ras Malai at all.
I have seen Ras Malai made using milk powder, some with eggs, and I have never tried those recipes because this simple recipe that I follow that needs no milk powder or eggs, no maida (or all-purpose flour) and no sooji (semolina flour) has always turned out perfect. So if you'd like to learn how to make a simple, juicy, spongy Ras Malai at home, read on.
Ras Malai Recipe
Ras Malai consists of two main parts: step 1. making the rasgulla in the form of a patty, step 2. making the sweet saffron-and-cardamom-infused creamy milk
Step 1: Go to my Rasgulla post to learn how to curdle the 2% milk, how to remove the sourness, how to knead, and understand the procedure because it's the same concept you will use to make the patties for Ras Malai. Use the same proportions given to curdle the 1 liter milk but change the syrup ratio to 3:1 water:sugar. Once you knead and make the a) chhena dough, you can cover it with a cling wrap at this point and make Ras Malai the next day if you're short on time.
Then b) divide into 12-14 portions. This depends on how much chhena you get out of your 1 liter milk. After kneading, my dough was exactly ½ cup and I divided into 13 portions for a decent sized Ras Malai patty. Roll each portion into a ball and flatten it gently between your palms. Your patty will increase to double its size after cooking.
Next, this is one step that will be very different from Rasgulla - c) first - instead of using a medium deep saucepan, you must use a medium wide saucepan because of the patties instead of rasgulla balls, second - use 3:1 water:sugar ratio because we do not need excess water in our pan for the patties, and third - once your syrup comes to a boil drop in your patties (remember to leave room for expansion so add just sufficient quantity in batches), cover and cook for 6 MINUTES. After that, very gently flip each patty in the syrup then cover and cook for another 6 MINUTES. A rasgulla ball can easily roll around by itself as it boils in the hot syrup, but if you leave the patty for 12 minutes straight then it will be overcooked on the underside and turn yellowish. Yep - these are the little things you learn from all sorts of experiments when perfecting a recipe. And don't worry if you cook 6 and half minute each time in case you miss the timer, it will not do any damage.
Test the patty in plain water the way you'd test the Rasgulla ball. Once passed, d) transfer all patties into the bowl of plain water and let the syrup cool down on the side to use for something else, because for further steps the syrup is not required.
Step 2: Ingredients to make the 'ras' of Ras Malai - the 'juice', the sweet creamy milk:
1 liter (about 4 cups) of whole milk [or use 2% but I prefer whole milk]
¼ cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar [or adjust to your taste]
¼ tsp cardamom powder
Saffron strands for color and flavor [depends on your saffron strength]
Sliced almonds and pistachios for garnish [as much as you love]
1. Boil milk in a saucepan on medium heat for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it reduces to about 3 cups. It's perfectly all right if a layer of 'malai' forms on milk, don't strain. What's Ras Malai without some malai, right? Well, unless you don't like malai. If you notice my pictures carefully you will see a some tiny curdled milk kind of things - it's just malai that split into tiny pieces because of the stirring, and I had reduced milk to 2.5 cups because my husband likes it creamier (almost like Rabdi), hence more malai.
2. After milk has reduced to your desired consistency, add sugar + cardamom powder + crushed saffron strands (mainly for the color) + some sliced almonds and pistachios and reserve some for garnish later. Mix well, switch off heat, and add more saffron strands later until desired color and flavor. You can easily prepare this milk one or two days beforehand too.
3. When the milk becomes warm, squeeze the water out of the patties between your palms (I don't squeeze between fingers because I don't want to leave dents on malai or break it), and dip into the warm flavored milk. Allow the milk to cool down to room temperature and allow the patties to soak up the milk and the flavors. Refrigerate for a couple of hours or days until ready to serve. Garnish with as many almonds and pistachios as you wish. Serve chilled.
Green pistachios add a beautiful contrast to the yellow Ras Malai. Some people like to have their Ras Malai cream colored instead of yellow - that's up to you too. The longer saffron rests in the milk, the more its color deepens. So don't add excess saffron to achieve the yellow color otherwise too strong saffron flavor is no good. If you don't want to cook and reduce the milk, you can use heavy cream which is already thick and creamy, and you can also use condensed milk to add thickness and sweetness - but for some reason I don't quite like the taste of heavy cream/condensed milk as Ras Malai milk.
One way you can make it easier to make Ras Malai is to get a store-bought can of Rasgulla, squeeze all the sugar syrup out of it between your palms while flattening it a little, drop into your warm creamy flavored milk and let it absorb for a couple of hours and refrigerate - and your instant Rasmalai will be ready.
After having made Ras Malai and its cousin Angoor Malai several times in these years, I finally saved a few pieces this time before they finished as always leaving me none to post on the blog. If you love Ras Malai as much as I do and are tempted to try this recipe, just follow the steps exactly as given and you will fall in love with making delightful Rasmalai at home, again and again.
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