What can be better than sweet spongy Rasgulla ? Sweet and spongy Orange Rasgula – of course !!! Komola Bhog is the orange flavored cousin of the popular Bengali sweet Rasgula. Well I was recently chastised for calling it a Bengali sweet. It is not just popular in Bengal, many neighboring regions lay claim to its origin as well . Now whether I get the pedigree right or not – Rasgulla or Roshogulla is a beautiful desert with huge fan following.
The truth is that even with a few Rasgulla fans in the house, I was clueless about Komola Bhog (or Komolo bhog) not so long ago. My relationship with milk based deserts is not very cordial, on the other hand I am a sucker for citrus flavors. Just so you know, I love orange in frozen treats, cakes or just by themselves. Now you know what to get me, if you were ever wondering ;-). Kidding aside citrus has this wonderful ability to brighten up any dish instantly, whether you cook with it or just garnish with it.
So , as you can imagine , the idea of Komola Bhog piqued my interest. But my excitement soon turned into disappointment as I read the recipes – virtually all of them relied on food color and essence for flavor. Colors and additives are things that I generally stay away from. Moreover there are always bags of oranges or lemons in my kitchen. So I made these with fresh oranges and the results were incredible.
All you really need are four ingredients – milk , sugar, water, and oranges. I add a little saffron and cardamom to enhance the flavors, but these are like the icing on the cake. Saffron imparts a bit of color as well. Now if you absolutely must have the deep orange color , add a drop of color, but definitely hold back on the essence.
These are the steps to making Komola bhog
- Curdle Milk
- Strain and cool the curds
- Knead and make small balls
- Boil till doubled.
- Cool in orange flavored syrup
Curdling the milk
As in the case of making fresh rasgulla, the first step is to separate the milk solids. Hot milk is curdled using an acid – typically lemon juice or vinegar. Depending on the final product the acidic flavors may have to be removed by rinsing off. In this case we use the orange juice, and since the end prodcuct is orange flavored there is no need to rinse out the excess.
Heat is an important part of this curdling process. It is the catalyst helping the milk curdle almost instantly. Add orange juice to to boiling milk and stir well. You will notice the milk curdling. The amount of orange juice needed varies depending on the acidity – for 4 cups of milk it could be anywhere from 1/2 C to 1 C juice. Turn off the heat and let it rest for 5 minutes to allow the thick curds to form.
Separate the curds
Place a strainer over a bowl and cover with layers of cheese cloth or a muslin/ cotton towel. Pour the curdled milk over it and let the whey strain out. Gather the ends of the towel and squeeze out as much of the whey as possible.
Let the curds hang dry for 30 minutes. The idea is to let the gravity work its magic . Often times these are hung dry on the kitchen faucet. It is not very convenient for me so this is how I do it. Place a wooden spoon across a deep pot or bowl. Tie the cloth containing the curds on the spoon and let it hand dry .
Do not let the curds dry for longer than 45 minutes. If all the moisture is removed from the curds it will break while boiling. If you can not make the Komola Bhog immediately , place the curds in an airtight container for a few hours.
Form the rasgulla
Once the whey is drained, knead the curds well adding a little sooji (semolina) or flour, orange zest, powdered saffron strands and a little fine sugar. Knead until the cheese is smooth, for about 15 minutes. The dough should be smooth and uniform light orange color by now . Divide into equal sized pieces and form into smooth balls. Keep in mind that these swell up and double in size.
Heat sugar and water in a pan. When it boils add the powdered cardamon. Slowly place the rasgulla balls in the boiling sugar syrup. Cover and let it boil for 10 minutes.
Komolo Bhog would have doubled in size by now. Turn these gently once and let simmer for another 10 to 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let cool. When cooled remove Komola bhog from the syrup to a serving container. Pour little syrup over it to keep it moist. Heat the syrup syrup remaining in the pan till it thickens and begins to coat the spoon. If you like your syrup very sweet this is the time to add more sugar. Turn off the heat and mix in 1 C orange juice. Pour this over the Komola Bhog in the fridge.
Refrigerate komola bhog for a few hours/overnight before serving.
Few other Indian sweets
To me the trick to getting the most flavor out of this recipe is the orange zest. Zest it fine, and make sure that none of the pith (the white portion of the skin) gets in .
The color will vary depending on the type of zest used as well as the amount of saffron. Add a pinch of kesar color or orange food coloring if needed. Regardless of the intensity of color the sweet will taste delicious.
This is a version of Rasgulla flavored with orange. Here a mix of citrus and dairy flavors complement each other perfectly.
- 4 C Milk
- 2 Tsp Orange Zest
- 2 C Orange Juice
- 1 - 11/2 C Granulated Sugar
- 4 C Water
- 10 - 20 Strands Saffron
- 2 Pods Green Cardamon
- 1 Drop Orange Color
- Boil the milk in a large pot. When it comes to a rolling boil slowly pour about 1/2 to 3/4 C of orange juice while stirring the milk. The milk will curdle. Once the curds form, turn off the heat and set aside for 10 minutes .
- Strain using a cheese cloth or cotton towel. Tightly wrap the cloth over the curds and squeeze it dry. Let the cheese bundle hang and drain for 30 to 45 minutes.
- Powder the cardamom seeds. Crush the saffron strands fine. Finely zest the orange.
- Mix 1 C sugar with 4 C water and heat over low fire.
- Remove the curds from the cloth and knead with 1 Tbsp fine semolina, saffron and orange zest for 10 to 15 minutes until it forms a smooth dough. The dough should be of uniform golden color by now. Divide the dough into 8 to 10 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth ball.
By now the water should be boiling. Add the cardamom powder to the water. Gently place the cheese balls in the boiling sugar syrup. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. Komola Bhog should have doubled in size by now. Turn them gently and cook for another 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it cool for an hour.
Remove the Komola Bhog from the syrup to another container. Heat the remaining syrup till it begins to coat a spoon. This is the time to add more sugar , if you prefer. Cool and add 1 C orange juice and the food color (if using) to it. Mix well. Pour this orange syrup over the Komolo Bhog. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill completely before serving.
A Few Tips
- Though many recipes ask for full fat milk, I have had most success with low fat milk that is not homogenized.
- Do not let the cheese curds become too dry . If you can not knead and make the Rasgulla/Komola Bhog immediately place the drained cheese in an airtight container for a few hours.
- Do not over work the cheese. Stop kneading as the cheese becomes very smooth and the dough is formed. Once you feel the fat coating your palms stop kneading.
- Keep the sugar syrup boiling while the Rasgulla/Komola Bhog are cooking. Do not reduce the heat to simmer.
- Ensure that the pot used to make Komola Bhog is large enough to hold all the puffed cheese balls.
- There should be enough sugar syrup to cover the komolo Bhog. If that is not the case, change the pan or add more hot sugar syrup.
- There should not be any cracks on the surface of the cheese balls as you place them in the sugar syrup.
Here are a few other Orange flavored desserts to try