Soft spongy balls swimming in sweet sugar syrup aka Rasgulla, a popular dessert from the Indian subcontinent. The spongy balls are made with ‘chenna’ – or coagulated milk solids. It is a little tricky to make, but once you master it is going to become your go to dessert!
Rasgullas trace its origins to the state of Odisha but is popular all over the region. The word ‘rasgulla’ originates from two Bangla words – ‘rosh’ meaning juice ‘golla’ meaning sphere shaped. This Banglar Rasogolla is known simply as Rasgulla in most part of India. Incidentally Rasgulla and its cousins have GI tags and the states of West Bengal and Odisha do not see eye to eye on this matter.
I am not a big fan of dairy based sweets. But the transformation of milk into these spongy balls is fascinating to me. So I am happy to oblige when my family requests for one of these.
My rasgulla (mis)adventures began years back, when a friend told me that it was her no fail easy quick dessert recipe. The recipe looks easy, but deceptively simple never fit anything else better !! never Over the years my rasgullas/rosogollas have been all over the map
- Too hard
- Too lemony
- And Plain disgusting !
But I would like to think that I have mastered the beast, so to speak. I haven’t had a mishap in the last 3 years and I would consider that as a good run.
From a long list of hits and missed one tends to learn a few things. Here are a few …
Type Of Milk
Start with fresh milk – not the one that is on the verge of expiry. Often recipes ask for full fat milk – but I have had good luck with low fat milk as well. The fresher and less processed the milk is the better the results will be. So if you have raw milk – by all means go for it. Try to stay away from ultra pasteurized homogenized variety, as these are heated and broken down to the molecular level. The processing is meant to keep the milk from spoiling and separating during prolonged storage. These same properties work against you when you try to separate the milk solids out.
Traditionally rasgulla, as many of the milk based sweets, is made with full fat milk. But the low fat versions work well too.
The chenna (fresh cottage cheese) needs to be drained from whey. Unless you are going for sour flavors rinse the drained chenna under water to remove any trace of acidity. All the excess water need to be drained out as well. But a dried out chenna will make hard rasgullas. So squeeze out the excess water and let the chenna hang dry for about 30 minutes.
If you were making citrus flavored rasgullas like komolobhog then do not worry about rising out the flavors.
As with moisture , the right amount of kneading is also important. The chenna needs to kneaded just till it becomes lump free and uniformly soft. At this stage the milk fat slowly begin to leave the chenna and your palm will get oily. That is the cue to stop kneading. Overworked chenna (too much kneading) will cause the rasgullas to break apart while boiling.
Adding some binder as in the form of sooji (semolina) or flour is your choice. Usually these help absorb any extra moisture and keep the cracks from getting bigger. Definitely avoid it if you want to keep it as a gluten free dessert.
Rasgullas are cooked in boiling sugar syrup. Add the rasgulla balls to the boiling sugar syrup and keep the liquid boiling ( fairly good amount of bubbling ) through out the entire cooking time.
Size of the Pan
Use a wide pan to cook rasgullas. These expand as they cook to about double the diameter.
I use the ratio of 1:4 , 1 C sugar to 4 C water, while making sugar syrup. The rasgullas are sweet but not too sweet , definitely not as sweet as the canned varieties we get from stores. Increase the sugar content if you need to.
Once the rasgullas are cooked these can be removed with a little liquid to keep them moist and the remaining sugar syrup can be cooked down to your desired consistency.
Making large quantities
This recipe can be easily doubled or tripled according to your needs. In such cases boil the rasgullas in batches. Ones the balls are made keep them covered under a moist kitchen towel to prevent them from drying out.
The milk to lemon juice and water to sugar ratios remain the same, but some of the sugar syrup can be reused over multiple batches.
Split or Deflated Rasgullas
If the rasgullas break apart while boiling these can not be salvaged – at least not as rasgullas. But these are still too delicious to be thrown away. Drain these and reserve. Cook down the sugar syrup and add evaporated milk or unsweetened condensed milk (or cook the milk down to 50% volume) . Into this sweet liquid add the broken pieces, add aromatic spices (cardamom powder/ dry ginger/ nutmeg / saffron ) sprinkle some toasted nuts and serve as kheer.
Another option is to add the drained pieces to cake or tart fillings.
I am sure there are many other options. If your ever find yourself in this situation and came up with a creative solution post a picture on Instagram and tag me. Would love to hear about it.
Here are the basic steps to making Rasgulla in pictures
The recipe for rasgulla calls for a lot of sugar, but don’t be alarmed not all that sugar will be consumed. Rasgulla needs to be soaked in enough sugar syrup for it to be absorbed. There will be a fair amount of sugar syrup left over which can be reused in other desserts.
Here is recipe for making Rasgullas from scratch .
- 4 C Cow's Milk Preferably Full Fat
- 2 - 4 Tbsp Lemon juice Use as required (Notes 2- 4)
- 1 1/2 C Granulated Sugar
- 6 C Water
- 1 Tsp Fine semolina/sooji /AP Flour/corn starch (Optional)
- ½ Tsp Cardamom powder
- Few Saffron Strands
- 1/2 Tsp Rose Water
Curdle the Milk to Make Chenna
- Take milk in a pan and heat on medium heat until boiling. Stir the milk occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning.
- While the milk is heating, squeeze the lemon and strain the juice.
- Line a large strainer with layers of cheese cloth, muslin or a close weaved cotton cloth.
- When the milk has boiled reduce the heat to low. Slowly pour 1 to 2 tbsp of the lemon juice in a thin stream into the boiling milk while stirring the milk continuously. The milk should begin to curdle, if not give a quick stir and repeat the process with more lemon juice until it curdles (Notes 2- 4).
- Turn off the heat and pour the curdled milk into the cloth lined strainer. Gather the ends together and rinse the chenna under running water to remove the lemon flavors. Squeeze out as much of the excess water as you can and tie the ends of the cloth to a wooden spoon set n a bowl or the tap over the sink and let the chenna hang dry for 30 minutes. (Note 5)
Prepare Sugar syrup
- Just before starting to knead the chenna mix sugar and water in a wide mouthed pan and bring to boil over medium heat. Make sure that the water is at least 3 inches deep or in other words there is enough room for the rasgullas to expand and float and without touching the bottom of the pan.
Make Rasgulla Balls:
- Remove the chenna from the cloth and place on a flat plate. Break up the chenna and at this point you should not feel any moisture s ticking to your hands. Using the heel of your hand spread flatten and spread out the chenna. Once it is spread out gather to the center and repeat the process until it becomes smooth. Optionally you can add the binder (sooji/flour - see Note 6) while kneading. Stop kneading once the mix is smooth and your palm begins to feel greasy. About 10 minutes of light kneading is all that is required - but use the feel of the mix as guide rather than the time.
- Avoid kneading further as it removes all the fat from the mix and the rasgullas will lose its spongy texture.
- Divide the dough into equal portions (10 to 12 ) and form each into a smooth ball. Assume that each ball is going to double in diameter and portion accordingly. Keep the balls covered under a moist kitchen towel. This step is especially important if you are going to be boiling them in batches.
- Slowly slide the rasgullas into the boiling sugar solution. Once all rasgullas are in the pan gently shake the pan to dislodge any that might have accidentally stuck to the side or bottom of the pan. Cover the pan with a lid and cook over medium heat (the sugar syrup should keep boiling).
- Cook for 15 minutes. Take one rasgulla out of the syrup and gently press with the back of a spoon (or finger if you can handle the heat). If it bounces back to its original shape the rasgulla is cooked. If not cooked return to the syrup and cook for 5 more minutes and test again. Usually 20 minutes is all that it needs , but if the balls are very large you may need to cook for an additional 5 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low and remove the resgullas with a little liquid to a bowl. Once all rasgullas are transferred to the bowl pour a few tablespoons of sugar solution over it and keep it covered.
- Reduce the remaining sugar syrup to desired consistency – I like to keep it at little thinner than simple syrup. Add cardamom powder of saffron threads or rose water to the syrup at this point. Turn off the heat and let syrup cool a little.
- Pour the syrup over the rasgullas and let it soak for 30 minutes. Serve warm or refrigerate for later.
- If you notice bits of foam on the sugar solution, skim it off.
- The acidity of lemon juices vary and it may take anywhere from 1 to 4 tbsps to coagulate the milk.
- Curd (Indian style yogurt) , vinegar, or leftover whey water from making rasgullas are also good substitutes for lemon juice.
- If using leftover whey or curd there is no need to rinse the chenna under water.
- I do not recommend placing heavy weight on the chenna to drain it. Let long the weight might exert excess pressure and change the texture of chenna, where are a few extra minutes of draining while hanging will not change the texture.
- When gluten is a concern do not add flour/sooji when kneading chenna. If you must then add corn starch.
Important: Values are only estimates. Actuals vary depending on ingredients and serving size.
Rasgulla syrup made by this method will be a little cloudy as it will have some milk particles in it.
Want pure white Rasgullas in clear syrup ?
For this cook the rasgullas in a very thin sugar syrup say 1: 6 ratio.
In another pot prepare the sugar syrup at the ratio of 1: 1 or 1:2 depending on how thick you want the syrup. Once the syrup has come to boil turn off the heat but keep it warm .
Afterr the rasgullas are cooked, drain each rasgulla from the cooking syrup and gently slide into the prepared syrup. Soak for at least 30 minutes.