Genius Recipes

Meera Sodha’s 10-Minute Frozen Treat Will Soothe Your Summer Brain

August 22, 2018

Every Wednesday this August, we’re giving you sneak peeks of some of the most gloriously summery recipes in our almost-born cookbook Genius Desserts. (You can order your signed copy now to get your mitts on the rest when the book drops September 4th!)

This sweet, 10-minute wonder of a recipe for creamy, frozen Indian kulfi represents the many sorts of happy discoveries you can stumble upon in putting together a cookbook, from the beginning right up until your publisher has to pry the manuscript from your hands and say, “Kristen. It has to go to the printer now.”

Most obviously, the discoveries are in the recipes themselves. In testing my way through the heaps I was considering for Genius Desserts, I followed each one to the letter like a good Virgo, as I always do. Meera Sodha's kulfi recipe, made as written, was perfect in every way, despite its shockingly swift and simple assembly.

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It was rich and ever-so-slightly caramelly, and had just enough cardamom and rosewater wafting through to make me feel serene, without reminding me of bath products. It was a shoo-in.

But when it came to planning the book's photo shoots, we were allowed to get a little more creative. In dreaming up how we’d serve each dessert in this fantasy world we were creating, we mixed and matched and buddied up recipes: No-churn lemon ice cream boogied with candied sesame seeds, and olive oil cake snuggled up to slow-roasted strawberries.

We looked for ways to illustrate some of the book's bonus Genius Tips in the recipe photos, too: Nancy Silverton and Dahlia Narvaez’s Butterscotch Budino recipe shows off how to secure a mixing bowl so it doesn’t wobble all over the counter. Claudia Fleming’s Guinness Stout Cake recipe clears up how to beautify even the cakes that come out of the oven a little gnarled-looking.

But all this photoshoot plotting also created yet another way for me to find new tips to add in up until the last possible second (I’m sorry, Ten Speed!)—from the talented team around me. For this recipe, Erin McDowell—author of The Fearless Baker and overseer of the gorgeous specimens we shot for Genius Desserts—suggested sprinkling hot pink dried rose petals on the bottom of each kulfi when they were just firm enough that the petals wouldn’t sink through.

This move adds both texture and excitement, and gives a clue to the flavor—and, frankly, would work with any other doodad you wanted to sprinkle on: chopped nuts, crushed cookies, those candied sesame seeds. I checked with Meera Sodha to make sure she approved of our new look, and we were off to the races.

Below is Sodha's kulfi recipe and story in full from Genius Desserts, and a photo that tells you everything you need to know—and then some.

genius desserts sneak peek!

Meera Sodha’s Cardamom & Rose Water Kulfi

Traditional kulfi is a dense, almost chewy, frozen treat that dates back to the 16th century in India. It takes hours of vigilant simmering and stirring to reduce milk down to a quarter of its volume. As you probably suspect, this recipe is not traditional kulfi.

This breezier version from Meera Sodha, author of Made in India and Fresh India, combines the modern convenience of tinned evaporated milk with the fresh richness of cream. It requires nothing more than heating them to a boil, then cooling all the way down—either in traditional conical kulfi molds, or in ice pop molds or small paper cups. As the mix cools, the cardamom and rose water latch on and waft through with a spicy floral lightness, calming and sweet. Make it just like this for well-honed balance, or use the same basic recipe to infuse saffron, pistachios, vanilla beans, or other delicate flavors that shine best on a pure palate.

Photos by James Ransom

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Erin Jeanne McDowell
    Erin Jeanne McDowell
  • HalfPint
  • Eric Kim
    Eric Kim
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Erin J. August 23, 2018
These are dangerously good. Think they are an appropriate breakfast food?
HalfPint August 22, 2018
Oooooo, kulfi :)
Eric K. August 22, 2018
I ate three of these in one sitting. It's insane how much they activate your salivary glands. (I don't know a sexier way to say this, sorry—literally mouthwatering?)