Author Notes: The flavor in this light, just-barely-sweet topping comes from an infusion of the milk with toasted almonds and citrus, prior to creating the curds. The nut-flavored milk used to make this owes its inspiration to Arathi's "Nutella" Pudding. The idea for spiking the stone fruit jam with Madeira comes from a 19th century recipe (written by a Baron, Léon Brisse, and translated into English by Edith Matthew Clark in 1892) for an apricot dessert consisting of stewed apricots served over a cake made of rice, covered with a syrup made of apricot jam and Madeira. Please note that the chhena recipe makes approximately two cups. If you don't need that much, the recipe can be cut in half. You might want a full batch, though. Imagine spooning some of this chhena on a slice of just-buttered, warm toast . . . . or into a bowl of steel cut oats with a touch of cinnamon and a pinch or two of jaggery . . . or on toasted pound cake, garnished with shaved dark chocolate. These crostini would be perfect for a Mother's Day or other spring brunch buffet or garden party luncheon. Enjoy!! ;o) —AntoniaJames
Makes: about 2 cups of chhena
The Almond-Infused Chhena
1/2 cup (about 56 grams) whole raw almonds, with or without skins (See note below.)
8 cups whole milk
Peel of one lemon, cut in strips, with no pith
Peel of 1/2 medium orange, cut in strips, with no pith
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 – 2 tablespoon extra fine sugar (optional)
Apricot or other stone fruit jam or preserves (to taste)
Madeira (I use a slightly dry Rainwater) (1 teaspoon per tablespoon of jam)
French bread or artisanal multigrain baguettes or batards
Cream (1 tablespoon per 1/4 cup of chhena, or more or less to taste)
Orange or lemon zest, for garnish (optional)
The Almond-Infused Chhena
- Coarsely chop the almonds with a chef’s knife and toast for 6 – 7 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, or just until they start to darken. Remove immediately from the baking sheet, lest they continue to cook, which will burn them.
- Blend the nuts with one cup of milk in a blender for 2 – 3 minutes, until the nuts are fully pulverized and the milk is a light, sandy-looking tan.
- Pour into a large, heavy-bottomed pot and add the citrus peel. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, especially on the bottom of the pot, to prevent scorching.
- When the flavored milk is very hot, but not yet scalded, turn the pot off and cover it. Let it sit for 30 minutes.
- Strain the milk and return it to the pot. Heat until it reaches a simmer, stirring constantly.
- As soon as it starts to simmer, add the lemon juice. Stir gently and lower the heat to prevent the milk from boiling.
- Simmer, continuing to stir, for a few minutes. Turn the heat off, cover the pot, and let it sit for 10 minutes.
- Strain through a colander or large strainer that’s lined with two layers of cheesecloth. (Don’t discard the whey unless you are absolutely certain you are not going to use it for other purposes. Please see the note below for more information, if you're interested.)
- Allow the curds to drain for a few minutes. While the curds are still warm, remove from the cheesecloth and put the curds into a bowl or covered container. Stir in the sugar, if using.
- This will keep for several days, tightly covered and refrigerated.
- Enjoy!! ;o)
- N.B. The method for making the curds (and the ratio of lemon to milk) is based in part on the information provided about making ricotta, at bonappetit.com.
- About the almonds . . . . for a much stronger almond flavor, you can increase the amount of almonds up to 1 cup (112 grams). No other ingredients need be adjusted. Your whey will also be much more flavorful.
- About the whey . . . ricotta whey makes amazing yeast and quick breads, including biscuits and scones (substitute 1:1 with milk or water in the recipe); can be used to flavor steel cut oats (substitute amounts to taste . . . . 1/3 seems about right to me); and in creamy or pureed soups to replace some of the broth, stock or water used (I used 2 cups of this in my Red Lentil and Cauliflower Soup recently, which had an almost luxurious texture as a result). I'm sure there are many other uses. So, as I say, don't throw this wonderful stuff away unless you're absolutely sure you don't want to use it for something else.
- Warm the jam, adding a few drops of water after warming it, if the jam seems too stiff.
- At this point, you can strain the jam if you want, or you can leave it as is. It's entirely up to you. Stir in the Madeira.
- Add cream a bit at a time to the curds, using the back of a spoon to blend the two together. This makes the curds a bit more cohesive and therefore more spreadable.
- Lightly toast the sliced bread.
- Smear on a bit of spiked jam. Then pile on a few spoonfuls of almond-infused chhena, to taste.
- As an optional garnish, sprinkle on a small pinch or two of fresh lemon or orange zest (pulled with a conventional zester and finely chopped with a pinch of sugar, if you are old-fashioned like me), or some finely chopped preserved lemon, for an unexpected salty-sour touch.
- Or, you can put this on just-buttered, still-warm toast for breakfast or brunch or, with a toddy late in the evening, for a "killer" (as my sons would say) late-night snack.
- Enjoy!! ;o)
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Recipe with Fresh Ricotta