Sweet Farmer’s Cheese Balls (Roshagullas)
The roshagulla is one of the most widely eaten sweets in India. It’s a simple golf ball-size sweet created by kneading and forming farmer’s cheese into a ball and boiling it. Its origins are somewhat more complicated. Some camps claim it began in Bengal, while others say the state of Odisha. There are references to the sweetened cheese balls going back 600 years at a Lakshmi temple in Odisha during the Rath Yatra ceremony. What isn’t in dispute is that the spongier, longer-lasting version popular today was developed by Nobin Chandra Das in the middle of the 19th century. On a chilly day nothing is better than a warm roshagulla (but you can also eat them chilled or at room temperature). They’re so fundamental to Indian culture that astronauts will be provided a dehydrated version on India’s first manned mission in 2016.
- 6 cups water
- 4 cups sugar plus more for inside dough balls
- 1 teaspoon cardamom powder optional
- 1 teaspoon rosewater optional
- Chhana cheese base
- In a large pot set over medium heat add water, 4 cups sugar, cardamom powder, and rosewater (if desired), and stir to combine. Cook until sugar has dissolved and syrup comes to a boil, then lower heat to keep at a simmer for 15 minutes, or until solution thickens. Remove from heat.
- Remove prepared chhana from cheesecloth, and turn onto a clean surface or cutting board. Knead for about 15 minutes, to create a relatively smooth dough. When dough is smooth, divide into 8 equal portions, each about 1 inch in diameter. Form each into a ball.
- Make a small indentation with your thumb in each ball, and place a pinch of sugar inside. Close up the indentation to conceal the sugar, and roll dough between your palms to reform each ball. (This step helps ensure the roshagullas stay moist inside.) Repeat with remaining balls. If wrinkles appear on the outside of balls, use a small amount of water to smooth them over.
- Bring syrup back to a boil, then lower heat to keep at a simmer. Carefully drop in roshagullas, and cook for about 20 minutes. They will float and puff up slightly as they cook. Turn off heat, and allow to cool in the syrup. Roshagullas are delicious hot, but also may be served chilled or at room temperature.