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Thandai Mishti Doi
A fragrant and lusciously creamy baked yogurt dessert that needs only a hand full of ingredients. With little to no time to make this sweet treat is a perfect quick fix.
There are a couple of terms we need to tackle to understand the inspiration of this dish. Let us start with “Thandai”; “Thandai” or “Shardai” or “Badaam Thandai” is an Indian cold drink prepared with a special mixture of nuts and spices. It is also commonly known as “Bhang Thandai” which is a Cannabis infused drink. The Thandai mixture usually consists of almonds, watermelon seeds, fennel seeds, rose petals, cardamom powder, saffron, poppy seeds, sugar and milk. It is usually made during the festival of “Holi” that is popularly celebrated all throughout India and symbolizes the good over evil with the beginning of spring after a long winter and the burning of a bonfire is one major tradition that is common. The Hindu festival lasts for a day and a night and people make sure to celebrate every waking minute of it with elaborate food, dance parties (including the Bhaang Thandai), water balloons and powdered colors. The vibrancy of colors is something that encourages and creates a sense of positivity coupled with a lot of fun. Each part of India celebrates it a little differently but the common factor has always been food and color.
Now that we have a little back story, let us understand what is “Mishti Doi”; it is a Bengali sweet that originates from the state of Bengal in India. It is a fermented sweet yogurt that is usually baked until just set and served cold. However this is not the only way to make and serve it, as you travel through India the recipe varies from state to state depending on what is seasonally available. Some places make it with malai (heavy cream) and sugar while others make it with milk jaggery and some sugar. With the change of ingredients the method of preparation also changes which naturally affects the outcome once baked. In saying this, some recipes call for the yogurt mixture to be left over night in a clay pot as that helps it set which means it is not baked. Commonly used spices in Mishti Doi has to be cardamom powder and saffron. Having understood the background of this dish let us talk more about how to make it.
This recipe is broken up into 2 parts; Thandai mixture and the Misthi Doi. The best part about my Thandai is that it is a dry mixture made up of almonds, cashews, pistachios, “besan” flour (chickpea flour), cardamom powder, nutmeg powder, saffron, sugar, melon seeds, fennel seeds, pepper corns and a few dried rose petals. They are all blended into a fine powder and it can be stored in an air tight bottle in a cupboard for 3-4 months. A great flavor bomb to make ahead of time and to use in your desserts, frostings and drinks. If you have this mixture on hand you can make a delicious drink I remember growing up with by boiling milk with the mixture until its reduced a little and all the flavors have combined well, my mum would add a drop of rose water and chopped cashews on top which would add texture. It makes for a delicious Thandai panacotta as well. The second part to this recipe is the Mishti Doi, this is the simplest mixture that requires only 3 ingredients; milk, yogurt and condensed milk.
If you want to make a basic Mishti Doi then you mix the 3 ingredients as mentioned above unit smooth, add a pinch of salt and you could add a touch of vanilla extract and follow the recipe as discussed below. However the Thandai Mishti Doi is a serious game changer, you can add much or as little of the mixture you’d like to the Mishti Doi bass but I have mentioned a base amount I like using that adds just enough flavor the mixture. The best part about this recipe is that you don’t need to heat the milk or yogurt, it doesn’t require you to set it overnight but you will bake it in a water bath in the oven. This can also be steamed but I would recommend baking as it does extract some of the moisture making it intensely rich and packs a punch with the flavor. The trick is yo under bake the mixture, as when it cools down it will firm up and become this mousse like texture.
The recipe doesn’t require much from you but the Thandai mixture does call for a few ingredients that you might not have in your cupboard, the good part to this is that a little investment can go along way as you can make the mixture and it keeps well for long as mentioned above. Also, you could use only almonds instead of mixing the cashews and pistachios. From the spices point of view I would recommend not skipping the cardamon and saffron as one adds the iconic flavor while the other adds for a milk golden color. Instead of saffron strands you could use turmeric powder but be mindful as little goes along way in flavor and appearance. If you don’t have besan flour I would recommend using half the amount of corn flour however it doesn’t add that earthy flavor you would get with the besan flour as we toast it lightly before blending it with the rest of the ingredients. In reference to the Mishti Doi aka baked yogurt, you can use yogurt all the way and leave the milk out but depending on how sour your yogurt is, you might need to add more condensed milk to balance it out. You could swap the milk for cooking or whipping cream as well. The condensed milk is the reason this recipe is a convenience, we don’t need to boil milk or heat the mixture prior to baking as this helps the immediate setting of the mixture once baked.
Let us talk about the baking real quick. The water bath helps keep a steady temperature and ensures the yogurt mixture is cooked at low temperature and doesn’t get over heated, if the mixture is over heated or over baked it could have the tendency to split or curdle. Hence it is important to take a little caution while cooking the yogurt. Once baked, you must must must let it cool down completely before eating. Ideally you want this to sit in the fridge as it is better when its fridge cold. I like serving it with chopped nuts on top to add a little texture that breaks through the creaminess. Once baked the Mishti Doi lasts for a day or 2 in the fridge so I would recommend finishing them within a days time. I think we have talked enough about this Thandai Mishti Doi, let us get baking!
Thandai Mishti Doi
- Large mixing bowl
- Shallow baking tray
- 5 (4inch ramekins)
- 8 Almonds
- 3 Cashews
- 4 Pistachios
- 1 tsp Cardamom powder
- 1/2 tsp Nutmeg powder
- 8 Stands saffron
- 1/2 tsp Melon seeds
- 1/2 tsp Poppy seeds
- 1/2 tsp Fennel seeds
- 7 Pepper corns
- 1/4 tsp Sugar
- 1/4 cup Milk
- 1/2 cup Yogurt
- 1/4 cup Condensed milk
- Blend all the ingredients together until it is a fine powder. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 170℃ and place a large baking shallow tray filled with water half the way on the middle rack in the oven.
- Mix the milk, yogurt and condensed milk in a mixing bowl until smooth. Add 5 tbsp of the Thandai mixture to the liquid mixture and whisk until smooth.
- Transfer the mixture into 4-5 ramekins three fourth of the way as it will not rise once baked. Place the filled ramekins in the shallow tray and bake for 12-14 minutes until the sides are almost set and the center is still a little wobbly.
- Remove from the oven and place in the fridge to cool. After 2 hours serve it and enjoy while it is chilled.
- If you are baking the mixture in a larger baking dish the cooking time will change hence be mindful of what you are looking for once the mixture is baked.
- The water bath is a must and it ensures a creamy custard like baked yogurt.
- Ideally if you can find earthen clay pots, I would recommend using them not only from a traditional point of view but even taste.
- If you want to bake the mixture without the Thandai powder you can leave it out and follow the recipe as mentioned.
- The Mishti Doi pairs well with a biscuit crumb or chopped nuts for texture. A few dried rose petals add for a pop of color and floral flavors.