As a Palakkad Iyer, one of the constants in the kitchen is yogurt. We make yogurt fresh every day as it is a very intrinsic part of our meals. So much so that the traditional Palakkad Iyer lunch and dinner is incomplete without it. Normally we have our yogurt, whether thick or thinned down, plain or seasoned with a little salt. In the Northern part of India, yogurt is usually served sweet.
Examples are the sweet Lassi from Punjab, the sweet and somewhat tangy Shrikhand from Gujarat and the Bengali Mishti Doi. Mishti Doi, which translates as sweet yogurt, is an iconic sweetened set yogurt from the Indian state of West Bengal. It is equally popular across the border in Bangladesh as well.
Mishti Doi is not only served as dessert but traditionally made for religious and festive occasions including weddings. This dish is usually sweetened with sugar. Sometimes caramelized sugar or date jaggery (nolen gur) is the choice of sweetener and this gives the yogurt a golden or reddish colour where this yogurt is then also referred to as Laal Mishti Doi where “laal” means red.
The best way to make Mishti Doi is the traditional way where full fat milk is boiled to reduce it in quantity somewhat, sweetened and then a small amount of yogurt is mixed in. This is then poured into small earthenware pots and left overnight to set till firm, thick and creamy in texture. The porous nature of the earthenware pots also help absorb excess moisture from the yogurt and keep it cool.
This recipe is enough to make, is made ahead and needs just three ingredients. The only time it really takes is for the milk to reduce down a bit but that is well worth the effort in my opinion. If you would prefer to avoid this process you could always check out recipes using evaporated or condensed milk though the flavour would be a bit different. This recipe uses jaggery which gives a unique flavour and colour but you can use white or brown sugar instead.
Laal Mishti Doi – A Bengali Jaggery Sweetened Yogurt
- 3 cups milk whole
- 3/4 cup sugar jaggery or powdered
- 2 tbsps yogurt plain thick , whisked
- Heat the milk in the heavy bottom pan. Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat and let the milk simmer until it reduces by about a third or so in quantity. Make sure the milk is stirred frequently and that it does not stick to the pan and burn. Mix in the jaggery or sugar till it dissolves.
- Take the pan off the heat and let the sweetened milk cool down until it is feels comfortably warm when you dip your finger in it. Mix in the yogurt and then pour this mixture into 4 earthenware pots if you have them, or ramekins. Loosely cover them and let them sit at room temperature or a warm place for about 8 hours or so until firm and set.
- Once the yogurt has set, refrigerate till ready to serve. Typically, this made last thing at night and allowed to set overnight. If it is kept out too long it can become sour and inedible.