For this month, recipe for Indian Cooking Challenge (ICC) is Chenna Poda. Chenna Poda is a dessert or sweet from the state of Orissa, India. Chenna is paneer, Indian cottage cheese and chenna poda is a paneer cake. Paneer or chenna is seasoned with sugar, cardamom powder and a few nuts, and is baked for about 30 minutes. I followed Shibani’s ingredient list and also referred to Nikki’s recipe.
The cake preparation was easy but I had a little difficult preparing the caramel. In the first attempt, I used a nonstick pan and the sugar would not caramelize properly. Then I tried caramelizing sugar in a stainless steel pan and but that did not quite work. I think I over caramelized the sugar. However, I did manage to transfer the caramelized sugar to the cake pan. Except for preparation of caramel, the rest of the preparation was a breeze.
- 2 quart Milk (I used 1 quart whole milk & 1 quart 2% milk)
- 1 Lime juiced or 3 tbsp. lime juice
- ¼ kg or 2 cups loosely packed Paneer
- 2 tbsp. Sooji
- ½ cup Sugar (adjust to taste. It was a little too sweet for my palate)
- ½ tsp. Cardamom Seeds powdered
- 1 tbsp. Raisins (Can skip these. Raisins also made the cake a little sweeter)
- 6 – 8 Cashews or 1 tbsp. broken Cashews
- 1 tsp. Butter
- ¾ tbsp. Sugar (for caramelizing)
- Heat milk in a pan and bring it to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Add lime juice to the milk and continue to boil for a minute or 2 two. By now the milk will curdle and paneer or cheese will separate from the whey. Whey is the water that forms after milk curdles and paneer is formed.
- Drain the paneer and wash it properly with water to wash away the sourness of the lime.
- Transfer the paneer to a cheese cloth and squeeze it to drain the water. Place the paneer cheese cloth in a sieve or a colander and place a heavy object over it. Leave it for about one hour until all the whey is drained.
- Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
- Transfer the paneer to a bowl, add sugar, sooji, cardamom powder and kneed/mix well. Taste the paneer mixture and adjust sugar to taste. The recipe called for castor sugar (known as super fine sugar in the US). Sugar in the US is not very granular so I used it as it is. If sugar is granular as in India, use castor sugar or powdered sugar.
- In a pan heat butter and roast cashews & raisins (if using) until light brown. Raisins will puff up. Remove from butter and add to paneer mixture.
- Once the oven is pre-heated, take a pan, heat it and sprinkle sugar to caramelize. I used the same pan that I used to roast the nuts. I used a non-stick pan and sugar did not caramelize properly. Use a stainless steel pan instead. Once the sugar melts and turns light amber color, transfer it to baking pan or a dish. I used a 4.5” mini spring form pan. Pyrex or any oven safe dish will work to.
- Spread the caramel in the pan, press the paneer mixture over the caramel syrup.
- Place the pan in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until a tooth pick insert in the cake comes out clean.
- Remove from oven and let it cool for about 2 hours before digging in.
- The cake was good but it was a little too sweet for my taste. Next time I make this cake; I will either reduce the quantity of sugar or omit raisins. I felt addition of raisins made the cake little sweeter.