Little Miss Muffet, sat on a tuffet, eating her curds and whey…
Curds and whey. That’s what I have for you today. Well, the curds. (And what is a tuffet anyway?)
Today’s dessert rounds out Bangladesh, and is another one of those “oh, right mom used to make that.” And, I think we can all agree that those really are the best dishes.
Cham-cham is a quintessential Bangladeshi dessert, also popular in the Bengal region of India (there is much overlap between the two areas, food-wise). To put it in simple terms, cham-cham is homemade cheese cooked and soaked in a sweet syrup. The syrup can range from a heavier caramel to a more milky concoction to just sugar and water. I’m going to make it like Mama Buddha and do a variation on the latter.
I remember Mama Buddha making these as a kid, and Little Buddha and I would stare at the cheese hanging over the sink, willing it to “hurry up and dry already” so we could shove the sweet balls of syrup and cheese into our faces. Making it for the first time myself, I realized that patience isn’t all that necessary for this- it took a lot less time than my childhood memories had led me to believe, and before I knew it, dessert was upon me.
A few things to note: In light of my distressing news, rather than buy whole milk, I wanted to use up the leftover 2% from my fridge since it is little good to me now. Since the amount of cheese made is directly proportional to the amount of fat in the milk, it was no surprise that 4 cups on milk yielded little more than 1/3 cup of cheese. All the better for my tummy, but quite disappointing in terms of volume. So, I suggest using whole milk.
Second, most recipes, Mama Buddha’s included, suggesting cooking these cheese balls for 9 minutes exactly in a pressure cooker. This extraneous kitchen gadget, I do not own. Therefore, I simply simmered my cheese in the syrup. They tasted fine, but were admittedly not as soft nor shiny and smooth. And, as mom warned, they lacked the squeaky texture that the Big Buddha preferred. Hey, I work with what I have, and a pressure cooker I did not.
If I had walked into my apartment to see a random hanging sachet, I’d be a bit weirded out.
Okay, those are my notes. Here is my recipe.
Recipe melded together from numerous sources, so I guess you can call this an original
Makes 4 cheese dumplings
4 cups milk
3 TB lemon juice (vinegar would work as well)
1 TB semolina flour
A sprinkle of cinnamon
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
3 cardamom pods, crushed
Special equipment: cheesecloth
1. Line a mesh strainer with cheesecloth and set aside.
2. Bring the milk to a boil (take care not to let it boil over or burn at the bottom) and add the lemon juice. Curds will form. This is good.
3. Once you can see a clear distinction between the cheese curds and the yellow-y liquid, this step is done. Remove from the heat and pour the curds and whey (the liquid) into the strainer. Rinse with some cold water to remove the lemon taste.
4. When the curds have cooled enough to be handled, squeeze it well with your hands until no more liquid is coming out. Make a sort of sack out the cheesecloth, and hang somewhere to dry for about an hour.
5. After the hour, transfer to a bowl and mix in the semolina flour. Knead the mixture with your hands until it starts to feel a little greasy, then divide the dough into four equal parts and shape them into ovals.
6. Dissolve the sugar in the water, add the cardamom and bring to a boil. Gently drop the cham-cham into the syrup and cook for about 30 minutes, turning the cham cham over in the syrup halfway through.
7. Serve with the syrup and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Enjoy!