The other day, I had my first guests over, after moving into the new time zone. The “dawat” as we call a party in Bengali was important to me because a) the guests were very special and b) it was the first time I was cooking from scratch all by myself. I wanted to go for an all Bengali menu with my (embarrassingly admitting) limited knowledge of the cuisine. Don’t roll your eyes, I always had my mom or my mum-in-law around to take care of that, while I explored other cuisines. Anyway, with the help from the mums, I designed a menu for the main courses, but was at a loss with the dessert. I wanted to make something with a touch of Bengali but at the same time, did not want to make any other traditional sweets or “mishti”. Everyone I know here seems to be masters of “roshogolla” , “chomchom” and “gulabjam” and I didn’t want to go down that path, for the fear of being judged too harshly for my novice culinary skills.
That’s when Rashie The Chef came to my rescue. If you didn’t know already, much to our pride, Rashedul Hasan, a Bangladeshi Australian was one of the top 24 contestants of Masterchef Australia 2017. He has maintained his passion for cooking after the show and posts recipes on his site and instagram. He recently posted a recipe of an innovative dish called Baklava Shondesh and once I laid my eyes on it, I knew I have found my dessert to waow my guests!
I used his recipe as a base and made some tweaks in it to better suit my liking. Although it took me half a day to get there, but Alhamdulliah the end product turned out to be the perfect show-stopper!
For the Shondesh:
- Ricotta Cheese: 400 gm
- Condensed Milk: 150 gm
- Cream (35 %): 150-200 gm ( this is not an exact because I added the cream periodically until I reached the desired smooth consistency)
For the Pastry:
- Puff Pastry: 4 sheets
- Pistachio Crumbs: 250 gm
- Melted Butter: To brush the pastries
- Water: 1 cup
- Lemon Juice: 1/2 cup
- Lemon Jest: of 1 lemon
- Caster Sugar: 150 gm
- Orange Blossom Water: 3-4 tsp
- Cardamon Pods: 6 pods
To a medium heated pan, add the ricotta cheese (drained off excess water), condensed milk and cream and cook for 15- 20 mins. We are looking for a smooth and slightly semi-liquid-like consistency. Feel free to add more cream or condensed milk to bring the desired consistency. Cooking is not an exact science 🙂 . Once done, set the shondesh mixture aside to cool.
Use a baking pan as a mold (mine was a square Betty Crocker but you can use 9 inch round pan as well) to cut into slightly thawed puff pastry. Layer the baking pan with parchment paper, add 1 sheet of puff pastry sheet and generously lather with melted butter. Score the sheet a few times to allow it to puff up while baking. Next, coat the buttered sheet with pistachio crumbs. Repeat the layer once. Once done, add the cooked mixture of shondesh and distribute evenly. Once again repeat the layering step on top with two more sheets of puff pastry in the same manner as before.
Bake in a preheated oven at 420F/ 220 C for 10 mins. Reduce the temperature to 350F/180 C and bake a further 35 minutes. While it bakes, make the lemon-sugar syrup.
In a heavy pan, add all the ingredients of the syrup and mix well until the sugar dissolves. Cook for about 25 minutes until the volume decreases and you have a rich sticky liquid. Remember that a hot syrup will taste less sweeter than it actually is.
Once the shondesh is baked, pour over the hot syrup over the hot shondesh and bake for a further 10 minutes. Once done, cool completely, cut into square, ready to waow your guests.
Note: I personally loved using orange blossom water because it compliments the lemon juice and jest used in the syrup very well. The result is a subtly fragrant syrup instead of a strong and pungent one. It also adds a depth and allow you to taste the different components without overpowering the entire dessert. Also, the reason why I used cream instead of only condensed milk is because I didn’t want the dessert to be too sweet. You have an option to play with the balance of the two to sweeten to your liking. You can always present the dessert drizzled with condensed milk if you are unsure ! 🙂
I hope you give it a try and if you do, let me or/and Rashie know how it turned out.
Thank you for reading ❤