Brow Beat

Meera Sodha’s 10-Minute Treat Gives a Centuries-Old Recipe a Modern Update

Creamy, frozen, small cup-shaped treats on popsicle sticks with yellow and brown tinged hot pink rose petals, sit on a blue cloth.
James Ransom

This sweet, 10-minute wonder of a recipe for creamy, frozen Indian kulfi represents the many sorts of happy discoveries you can stumble upon in putting together a cookbook, from the beginning right up until your publisher has to pry the manuscript from your hands and say, “Kristen. It has to go to the printer now.”

Most obviously, the discoveries are in the recipes themselves. In testing my way through the heaps I was considering for Genius Desserts, I followed each one to the letter like a good Virgo, as I always do. Meera Sodha’s kulfi recipe, made as written, was perfect in every way, despite its shockingly swift and simple assembly.

It was rich and ever-so-slightly caramelly, and had just enough cardamom and rosewater wafting through to make me feel serene, without reminding me of bath products. It was a shoo-in.

But when it came to planning the book’s photo shoots, we were allowed to get a little more creative. In dreaming up how we’d serve each dessert in this fantasy world we were creating, we mixed and matched and buddied up recipes: No-churn lemon ice cream boogied with candied sesame seeds, and olive oil cake snuggled up to slow-roasted strawberries.

We looked for ways to illustrate some of the book’s bonus Genius Tips in the recipe photos, too: Nancy Silverton and Dahlia Narvaez’s Butterscotch Budino recipe shows off how to secure a mixing bowl so it doesn’t wobble all over the counter. Claudia Fleming’s Guinness Stout Cake recipe clears up how to beautify even the cakes that come out of the oven a little gnarled-looking.

But all this photoshoot plotting also created yet another way for me to find new tips to add in up until the last possible second (I’m sorry, Ten Speed!)—from the talented team around me. For this recipe, Erin McDowell—author of The Fearless Baker and overseer of the gorgeous specimens we shot for Genius Desserts—suggested sprinkling hot pink dried rose petals on the bottom of each kulfi when they were just firm enough that the petals wouldn’t sink through.

This move adds both texture and excitement, and gives a clue to the flavor—and, frankly, would work with any other doodad you wanted to sprinkle on: chopped nuts, crushed cookies, those candied sesame seeds. I checked with Meera Sodha to make sure she approved of our new look, and we were off to the races. Below is Sodha’s kulfi recipe and story in full from Genius Desserts:

Traditional kulfi is a dense, almost chewy, frozen treat that dates back to the 16th century in India. It takes hours of vigilant simmering and stirring to reduce milk down to a quarter of its volume. As you probably suspect, this recipe is not traditional kulfi.

This breezier version from Meera Sodha, author of Made in India and Fresh India, combines the modern convenience of tinned evaporated milk with the fresh richness of cream. It requires nothing more than heating them to a boil, then cooling all the way down—either in traditional conical kulfi molds, or in ice pop molds or small paper cups. As the mix cools, the cardamom and rose water latch on and waft through with a spicy floral lightness, calming and sweet. Make it just like this for well-honed balance, or use the same basic recipe to infuse saffron, pistachios, vanilla beans, or other delicate flavors that shine best on a pure palate.

Meera Sodha’s Cardamom & Rose Water Kulfi

Serves 6 - 8
Prep time: 3 hours
Cook time: 10 min

12 cardamom pods
• 1 (12-ounce/354ml) can evaporated milk
• 1 1/4 cups (295g) heavy cream
• 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
• 2 tablespoons rose water
Fresh fruit, for serving (optional)
Dried rose petals or chopped pistachios, for topping (optional, see Genius Tip below)

See the full recipe on Food52.

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