Chhena Poda: Indian Cheesecake

A Celebratory Recipe

The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.

Oprah Winfrey

This recipe of Chhena Poda is my tenth blog post and marks a point of celebration for me. Also, being the year end, it signifies a welcome treat for the coming year ahead to which I am looking with great hopes.

Being a fan of Oprah Winfrey, I admire and abide by what she says about celebrating life. I usually celebrate and like shouting out tiniest of my accomplishments. I believe that such occasions push me harder for new challenges and way ahead. So, to make this post special, I wanted it to be a one celebrating the authentic flavors of my country and also something that brings along the memories of few special friends along.

Chhena Poda is a cottage cheese dessert from the state of Odisha in eastern India. Chhena Poda literally means Roasted Cheese in Odia. Traditionally, it is made from well-kneaded homemade fresh cheese (Chhena or Paneer) and sugar which is baked for several hours until it browns. This dessert is comparable with cheesecakes of the west and commonly renamed as an Indian Cheesecake.

I first got the opportunity to taste this yummy delicacy on a visit to Odisha in December 2011 for my husband’s best friend, Pravasis and Monalisa’s wedding. The sweet also reminds me of Sweta, one of my lovely friend from Odisha, who is as sweet and gentle as this delicacy. Everytime I taste this sweet, I get a glimpse of all the wonderful memories me and my family shares with these amazing people in my life.

Chhena Poda is believed to be the favorite sweet of the Lord Jagannath (the presiding deity of Puri Jagannath Temple in Odisha). Unsurprisingly, the sweet captivated my taste buds in the most heavenly ways and I couldn’t resist myself from replicating it in my kitchen.

This recipe of Chhena Poda is a healthier version of the sweet and is made with jaggery instead of refined sugar. Chhena Poda with jaggery is also widely available across the state though the traditional variant uses refined sugar. Fresh Chhena (Paneer/ Cottage Cheese) is best to make this recipe but you can also use store bought paneer.

Paneer (Chhena/ Cottage Cheese) is an Indian cheese that is high in nutritive value. It is rich in calcium and protein and aids in many body processes. Cottage Cheese can fulfill about 8% of the daily recommended calcium intake. Cow’s milk contains the highest amount of casein protein among various kinds of milk. 100 gms of paneer has a whopping 83 gms of protein. It also prevents tooth decay. Paneer provides instant energy to the body, a bite of cheese can act as your energy bar too. Hence, paneer should be part of your daily diet especially if you are a vegetarian as it fulfills protein need of the body.

Jaggery is not chemically processed, so it is free from many chemical agents that are involved in industrial manufacturing of white sugar. Jaggery contains natural phyto-chemicals, which activates the digestion and helps in correcting digestive problems. It acts as a blood purifier and helps to eliminate toxins from the body. It helps to boost energy and is an aid for various health ailments.

Cardamom is a highly fragrant spice from India which has gone on to become a must have ingredient in Indian cuisine and most sweets. It helps detoxify the body, aid in weight loss, fight depression, boost the immune system and alleviate hypertension among many other benefits. Cardamom is highly rich in manganese in addition to iron, fiber, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin A, zinc, riboflavin, etc. Oils like pinene, sabinene, phellandrene, terpinene, linalool, myrcene, etc also form a major composition in cardamom. These oils render antioxidant properties, help improve digestion, stimulate metabolism and discourage tumor growth.

The recipe here combines the health benefits of all its ingredients and come across as a soft, yummy and delicious melt-in-the-mouth treat that one can never get enough of. This cheesecake has an earthy taste due to jaggery that lingers your mouth for quite some time. My family is a big fan of this delicacy including the kids and it has been a smart way for me to include Paneer as part of their diet in good amounts. I hope all of you enjoy and relish this treat as much as we do. Do pour in your views and comments on the recipe. Happy and Healthy Baking!!

Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Chhena Poda: Indian Cheesecake

An Indian cheesecake made with home-made cottage cheese (Paneer/ Chhena) and jaggery. 
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time55 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Indian
Keyword: cheesecake, festive, indian, sweets
Servings: 10 servings
Calories: 0.129kcal
Author: Reena

Ingredients

  • 2 cup Chhena/ Paneer (home-made)
  • 1 cup Jaggery Powder
  • 1 tsp Ghee/ Clarified Butter (room-temperature not melted)
  • 1 tsp Cardamom Powder
  • 1 tbsp Rava (fine-variety)
  • 1/2 tbsp Milk
  • 1 pinch Salt

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degree Celsius (356 F) for 15 minutes.
  • Line a baking pan with parchment paper and grease it with a few drops of ghee.
  • Take the home-made Chhena (Paneer/ cottage cheese) and crumble it well. 
  • Add it to a food processor with dough kneading attachment. Knead the paneer for about 1 minute to get a smooth consistency.
  • Add jaggery powder and keep mixing and kneading in food processor for another 2-3 minutes to get a batter. Do not add any milk or water at this point.
  • If the jaggery powder is very fine, the last step is enough. But since the jaggery powder I used was a coarser variety, I replaced my kneading attachment with the chopping attachment in the food processor and mixed the batter again for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the remaining ingredients except milk: ghee, cardamom powder, rava and salt. 
  • Mix well to get a uniform batter of cake consistency. Add milk at this point to adjust the consistency of the batter. I needed 1/2 tbsp milk but it may vary for you depending on the Chhena moistness.
  • Pour the batter in the baking pan. Tap the pan gently on a flat surface to spread the batter evenly.
  • Bake the batter for 30-35 minutes in the toast mode of an OTG. If baking in microwave convection oven, bake it in the normal convection mode. Baking time may vary from oven to oven. Insert a toothpick to check if the cake is done. There should be absolutely no batter on the toothpick once removed.
  • Let the cake cool for 10-15 minutes. Turn over and remove the cake on a plate. I did not use a wire rack since this cake is thin and very soft. It might result in breaking when transferred to a wire rack.
  • Slice the Chhena Poda and serve. I served it with a warm cup of ginger tea. It may be relished as a sweet or dessert snack after meals.

Notes

  1. The recipe can easily be halved, doubled or tripled.
  2. If using store bought paneer, grate the paneer finely before using. In case of a frozen paneer, thaw it before use and ensure its brought to room temperature and crumbled into fine mix.
  3. For non-Indian places, where Paneer or Chhena is not a widely known cheese, use Ricotta Cheese instead. The taste isn’t the same but it’s close enough.
  4. The recipe can be made with a blender or Chhena/ Paneer kneading may be done with hands. Ensure that the Chhena reaches a smooth creamy consistency before proceeding to next step of mixing jaggery.
  5. In the absence of jaggery, it may be replaced by brown sugar, bura sugar or refined sugar.
  6. In the absence of rava, it may be replaced by rice flour in the same quantity or a pinch or two of baking powder may be used.
  7. Adjust the milk consistency in the recipe as per your need. The final batter should be close to a cake batter consistency.
  8. To increase the height of the cake, use a small sized baking pan. I used an 8 inch round baking pan in this recipe which resulted in a thin slice of cake.
  9. You may add raisins, cashews and almonds for added flavor.
  10. Chhena Poda is best to finish the same day and should be served at room temperature. If storing for short duration, store it at room temperature in an airtight container. For longer durations upto 2-3 days, you may refrigerate it in airtight container. Chhena delicacies tend to change in texture and taste when refrigerated. Bring the sweet to room temperature again before serving. Freezing of the sweet isn’t recommended for the best taste. Do not consume Chhena preparations beyond 3 days as they tend to taste and smell bad.

Steps for making Chhena Poda

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 180 degree Celsius (356 F) for 15 minutes. Line a baking pan with parchment paper and grease it with few drops of ghee

Step 2: Take the home-made Chhena (Paneer/ Cottage Cheese) and crumble it well.

Step 3: Add it to a food processor with dough kneading attachment. Knead the paneer for about 1 minute to get a smooth consistency.

Step 4: Add jaggery powder and keep mixing and kneading in food processor another 2-3 minutes to get a batter. Do not add any milk or water at this point.

Step 5: If the jaggery powder is very fine, the last step is enough and you may proceed to next step directly. But since the jaggery powder I used was a coarser variety, I replaced my kneading attachment with the chopping attachment in the food processor and mixed the batter again for another 2-3 minutes.

Step 6: Add the remaining ingredients except milk: ghee, cardamom powder, rava and salt.

Step 7: Mix well to get a uniform batter of cake consistency. Add milk at this point to adjust the consistency of the batter. I needed 1/2 tbsp milk but it may vary for you depending on the Chhena moistness.

Step 8: Pour the batter in the baking pan. Tap the pan gently on a flat surface to spread the batter evenly.

Step 9: Bake the batter for 30-35 minutes in the toast mode of an OTG. If baking in microwave convection oven, bake it in the normal convection mode. Baking time may vary from oven to oven. Insert a toothpick to check if the cake is done. There should be absolutely no batter on the toothpick once removed.

Step 10: Let the cake cool for 10-15 minutes. Turn over and remove the cake on a plate. I did not use a wire rack since this cake is thin and very soft. It might result in breaking when transferred to a wire rack.

Step 11: Slice the Chhena Poda and serve. I served it with warm cup of ginger tea. It may be relished as a sweet or dessert snack after meals.

Recipe Notes:

  1. The recipe can easily be halved, doubled or tripled.
  2. If using store bought paneer, grate the paneer finely before using. In case of frozen paneer, thaw it before use and ensure its brought to room temperature and crumbled into fine mix.
  3. For non-Indian places, where Paneer or Chhena is not a widely known cheese, use Ricotta Cheese instead. The taste isn’t the same but it’s close enough.
  4. The recipe can be made with a blender or Chhena/ Paneer kneading may be done with hands. Ensure that the Chhena reaches a smooth consistency before proceeding to next step of mixing jaggery.
  5. In the absence of jaggery, it may be replaced by brown sugar, bura sugar or refined sugar.
  6. In the absence of rava, it may be replaced by rice flour in the same quantity or two pinches of baking powder may be used.
  7. Adjust the milk consistency in the recipe as per your need. The final batter should be close to a cake batter consistency.
  8. To increase the height of the cake, use a small sized baking pan. I used a 8 inch round baking pan in this recipe which resulted in a thin slice of cake.
  9. You may add raisins, cashews, almonds for added flavor.
  10. Chhena Poda is best to finish the same day and should be served at room temperature. If storing for short duration, store it at room temperature in an airtight container. For longer durations upto 2-3 days, you may refrigerate it in airtight container. Chhena delicacies tend to change in texture and taste when refrigerated. Bring the sweet to room temperature again before serving. Freezing of the sweet isn’t recommended for the best taste. Do not consure Chhena preparations beyond 3 days as they tend to taste and smell bad.

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