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Kulfi - Spice or Fruit Flavored Frozen Indian Dessert
by Renee Shelton

Anyone eating the frozen dessert 'Kulfi' knows it is quite unlike anything tasted before. First of all, it is usually spiced with cardamom or saffron or another unexpected spice, and while it is creamy like an ice cream, it is served like a popsicle - usually eaten from a stick.

Kulfi is not churned like a traditional ice cream or stirred like a granité: it is just mixed and poured into molds. My favorite way is to just use paper cups or parchment cornets. These for some reason are the favorite ways for my kids to eat them (there is something about peeling paper to give way to the sweet cold dessert they find irresistible and makes them special). Stainless steel molds work great as it seems to freeze the kulfi faster. Other molds: standard popsicle molds or stainless steel molds. Ateco's tall baba molds are a great size and clean up great.

One of the first places I read about kulfi was from Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking where she describes in a paragraph how she remembers eating it as a child. I can close my eyes even now and envision a hot summer afternoon sitting outdoors after a large family gathering eating fresh kulfi made by a kulfi-wallah (catered professional kulfi maker).


Her recipe, as with many others, calls for the milk to be reduced and the sugar stirred in afterwards. I do it a little differently where I add the sugar with the milk in the beginning and reduce them together, although if you add it afterwards you have total control of the sweetness and add in just the amount of sugar you need at that particular time.

Kulfi is often flavored with cardamom, either ground up or as pods that are used to infuse the milk before being removed prior to freezing. The two nuts that are often used either separately or together are almond and pistachio. When ordering kulfi look at the name to know what the flavor is: Pista Kulfi (pistachio), Badam Kulfi (almond), Mango Kulfi, Saffron Kulfi, Kulfi Falooda/Falouda (assorted flavored and served with, yes, vermicelli noodles), and the list goes on. I've even seen menus with 'Drambuie' and 'Maple Syrup' Kulfi (from the Gourmet Kama Restaurant in the UK).

Kulfi Cones

Do a keyword search for 'kulfi recipe' and you'll get a wide range of results and methods of preparation. Some are cooked for long periods of time to either reduce the milk or to cook a starch for thickening. Or the recipe is virtually instant where you just mix some ingredients together and freeze. The first time I made kulfi I cooked the down the milk with cardamom and sugar and when the mixture was cooled, I almost ate the entire batch of thickened sweetened spiced milk before it even reached the freezer, it was so amazing.

For those of you who have had this before, either by ordering it in a restaurant, purchasing it ready-frozen, having at a relative's or friend's house or making it yourself, below are some ideas that you can use for making it next time. For those of you who haven't yet tried it, below are tested recipes for you make kulfi at home. Use one or more of the spices or flavorings from the list below for your next batch.

Kulfi - The Main Ingredients (Milk, Khoya/Mawa, Other Ingredients)

It all begins with some sort of dairy product. The basic recipes call for taking an amount of whole milk and bringing it to a boil and reducing it, often infusing it while it is cooking with a spice. Sometimes a dry milk powder is added for making a richer kulfi. The best authentic online recipe I've found is here, copied word for word from a professional kulfi-wallah:
No recipes are needed here, just follow the ratios and percentages to whatever milk you have on hand.

Sometimes time is cut short but you still want that thickened, rich texture for the milk, so an item like cornstarch/cornflour, ground up white rice, unflavored gelatin, torn up fresh bread or fresh bread crumbs are added or cooked and mixed into the kulfi mixture.

Some recipes are of the 'instant' types, where heavy cream is often stirred with sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk. Still, other recipes will faithfully use a non-dairy whipped topping like kool-whip, that has been thawed and stirred with evaporated and sweetened condensed milk.

Of the traditional recipes, mawa or khoya is often used. Mawa or khoya is a thickened, reduced milk product, and is used in many different Indian sweets and Indian dessert recipes. Many recipes simply call for using evaporated milk and/or sweetened condensed milk instead of reducing the milk or adding khoya. For a recipe to make khoya or mawa at home if you have a kulfi recipe that calls for it, my favorite website resource is 'Mamta's Kitchen' which has four different ways to make the khoya/mawa, two with pictures of the product being cooked. There are several kinds of mawa/khoya recipes:

Kulfi Molds

Kulfi - The Spices and Flavorings

Here are spices and flavorings that often show up on a kulfi menu:

  • Spices: green or white cardamom (ground or pods for infusing the milk and removed before freezing), saffron, vanilla
  • Lavender flowers: for infusing the hot milk
  • Rose water: a few drops added before freezing, or for sprinkling on as a garnish before serving
  • Nuts: pistachios (chopped or ground), almonds (chopped or ground), cashews (chopped or ground). All nuts that are used are usually unsalted, untoasted, or blanched.
  • Fruits: mango, lychee, banana, pineapple, apricots. Fruits are often pureed and stirred in before freezing or dried and chopped fine and stirred in before freezing, depending on the texture wanted.
  • Coconut: powdered coconut milk is used, but also desicated dried coconut
  • Lemon: use the lemon zest or add to the pureed fruits

Kulfi Making - Tips

Just a few, but important ones:

  • If you have an insane sweet tooth, understand that the more sugar is added the softer the frozen kulfi will be.
  • As with all liquid as the kulfi freezes, it will expand. Allow for expansion when pouring into molds.
  • If you are cooking the milk down, it is very helpful to use a wide pot with a large surface area to reduce the milk faster.
  • Also when cooking down the milk: stir it frequently and watch it constantly. It will bubble up. Adding sugar will help keep scalding down, but any milk left unattended will burn.
Kulfi Paper Molds Left: Use anything on hand for a kulfi mold. If a traditional mold for kulfi isn't available, the Ateco tall baba molds (see photos above and below) are great sizes to use.
Kulfi Dessert
Kulfi in Tall Baba Mold
Alternately, use your popsicle molds, paper disposable cups or handmade cornets made from parchment paper (see far left and below). When inserting the popsicle stick into homemade molds, allow the kulfi to freeze until it is firm but not solid and slip it down the center. If using paper molds, simply peel and serve when they are frozen.

If the molds are even, flat and sturdy, covering them with aluminum foil will allow the sticks to be centered while the mixture is still liquid: the foil will hold the stick in place while it is freezing.

Kulfi can be made in any shaped molds you have available, or ones you make.

Kulfi - Recipes for Kulfi

Here are two tested recipes of mine to try, one uses cooked milk reduction as the base and the other is instant, just stir, pour and freeze. Both have cardamom as the spice flavoring.

Cardamom Kulfi

Badam Kulfi (Almond Kulfi)

All recipes were tested in Beach Cuisine, Inc kitchens and all pictures used here were shot by us.

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