Making Kharvas At Home? 6 Tips To Perfect This Classic Dessert

Do you love eating kharvas? You’re the only one! This humble Maharashtrian snack unlocks a sense of nostalgia for most foodies. Traditional kharvas is made from colostrum milk, which is the first milk produced by a cow after giving birth. This rich, nutrient-dense milk is combined with regular milk, sugar, and flavored with cardamom and saffron. The mixture is then steamed to create a soft, pudding-like texture. 

Kharvas is known for its unique, creamy consistency and subtle sweetness and it’s often garnished with slivers of almonds and pistachios. Though it’s quite simply in design, its recipe is pretty specific and doesn’t leave room for a lot of errors. For instance, over-steaming can cause the kharvas to become too firm and lose its creamy texture. The balance of colostrum milk and regular milk is essential. Too much colostrum milk can make the dessert overly thick, while too little can make it runny. Here are some other factors that can help you perfect kharvas at home.

Sourcing Colostrum Milk

The key ingredient for authentic kharvas is colostrum milk, known as "cheek" in Marathi. This milk is rich and thick, packed with nutrients and antibodies. Sourcing colostrum milk can be challenging, as it is available only for a few days post-calving. Your best bet is to contact local dairy farmers or organic farms. Ensure the milk is fresh and free from any additives. If colostrum milk is unavailable, a mixture of regular milk and condensed milk can be used as a substitute, though it won’t match the original texture and flavour.

Preparing the Milk Mixture

Once you have the colostrum milk, the next step is to prepare the mixture. For an authentic kharvas, mix colostrum milk with regular milk in a 1:1 ratio. This helps balance the thickness and enhances the texture. If you’re using a substitute, mix one part of condensed milk with three parts of regular milk. To this mixture, add sugar to taste; typically, for every liter of milk, 250 grams of sugar is sufficient. Stir until the sugar dissolves completely.

Incorporating Flavours

Kharvas is subtly flavoured, allowing the rich taste of colostrum milk to shine through. Traditional flavourings include cardamom and saffron. Add a pinch of cardamom powder and a few strands of saffron to the milk mixture. The saffron not only imparts a delicate flavour but also gives the dessert a beautiful golden hue. For an added twist, you can include a few drops of rose water or a teaspoon of vanilla extract, though these are optional and should be used sparingly.

Steaming the Mixture

The cooking process of kharvas is crucial to achieving the perfect texture. The mixture needs to be steamed rather than baked or boiled. Pour the prepared milk mixture into a heatproof dish or a stainless steel container. Cover it with aluminium foil or a lid to prevent condensation from dripping into the mixture. Place the container in a steamer or a large pot with a rack at the bottom to keep it above the water level. Steam on medium heat for about 30-40 minutes. To check if it's done, insert a toothpick or knife into the centre; it should come out clean when kharvas is ready.

Cooling and Setting

After steaming, allow the kharvas to cool to room temperature before placing it in the refrigerator. Cooling it slowly helps the dessert set properly and develop its characteristic firm yet creamy texture. Refrigerate for at least 4-6 hours, or overnight if possible. This cooling period also allows the flavors to meld together beautifully, resulting in a more harmonious taste.