India is home to vibrant and diverse cultures. Festivals are celebrated here in a colourful manner with lots of fervour. Sweets are an integral part of not only these festivities but also birthdays, marriages, anniversaries, housewarmings and many such occasions. Every region of our country has a special sweet to offer. The sweets known as “Mithai” are rich in sugar, milk and ghee.
Sweets can be made using milk, cereals/ pulses and even fruits. This article focuses on popular milk sweets particularly the ones made from concentrated (khoa based) from around the country. Sweets when consumed in moderate amounts can help give instant energy and also release serotonin, a hormone which elevates the mood.
When milk is concentrated or partially desiccated, the moisture from milk is removed using heat energy and this brings about changes in the flavour, colour, aroma, texture and taste of the product.
What is Khoa and how is it made?
Khoa is made by evaporating cow/buffalo/ goat /sheep milk or a combination of any two of these milks to give a final product having not less than 20% milk fat content. Traditionally it is made by heating milk in open pans under atmospheric pressure but the energy consumption and time taken are too high, so milk is first concentrated using vacuum or reverse osmosis method and then used for khoa production. For continuous production of khoa, a mechanized system that uses an inclined scraped surface heat exchanger (ISSHE) is used which maintains the quality of khoa on par to khoa processed by traditional methods.
Khoa can be classified as:
Dhap khoa- It has a rabri-like consistency and high moisture content and carries soft grains.
Pindi khoa- here khoa is heated beyond the rabri stage and with the help of a wooden ladle the soft grains are crushed and the mass is worked up to a smooth textured product. Khoa is moulded into hemispherical moulds to give its shape and allowed to cool.
Danedar khoa-made with leftover milk that has developed some acidity or sometimes citric acid/sour whey is added to get a granular texture. (Ranganadham et al., 2016)
Khoa-based sweets (Dairy Technology, SCERT, Govt of Kerala, 2016)
Peda: Traditionally it is directly made by boiling milk to which sugar is added and heated to form a smooth mass, which is cooled and cut into desired shapes
For commercial production of peda, pindi khoa is broken into bits and heated to 90˚C. Powdered sugar is added and heating is continued with rigorous work to obtain a smooth pasty consistency. Then the product is cooled and shaped in moulds.
Quality of peda depends on
- Type and quality of milk- buffalo milk is preferred over cow/goat milk for peda as it gives a soft and uniform body with smooth, compact and homogenous texture to finished products.
- Quality of khoa if used-pindi khoa is best suited for making peda as it possesses heated/cooked flavour and is free of any burnt or acidic taste.
- Amount of sugar added- optimum level of sugar depending on the type of peda needs to be added to retain the ideal flavour, taste and texture qualities of the peda.
- Method of production-Production method has to be properly standardised to get a uniform quality of the final product.
- Optional ingredients and flavours added- any flavours or ingredients like nuts should be added optimally to retain the milky taste of peda.
- Storage conditions- Prescribed storage methods and conditions need to be strictly maintained to retain the sensory, chemical and textural properties of peda for a longer duration.
Doodh peda is the most common form of peda that is consumed. Besides this, there are other varieties of pedas namely
Dharwad peda gets its name from the Dharwad region of Karnataka. It is prepared by first frying khoa in ghee, adding sugar and cooking, resulting in a brown-coloured product with sugar crystals on the surface. It has a better shelf life than doodh peda.
Thirattipaal– It is famous in Tamil Nadu and Kerala and is characterised by a coarse granular structure. It can be prepared from slightly acidic milk or by adding curd to the milk while preparing it to obtain a granular structure.
Lal Peda – It is prepared in eastern parts of Uttar Pradesh, Varanasi and is highly browned with a lot of free fat and flavoured with cardamom.
Peda stays good at room temperature for 5-7 days. To increase shelf life from 15 days to 6 months modified atmosphere packaging with nitrogen and carbon dioxide or using oxygen scavengers and appropriate storage temperatures can be employed.
It is one of the most popular indigenous khoa-based sweets. Traditionally burfi can be made by heating milk in a double-jacketed stainless steel kettle up to a semisolid consistency, sugar is added at this stage and the heat source is removed to make a homogeneous mass and allowed to set.
NDDB has developed a mechanized process for making burfis, wherein khoa, sugar and cardamom are heated and mixed homogeneously in a planetary mixer. The processed ingredients are then fed to a Rheon-shaping and forming machine provided with a die through which shaped burfis emerge and then they are packed.
The quality of burfi depends on the following parameters:
- The quality and composition of milk
- amount of sugar and other ingredients
- extent of desiccation
Burfis are available in different varieties namely fruit burfi, chocolate burfi, nut burfi, and mawa burfi, all processed by just tweaking the additives used.
Proper packaging along with the use of antioxidants and antifungal agents help in extending the shelf life of the burfi.
Kalakand: It is brown, grainier, and greasier, with a more distinct cooked flavour when compared to burfi. Kalakand can be prepared with slightly acidic milk or by the addition of citric acid to milk. The milk is heated by constantly stirring and scraping the sides of the pan, when the mixture leaves the sides of the pan and forms a bolus (pat formation) sugar is added and stirring continued till desired consistency is attained. The mixture is poured onto greased plates to set and then cut into desired shapes or can be served without a definite shape. Alternately, Danedar khoa can be heated with sugar to make Kalakand. The setting time will be around 4 hours.
The sensory quality of Kalakand depends on
- Fat content of milk-Optimum cohesiveness of kalakand is obtained with milk containing 6% fat, anything lower than this renders the product unacceptable.
- Quantity of sugar-Sugar level at 7.5% on the basis of milk yields good quality kalakand. Anything higher than this yields an inferior colour.
- Strength and type of coagulant (citric acid)-Citric acid at 0.02-0.05 per cent levels is commonly used to induce good granule formation during kalakand preparation. Use of 0.02 per cent citric acid results in kalakand with optimum chewiness, gumminess and hardness values.
- Moisture content-Around 21% moisture in the final product will yield good textural attributes.
(Mohapatra et al. 2022)
Kalakand has a shelf life of 3-5 days at room temperature and around 15-20 days under refrigeration, shelf life can be extended by appropriate packaging and by vacuum sealing/ UV irradiation/ use of Potassium sorbate as preservative.
Gulab jamun: It is a khoa-based sweet popular all over India. Dhap variety of khoa having 40-45% moisture is preferred for Gulabjamun preparation. Khoa, maida and baking powder are blended into a smooth homogeneous dough, little water may be used to blend if required. Smooth balls are made from the dough and deep-fried at 140⁰ C to a golden brown colour. The fried balls are transferred into 60% sugar syrup maintained at 60⁰C. It takes about 2 hours for the balls to completely absorb sugar syrup.
A mechanized semi-continuous system, developed by NDDB, for the manufacture of Gulabjamun from khoa employs meatball forming machine and potato chip fryers.
At room temperature gulabjamuns stay good for 5-7 days, they can be “hot filled” in polystyrene cups along with 0.1 % potassium sorbate to stay fresh for up to 3 weeks. Canning of the Gulab Jamun can extend the shelf life up to 6 months at room temperature.
Instant gulab jamun mixes using skimmed milk powder, maida, vanaspati, citric acid, tartaric acid and baking soda are also available which helps reduce the dependence on khoa.
Khoa powder can be prepared from concentrated buffalo milk by spray drying it. This khoa powder can be reconstituted with water and used for making sweets (National Seminar, NAHEP 2020)
The dairy market in India’s size reached INR 14,899.8 Billion in 2022. The market is expected to reach INR 31,185.7 Billion by 2028, exhibiting a growth rate (CAGR- Compounded annual growth rate) of 13.2% during 2023-2028. Approximately 5.5% of the total milk produced in India is converted into khoa. (Reportlinker: 2023)
The tremendous economic potential of these products has not been exploited mainly because the manufacture of these traditional products is confined to small-level operations, which are manual, and energy-consuming. The foothold of khoa-based products is strong in India but the global potential needs to be tapped. The challenge lies in providing education to maintain a quality that meets international standards.
Dairy Technology, SCERT, Govt of Kerala, 2016 (https://scert.kerala.gov.in/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/10-diary%20technology.pdf)
National Seminar, NAHEP 2020 (https://nahep.icar.gov.in/API/Content/Uploads/345329b6-94e8-4971-9de5-3544fb035c31/3100619d-7b4b-4255-a824-74f2d577e614.pdf)
Ranganadham et al. Traditional Dairy Products, 2016 (https://www.agrimoon.com/wp-content/uploads/TRADITIONAL-DAIRY-PRODUCTS-1.0.pdf)