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Ever since my friend Shruti told me how to make shortcut Shrikhand (a sweet and creamy dessert from my home state of Maharashtra in India, made with hung yogurt, sugar, ground cardamom and saffron) using Labneh, I must have made it dozens of times. It comes together in no time – whisk together Labneh (extra thick middle-eastern yogurt cheese aka yogurt that is the consistency of cream cheese) and sugar with a pinch of ground cardamom and saffron, and chill in the fridge for a bit. That’s it!
I make it quite frequently to go with elaborate Indian meals – meals that have 7 or 8 other components as it is. So making the shortcut version is an easy win, especially if you make the mango version of it, called Amrakhand (Aam = mango), with mango pureé subbing for half the sugar. I’ve had this idea of converting Shrikhand to a bite-size, easy to freeze format, so that its easy to get a quick taste of it occasionally without investing any time/effort. I thought it would be a great idea to try a “Tiranga” (Indian tricolor) version of it to celebrate the upcoming Indian Republic Day (January 26th).
I’ve tricolor-ified things before, but they are both savory (see this and this), so I could easily use carrot pureé for the orange and spinach pureé for the green. Things are somewhat trickier with dessert, especially if you want to avoid artificial food coloring. I used Kesar (saffron) syrup for the orange this time, and Khus (a type of sweet drink) syrup for the green, and was reasonably happy with the outcome!
The bars don’t need these syrups, they are just for decoration. The bars will definitely taste good with some chopped nuts, berries, mini-chocolate chips, and I plan to make all of these combinations real soon! For now, lets make the Tiranga bars!
I’ve used a combination of Labneh and Greek yogurt as the dense, tangy base. If Labneh (available in middle eastern grocery stores and many supermarkets) isn’t easily available, use the same quantity of Greek yogurt. The texture will be slightly less creamy, but still really great! I’ve added some whipped heavy cream to give these bars some fat and bit of a lift (fluffiness). Sans the fat, the bars would be more icy than creamy, and that iciness will definitely shatter the Shrikhand illusion we have going on here!
Let us begin!
We start by beating the heavy whipping cream in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, we beat the labneh, Greek yogurt, sugar and ground cardamom together until well incorporated. Then, we fold the whipped cream into the yogurt mixture in 3 stages, taking care not to deflate the cream or the yogurt! Transfer the mixture into a parchment-paper lined (like a sling, extending on both sides) 8-inch square cake panand freeze for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight!
When frozen set, take the parchment-paper sling out of the pan, peel back the paper, cut into squares with a large knife, and enjoy!
Thanks to the whipped cream, these are a lot creamier than just yogurt (which tends to crystallize and become icy)! The longer these are frozen, the cleaner the cuts. You can cut these and transfer them to a ziplock back and store for 2 months in the freezer, for a quick, sweet treat!
Shrikhand Yogurt Bars
Makes 16 squares
2/3 cup heavy whipped cream
1 cup Labneh (use 1 cup Greek Yogurt if Labneh is unavailable)
1 cup Greek Yogurt
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
To decorate in Tiranga (Indian tricolor) colors
Few drops of Orange Kesar syrup or orange food coloring
Few drops of Khus or Green sherbet syrup, or green food coloring
Other suggested toppings
1-2 tablespoons finely chopped or sliced nuts
1-2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips
1/4 cup blueberries or raspberries
Line a 8-inch square cake pan (or any freezer safe container of equivalent size) with parchment paper, such it is like a sling (2-inch overhang on all 4 sides). This will make it easier to pick up the frozen bars later. If the parchment paper keeps sliding off the pan, use a bit of nonstick cooking spray to make the paper stick to the pan.
In a medium bowl, beat the whipping cream with electric beaters until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the Labneh, yogurt, sugar and ground cardamom, and beat with electric beaters until well incorporated and uniformly mixed.
Fold the whipped cream into the yogurt mixture using a rubber spatula in 3 stages, taking care not to deflate the cream or the cheese.
If using any of the toppings, fold those in as well, if you prefer. Toppings can also be sprinkled on top later.
Transfer the cream and yogurt mixture (Shrikhand) to the prepared pan. Sprinkle toppings, or if using any liquid toppings for color, swirl those in using a toothpick.
Cover pan tightly in plastic wrap such that the plastic or the paper are not in contact with the Shrikhand, and chill in the freezer for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
When ready, peel back the plastic wrap, and using the the paper sling, get the Shrikhand out of the pan. Peel back the paper and transfer frozen Shrikhand to a cutting board. Cut into squares and enjoy!
Bars can be stored in a ziplock bag in the freezer for 2 months.