Indian Yogurt Pudding with Saffron, Cardamom, and Toasted Nuts


I learned about this luscious Indian dessert from Pankaj Uttarwar, the quality-assurance manager for Straus Family Creamery in Petaluma, California. Pankaj, a native of India, brought some of his homemade shrikhand to work one day, and his colleagues are still talking about it. Made from extra-thick yogurt whisked with sugar, saffron and spices, shrikhand takes no skill to prepare. However, you need to allow several hours for draining the yogurt because even Greek yogurt is not thick enough. Flavor to your taste, but I think shrikhand is best when the spices just whisper. From Yogurt.

  • 3 cups plain yogurt or Greek yogurt (not nonfat)
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • Pinch of saffron threads (about 10 threads)
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Pinch of ground cardamom
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

Toasted nut topping:

  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds
  • 2 tablespoons pistachios

Put the yogurt in a wide cheesecloth-lined sieve set over a bowl. Cover, refrigerate, and let drain several hours until you have 2 cups of very thick yogurt. You can speed the process a little by occasionally using a rubber spatula to lift and turn the yogurt.

 Put the milk and the saffron in a small saucepan or butter warmer and place over low heat until the milk is hot but not simmering. Cover and set aside to steep for 1 hour.

Put the drained yogurt in a bowl with the sugar, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk well to dissolve the sugar. Add the saffron milk 1/2 teaspoon at a time, whisking it in and tasting as you go. You will probably need only about 1 teaspoon; the saffron flavor should be subtle and it will bloom as the dessert chills. (Reserve any remaining saffron milk for cooking rice.) Cover the yogurt and chill thoroughly for up to 1 day.

 To make the topping: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place the coconut, almonds and pistachios in three separate pie tins. Place in the oven. Bake the coconut until golden, about 4 minutes, stirring partway through so it toasts evenly; do not allow it to become dark brown or it will be bitter. Bake the almonds until golden brown, stirring once so they cook evenly, about 5 minutes. Bake the pistachios until fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove each from the oven as it is done and let cool. Coarsely chop the pistachios. Combine the cooled ingredients in a small bowl.

 To serve, divide the pudding among 4 Martini glasses or other serving glasses. Garnish with the topping, dividing it evenly. Serve immediately.

Serves 4