Monday, October 3, 2011

Making Kulfi. Easy, Beautiful Indian Ice Cream, No Machines!

   Over the last 21 years I have cooked a lot of Indian food. I've tried my hand at a lot of different things from wrapping samosas, to frying vadi, baking chapatti and dhoklas, naan and coorgi. I've made rice puddings and payasams, burfi and modaks. I've pickled and cured and smoked. There's not much I haven't tried and when you see the picture above, you're looking at one of them.
   It's called Kulfi and it is a creamy frozen Indian dessert. Some people call it Indian ice cream but that's not really what it is. Ice cream is whipped, beaten and aerates as it's freezes as anybody who's ever cranked one of those old-timey ice cream machines knows only too well. Making kulfi involves no whipping and no beating. It's mixed together, then poured into molds and frozen. It's richer, creamier and much, much denser than ice cream. It's also a lot easier to make even if you already own an ice cream machine.
  Don't get me wrong. I love my ice cream machine. It's one of the best purchases I ever made, but it's got it's faults (don't we all) one of which is the need to freeze the mixer bowl for at least 24 hours before any ice cream can be made. Sure there are automatic, all-in-one units that will give you instant ice cream just by flipping the switch any time one desires it. But I kind of look on my machine as good pants emergency brake. It keeps me from going too ice cream crazy too easily. If I want to eat ice cream, I have to think about it for 24 hours at least. It allows for cooler heads (and some extra workout time) to prevail. Of course once my bowl is frozen I just need to flip a switch and 30 minutes later I'm eating ice cream, so there is that.
   With kulfi it's a lot simpler. Mix, pour, freeze, enjoy. It doesn't get much simpler than that. So why oh why did it take me soooo long to get on the kulfi train?  I thought I needed kulfi molds. Most of the kulfi I'd seen was served like this.

I thought okay, I don't have official kulfi molds like the kulfiwallahs, so why try. And then I went to my gleaning pal  Kristens' tag sale and found this for a dollar!

It was begging to be filled with creamy, mangoey, nutty goodness. It called to me.. .buy me buy me, you know you want kulfi. Just do it. So, I did.
  The next thing was finding the best way to make kulfi. There are a lot of recipes out there and a lot of techniques. Many ways of making classic kulfi involve reducing milk that's been sweetened and flavored down to evaporated milk consistency by slow cooking, usually in clay pots and lots of stirring. Since this dessert was once reserved for Indian royalty, finding ice and elbow grease was not anything they had to worry about much. They had people to take care of that for them.
   Now that's all well and good, and I may actually decide to do it that way one of these days. But right now we're in the finishing stages of our latest script, and the only thing that I'm thinking about reducing is the page count. Luckily (since I don't have a palace staff at my beck and call) there's another easier way to tackle this dessert, and that's using a combination of evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream, minimal stirring involved.
   One of the classic flavors of kulfi is mango...think of it as the kulfi equivalent of vanilla ice cream.  So that's what I made. With a minimum of work and a few hours of freezing, I was eating fabulous mango kulfi.


Here's what to do:
Peel and chunk up 2 ripe mangos

Put them in a blender or food processor and reduce to a puree. Set aside.
 In a large bowl mix together:
  1 can of evaporated milk
  1 can of swetened condensed milk
  2 cups of whipping cream
Mix everything well together and add in:
 1/2 cup of finely ground pistachios
  5 green cardamom
Remove the seeds and grind them to a powder. Add it into the mix.
Finally mix in the mango puree.
When everything is blended, pour the mixture into a mold or a round stainless steel mixing bowl, or popsicle molds, whatever you have.
 Cover the top of the mold with foil so that it's sealed tightly and set it into the freezer for the next 4 to 6 hours.
To unmold  run some hot or warm water over the bottom of the mold and place it over the serving pate or dish...unmold!

Cut it into slices and serve it up!

   Kulfi is a creamy, dense dessert, very refreshing on a hot, early Fall evening or after a spicy Indian feast. No elbow grease churning re freezing or machinery involved.
   I loved this dessert! So did everyone else at the table. I was wondering where this treat had been all my life! I should have made kulfi years ago, but now that I know how easy it is, I'm certainly going to be making it more often. I can't wait to experiment with other flavor options.
   The next thing on my must have list are real pyramid shaped kulfi molds and hitting up more tag sales in the hope of unearthing some interestingly shaped vintage jello molds. I'm also determined in my quest for old skool authenticity to try making this treat in clay the old fashioned way. As soon as the script is safely turned in, I'm going to be giving it a whirl. Yes, really.
  Coming up next, I pack a peck of pickled peppers with a little help from my friend Prerna at Indian Simmer. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


  1. wow this kulfi looks so creamy and yummy...nicely presented....

  2. If you never saw the short videos "Treats from the Edwardian Country House" you should. There was an episode with the most beautiful ice cream molds. They were amazing, and this dessert looks amazing too! I don't have an ice cream maker, so this looks like a good option for me.

  3. The Kulfi mold looks really unique. The color on the kulfi makes it look absolutely delicious!!

  4. love your kulfi and kulfi mold both!
    since mango season is not here anymore I will make this with other flavours.Pictures are absolutely seductive!!

  5. Kathy what a wonderful sounding dish and so easy to make. It's especially pretty in your mold.

  6. That has to hands down one of the MOST popular ice creams in India and those boxed ice creams don't come anywhere close atleast for us :-)
    Yum Yum YUM!! As usual you did a great job replicating a traditional Indian dish.

  7. @Malli,
    thanks, I think I may try rosewater/pistachio next time

  8. @Abha,
    yes, that mold was a great tag sale find..I'm looking for more!

  9. @Vicky Bensinger,
    Love those old Jello molds!

  10. Prerna@ IndianSimmer,
    thanks so much, that's a great compliment coming from you!

  11. Neat-o!
    I've made single serving 'kulfis' for dinner parties using a muffin pan.

  12. This ice cream sounds SO good. Looks really beautiful as well. great job.

  13. wow. it's really a good contribution to us guys not good at icecream, you know i did some cakes before but the taste it's not good, then i quit, so if you have interesting, you can load to rolex datejust watches

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  14. I finally get why ice cream machines do all that churning. Keep checking back!

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  15. Wow thats a betr option to mak dis icecrem...specialy healthy fr kids..thnk u so much fr d recipe

  16. you don't say how much this makes, and your mould only looks like 1 1/2 pints max, I filled a tupperware jelly mould, and a 1kg yogart tub, does that sound right? tastes awsome before frozen, I think it will go down well at my curry night next weekend.

    1. Barbara,
      I think it might be about 1 and 1/2 pts. All I do know as I bought the mold for 1 dollar at a yard sale in LA years ago, is that when sliced it serves 6 to 8, it's a rich and creamy dessert so no big thick slabs, and there is always extra that doesn't fit into the mold so I pour it into something else and serve it later

  17. Hi,Can you please let me know in 1 can of evaporated milk and 1 can of sweetened condensed milk?How much cup or how much 0z or ml.

  18. Hi,Can you please let me know in 1 can of evaporated milk and 1 can of sweetened condensed milk equal to how much cup or Oz or ml.


    1. Rocky,
      I believe a typical can of evaporated milk is about 12 oz.....sweetened condensed milk is I think 14 oz.



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