Doodh pittha is a sweet dish from Bihar. We pronounce it as pittha (पिट्ठा) and not peetha (पीठा) as most television chefs pronounce it. It is a dish popularly made in the winters, especially in the month of Paush (called poos in Bihar). Thinking about it, it is perhaps another dish made when a good harvest is being celebrated, as it comes around Sankranti when other harvest festivals such as Pongal and Bihu are celebrated.
Essentially these are dumplings made of rice flour, which are stuffed with khoya and nuts. I see that adjacent states of Bengal and Odisha have their own versions of doodh pittha which go by slightly different names such as doodh puli pitha. I checked a few videos on Youtube and learnt that they have a different shape from the doodh pittha. Also, the filling they use is jaggery and coconut, which is not a commonly used ingredient in Bihari cuisine.
This dessert doesn’t take too long to make. Follow the sequence which I have detailed below for best results. First, take very finely ground rice flour. If you make the rice flour dough first, it tends to dry out, and cracks in the dumplings will appear, which is not a very good thing. Secondly, these dumplings turn hard and chewy after refrigeration, so it is best to make only as much as you plan to consume.
Doodh pittha (Makes around 6 pitthas)
Milk- 1 litre Rice flour-1 cup Unsweetened khoya- 100 gm Sugar-1 cup Green cardamoms-3 Cashewnuts and almonds-1/4 cup Saffron- a few strands Salt-a pinch
Boil milk in a large pan. And then lower the flame and let it simmer. It needs to reduce and thicken a bit. Keep stirring in between.
While that is being done, chop the cashewnuts and almonds fine.
Grind the sugar along with the cardamoms, and keep aside.
Next, heat a pan and roast the khoya on a low flame. Once that changes colour, switch off the heat. Add 2 tbsp of powdered sugar and the chopped nuts (retain some of the nuts for garnish). Mix well and let this mixture cool.
To make the pittha: First boil a cup of water in a pan. Add a pinch of salt. Add the rice flour, and mix quickly with a wooden spatula until it all comes together. Switch off the heat, and take the dough on a large thali. First use the spatula to mix it, and as soon as the dough cools down a bit, start kneading it until it becomes soft and smooth. You will need to work quickly while the dough is still warm.
Next, make small lemon sized balls of the dough. Shape each ball into a cup shape. Add a spoonful of the khoya mixture. Press it tightly and seal the ends of dough properly. Ensure that the balls are smooth and without cracks.
Gently place the stuffed pitthas into the milk, which must have reduced a bit now. Let them boil for 7-10 minutes. When the pitthas float to the surface, it is an indication that these are cooked. Some of the rice from the pittha will also help the milk to thicken further.
Now remove the pitthas from the milk and place aside.
Let the milk thicken some more. Add the remaining sugar (you may adjust according to your taste). If there is any filling remaining, that too can be added as it will help to thicken the milk. You need not thicken the milk too much, but maybe as much as as what you would get with rasmalai.
Once that is done, put the pittha back in the milk. Garnish with saffron and chopped nuts. Serve warm.