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    From alcohol to fruits, this Bengali dessert gets a facelift

    wo AND a half years ago, when Chandramika Rai had a baby, she realised that she did not want to return to her hectic work schedule as an air hostess with a domestic airline. Rai and her husband Sudipto Ghose are both hotel management graduates and wanted to do something related to catering but weren’t sure. “I love milk and milk products,” confesses Rai, adding that it was her husband’s idea to turn this obsession for dairy into a sweet meat-making venture from home. “We wanted to make sandesh out of fresh chana (a type of cottage cheese) without adding any colour, preservatives, mawa or khoya or deep fried in ghee. Purity, freshness and health were the three factors we wanted to keep in mind,” says Rai. After a test run at her BTM Layout apartment’s Diwali mela in 2014, where 100 pieces of Rai’s sandesh was sold out in no time, the former air stewardess finally got the required nudge to turn making sweet treats into a business plan.
    Thus came about The Sandesh Factory six months ago, a home-based service that offers 12 kinds of the Bengali sandesh– from a plain ver2205Food8Lead9sion to a fancy sandesh pudding. Rai informs us that each piece of sandesh comprises at least 14 grams of chana, which she makes fresh daily from toned cow’s milk at home. Once she coagulates the milk with vinegar or lime, she then drains out the excess water by hanging it up and then proceeds to knead a dough with a selection of fruits and dry fruits, nuts, alcohol such as rum or white wine and infused flavours such as cinnamon and vanilla. Currently, Rai does a plain chana sandesh with a pista topping, a date sandesh, a nut version made of cashew and raisins, kesar sandesh with saffron, chocolate sandesh, a bhapa or steamed version with a fig topping, a rum and cinnamon sandesh, a coconut cookie variety, baked sandesh, coconut ones, a vanilla chocolate creation and even a sandesh pudding. A berry wine sandesh is a work in progress currently where Rai uses cranberry and dry white wine to sweeten the deal.
    When we tried some of Rai’s offerings, we were struck by how fresh the chana tasted in each of the sweets. Not overly sweet or synthetic tasting like commercially available options, the delicate chana acted as a perfect foil to the intensity and richness of other ingredients such as dry fruits, vanilla and alcohol. While the kesar sandesh came with a delicate hint of saffron, the vanilla and chocolate version was a hit with us because of the lovely effervescence of vanilla. But the winner clearly was the gorgeous berry wine sandesh, a bit of tart, a bit of sweet and all things nice. We can’t wait for Rai to introduce this version soon. The Sandesh Factory currently has tied up with mealboat.com for a seamless delivery service. The minimum order required is five pieces. For larger orders, you can contact Rai directly in which case, she will have it delivered to you personally. And the good news is that four months from now, a brick and mortar The Sandesh Factory will also launch in the city.
    Prices start from `16 per
    piece. Visit Facebook.com/thesandeshfactory/ or call Rai on
    9980995072 to order.

    —Amrita Bose

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