Shrikhand is one of those rare desserts that’s not only yummy but virtually guilt free. The only fat here comes from the whole-milk yogurt. You could also use low-fat yogurt, but it yields less yogurt cheese and you will have to adjust the sugar accordingly.
- 4 quarts whole-milk yogurt
- 5 whole green cardamom pods
- 1 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped raw pistachios
Line a large strainer with a double thickness of cheesecloth, and place the yogurt in it. Bring the ends of the cloth together and tie into a bundle. Set the strainer over a deep bowl and place in the refrigerator for 8 hours. All the whey will drip away, leaving behind thick yogurt cheese. Check occasionally to make sure the bottom of the strainer is not sitting in a pool of drained whey.
Using the side of a knife, smash the cardamom pods so that the peels loosen. With your fingers, pry out the seeds and use a mortar and pestle or a very clean spice grinder to grind them to a fine powder.
Heat the saffron threads in a small skillet over low heat until crisp, but be careful not to burn them. This should take less than 1 minute.
Place the yogurt cheese in a food processor. Add the sugar and pulse only until the sugar dissolves, 30 to 40 seconds. Do not overmix or the yogurt cheese will thin out too much. You do not want to whip the yogurt; shrikhand should be thick and creamy in consistency. For the perfect consistency, do what the Indians do—use a food mill with the finest disc attachment and pass the yogurt and sugar together through the mill at least 5 times to dissolve the sugar completely.
Crumble the toasted saffron over the shrikhand, fold in the pistachios and cardamom, and set aside, covered, for at least 2 hours for the flavors to blend. Serve cold or at room temperature. Shrikhand will last in the refrigerator, tightly covered in a glass dish, for 1 week.