This Fereni is my mom’s recipe, and she learned it from my grandmother. It always reminds me of the carefree days of my childhood when desserts were simple and yet wonderful. She always made Fereni in fall and winter and I have kept up the tradition and with the arrival of cold weather everyone in my family starts craving some smooth Fereni. My daughter who is away in college is particularly fond of this winter dessert and makes a batch of it and eats it for snacks and breakfast.
The texture of Fereni is very smooth and creamy and it is mildly sweet with a hint of rose essence. A light sprinkle of chopped pistachio nuts on top is all this dessert needs to look as elegant as it is simple.
There are only a few ingredients in Fereni, and the simple fact is that when you boil the starch in liquid it becomes thick, but the slow cooking process over low heat must be followed for the texture to be just right. Attempts at shortcuts by increasing the temperature will result in burnt or grainy custard. The rice flour needs time to slowly soften in the milk and cook over low heat to have a smooth and thick custard consistency.
This brand of rosewater is very mild with a delicate rose essence that is subtle and pleasant. It is sold in most Middle Eastern and Mediterranean markets. If you are unable to find the Golchin brand and have to use a different one, add one tablespoon at a time and taste it before adding more. Some brands tend to be stronger.
Another thing to consider is the fact that once you start cooking the Fereni, it will need your constant attention and continuous whisking. I use a nonstick pot to prevents custard from sticking and burning. I also use a silicone coated whisk to prevent lumps as the custard thickens; the silicone cover will protect your nonstick pot from scratching. Whisking is done gently and thoroughly, stirring and scraping sides, corners and the bottom of the pot. If left unattended the custard will stick to the bottom of the pot and you will end up with burnt patches that will surface when you stir. If this happens, continue cooking over low temperature but avoid scraping the bottom of the pot so you don’t lift and mix a lot of the burnt pieces into the Fereni.
It is recommended that you measure out the milk at the beginning and then add it at the suggested intervals and temperatures according to the recipe. Each time allow the custard to thicken and wait for the air pockets to burst on the surface before adding any additional milk.
After the last cup of milk is added wait for the custard to thicken and the air pockets to form, then continue whisking gently and continuously for a few more minutes.
Pour the Fereni into the bowls or ramekins immediately.
Sprinkle the chopped unsalted pistachio on top and refrigerate without covering them
Fereni thickens as it chills
If there ever is a “comfort dessert,” Fereni is it!
- ½ cup plus 2 TBSP rice flour
- ⅔ cup cold water
- 7 cups whole fat milk
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3 TBSP rose water (may substitute with ¼ tsp culinary rose oil or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
- 1-2 TBSP chopped unsalted pistachios for garnish
- Measure out 7 cups of milk.
- Heat 2 cups of the milk in a 6-Qt non-stick pan on medium heat, and bring it to a low boil, about 5 minutes. Use a silicone covered whisk to stir a few times to keep the milk from sticking and burning.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk together the rice flour with ⅔ cup cold water until smooth and without lumps.
- Reduce the heat to medium low and add the rice flour mixture into the hot milk and whisk with vigorous, constant motion until the mixture thickens and a few air pockets start bursting on the surface, about 5 minutes. Continue stirring with a whisk for another 2-3 minutes.
- Add 1 cup of the cold milk and continue whisking over medium low heat until it thickens again and a few air pockets burst on the surface. This will take about 7-10 minutes.
- Add the 4th cup of milk and whisk until it thickens but not bubbling. Add the sugar and rose water. Continue whisking over medium low until it thickens and a few air pockets burst on the surface.
- Increase the heat to medium and add the remaining 3 cups of cold milk one cup at a time and whisk until thickened with air pockets forming, before adding the next cup of milk. Each cup of cold milk will take 7-10 minutes to thicken over medium heat. Continue to whisk to prevent the custard from sticking to the pot.
- After the last cup of milk thickens and air pockets start bursting on the surface, whisk gently but continuously and simmer for another 3-5 minutes.
- The mixture will have a thin custard consistency and will thicken further as it cools.
- Pour the custard in 7 serving bowls immediately. Sprinkle the top with chopped pistachios and refrigerate uncovered for at least 2-3 hours to set before serving. Cover the chilled custard bowls tightly with a plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.