Gulab Jamun (Indian Sweets)
Gulab jamun is my husband Lulu's favorite Indian dessert. The sweets are deep-fried balls of dough, bathed in rose (gulab) and cardamom syrup. The texture resembles the liquor syrup-saturated French cake Baba au Rhum.
I've just experienced making my own for the first time and it tasted pretty similar to the ones I've had in the past. I added a few saffron threads to impart a brighter yellow color to the syrup and I didn't add finely crushed pistachios as Lulu's great-aunt does, because of my little sister-in-law's nut allergy.
You can eat them cold, but our favorite way to enjoy gulab jamun is to warm them a bit before serving. It adds another dimension to the dish. Gulab jamun is a bit too rich to eat on a regular basis, but it's perfect for special occasions when you want something more exotic than cake.
Yields: 8 servings4 cups superfine sugar (or granulated sugar)
6 cups water
5 green cardamom pods
3/4 teaspoon rose extract (or rose water)
¼ teaspoon saffron threads
10 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups dry milk powder
1/3 to ½ cup evaporated milk, at room temperature
1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter)
1 tablespoon ricotta cheese
1 quart peanut oil (or regular vegetable oil), for deep frying, as needed
1-½ tablespoons pistachio (finely crushed), for garnish (optional)
Extracting the cardamom seeds: Using a mortar and pestle, pound the pods several times and the pods will release their seeds. Pick out the shells and discard them. Grind the cardamom seeds into a fine powder. Crush all the nits and set aside.
Making gulab jamun:
Reserve a tablespoon of flour.
In the bowl of a stand-mixer, combine the milk powder, flour, 1/8 teaspoon of cardamom powder, salt and baking powder. Sift the dry ingredients.
Mix the ingredients using the dough hook attachment of the stand-mixer (if you don't have one, the back of a fork works fine as well). Add the ghee and start with the lowest speed of the machine. Mix until coarsely blended and still crumbly. Once all the butter pieces are coated with flour, remove the bowl from the stand-mixer and incorporate a little milk at a time until the dough is slightly moist. Do NOT over-mix; otherwise the gulam jamun will have a dense texture. The texture should be smooth, soft and sticky to the touch. Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
Flour your hands with the remaining flour. Form 46 1-½" dough balls and chill in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes.
For the saffron: In a mortar and pestle, grind the saffron threads. Add about 1/4 cup of water. Set aside.
For the gulab jamun syrup: In a saucepan, dissolve the sugar in water. Bring to a near boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 5-7 minutes. Add the saffron, rose extract and cardamom powder into the syrup. Let the syrup cool a little.
Layer a cooling rack, previously lined with paper towels if you like, on top of a baking sheet (for easy clean-up of the drained oil).
In a large Dutch oven (or any regular deep-fryer), heat the oil for about 2-3 minutes over high heat. There should be filled at least 2-inch-high level of oil. Wait until the oil is slightly bubbly (not too hot).
Test the oil by dropping one dough ball in the hot oil. It should float but not swell.
Place one gulab jamun at a time in the hot oil. Place up to 10 gulab jamun per batch.
Fry in batches. Make sure the gulab jamuns don't touch each other. Lower the heat to medium-low for even cooking and to prevent them from browning too fast. Deep fry for about 5-6 minutes per batch until golden on all sides. The gulab jamuns will start to have a light golden color. Use a splatter screen to prevent the oil from jumping everywhere . Delicately lift the gulab jamuns using a spider skimmer, draining as much oil as possible and transfer them on to the cooling rack, then transfer into the syrup. Continue with the remaining gulab jamuns.
Allow at least 15-20 minutes for the gulab jamuns to soak up all the syrup.
Serve warm. Top with pistachio powder (if used).
I served the gulab jamuns with a fruit salad (kiwi, strawberry and mandarin segments) on the side, which is reminiscent of the pairing for Baba au Rhum and a cup of hot tea.
Note: Refrigerated overnight, gulab jamun still tastes delicious the following day, served at room temperature.
Sifting dry ingredients helps get rid of lumps of flour and aerates the mixture when liquid is added. It's very important for any of your baking when you want a moist result.
The ration for gulab jamun dough: Count about 3 parts milk powder to 1 part flour.
Ghee is the Indian version of clarified butter. You can find it in jars at Indian stores. But if you don't have ghee, you can use butter instead.
Saffron is quite expensive; I usually get it at a more reasonable price at the Indian market. It gives the dessert a beautiful yellow hue and a nice aroma. If you don't have saffron, you can omit this ingredient.
You can find rose extract at Indian stores. It's sold in small 0.7-ounce bottles.
If you don't have ricotta cheese, you could replace it with more ghee.
I bought Carnation milk powder in an Indian store called "India Cash & Carry". The address is 1032 East El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087.
Allowing the dough balls to rest in the refrigerator prevents the gulab jamun from cracking when in contact with the hot oil.
I've seen some people fry the dough in ghee, but I prefer using peanut oil (or any neutral oil) for health reasons.
For optimum results when heating the frying oil, the thermometer should register 350°F to 375°F. Heat the oil over medium to high heat (for a nice golden color).Published By: on March 26, 2010.