Gulab Jamun is one of the most popular sweets (dessert) in East India. I can honestly say this -- I have yet to meet a single person who does not like this dessert. Sometimes East Indian sweets can be cloyingly sweet, and I myself don't care for many of them. But this, dear friends, is a classic, timeless, and scrumptious dish.
For those of you unfamiliar with East Indian food, think of this as donut balls (except the dough here is mostly milk solids) soaked in a simple syrup flavored with saffron and rose water (gulab literally means 'Rose'). Hooked? Read on...
Gulab Jamuns are very commonly made as part of a celebratory event, be it a birthday, a festival, or a family get-together. However, you can always find a slight variation of gulab jamuns, called Kala (black) jamuns in sweet shops at all times. I personally like Gulab jamuns more. They are lighter and more pillowy in texture. Think of it as the difference between a traditional glazed donut vs. a cake donut. Hope that helps.
In any case, I made a batch of Gulab Jamun today in honor of Diwali. R, my little boy with a ridiculously sweet tooth was so excited when I told him Mommy was making Gulab jamun today. I think he practically lived on Indian sweets while we were in India this Summer. Well, I am happy to tell you these met his seal of approval. He took one humongous mouthful and exclaimed "Mom, I knew these would be just as good as I thought". That's high praise from this little man. A on the other hand told me that they were so yummy, he wouldn't mind having a tummy ache if he ate a whole bunch. But, we're taking them over to a friends' place for a Diwali party tomorrow, so all they scored was Uno each...
8 tbsp full-cream milk powder (I used Organic Valley)
3 tbsp all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp ghee (or melted butter)
1/4 cup milk (plus a few more tablespoons as needed)
Vegetable oil for frying
2 cups granulated white sugar
2 cups water
A pinch of saffron threads
1 tbsp rose water
1. Whisk together the milk powder, flour, and baking soda. Rub in butter or ghee, then add enough milk to give a firm but pliable dough.
2. Pinch off small chunks of dough and roll into smooth balls, approx. 3/4 inch in diameter. Make sure to roll the balls well, you do not want cracks in the surface.
3. Heat oil until hot, but not smoking (I am guessing 350F, but I didn't measure). The goal here is to have the balls fry a bit slowly, otherwise the center remains doughy. Not good.
4. While the oil is heating, make the syrup. Add the sugar, water, and saffron, and heat till sugar is dissolved completely. Then simmer for 5 minutes longer. You want the syrup to be thin and runny. Turn off the heat.
5. Fry the dough balls in small batches (I do 6 at a time), turning often to make sure they brown evenly. Drain on paper towels to absorb excess oil.
6. Once all the balls are fried, gently lower them into the hot syrup. Let soak until they almost double in size, and turn soft and spongy. Add the rose water. Allow to cool completely and serve warm or chilled in a dessert bowl, with some syrup.
Mine are resting in the refrigerator right now, for an overnight stay. When we eat them tomorrow, I for sure will give mine a quick nuke in the microwave. I like them warm. YUM!