Saturday, October 26, 2013

Gulab Jamuns - almost as easy as making from a mix

We moved to our current house in 2001.  I remember the first weekend, being surrounded by boxes, with a toddler and a 6-year old running around.  The doorbell rang, and I was thinking to myself, I am really not ready for visitors!  It was my neighbor, Soni, with a plate of garam (hot) samosas and jamuns.  Soni is an excellent cook and makes everything from first principles.  Both the samosas and jamuns were so good, I couldn’t believe she had made these from scratch!  Soni works full time and would cook a lot over the weekend.  So, almost every weekend, she would send goodies our way.

Gulab Jamun

My “almost Bengali” husband loved the jamuns she would send over, and declared that they were as authentic as the ones he got, growing up in Kolkata.  I got the recipe from her and have now made them countless times.  Though they don’t come as close to perfect as she makes them, they come pretty close.

The best part of Soni’s recipe is that it is almost as easy to make as the ones from a mix.  They taste way better than that and the tiny bit of extra effort (actually, just shopping for the ingredients) is totally worth it.

Thanks Soni, for this recipe!

Here is what you need:

(makes about 40 – 50 jamuns, depending on the size)

  • 3 cups milk powder (unsweetened)
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • little bit elaichi (cardamom), powdered in a mortar and pestle
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/3 cup yogurt
  • 3 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 1 pint whipping cream (you won’t use all of it, but you will use a little more than ½ pint)
  • oil for deep frying
  • 4 cups sugar (see note)
  • 5 cups water

Here is how I made it:

  1. Put the milk powder, flour, powdered elaichi, and baking powder in a bowl.  Mix well.
  2. Add the yogurt and melted butter.  Add the whipping cream a little bit at a time, kneading the dough.  When you are able to make a stiff dough (like roti dough), stop adding the whipped cream.
  3. Knead it to a smooth ball.
  4. Heat oil for deep frying.  Make sure that the oil does not get smoking hot.  I heat on high and then turn the stove to medium-low.  To test the oil, drop a small bit of dough into it.  The dough should touch the bottom of the pot and slowly rise to the top.  If it stays on the bottom, the oil is not hot enough.  If it comes quickly to the top and gets browned immediately, the oil is too hot.
  5. Rub a little oil on your hands.  Take the dough, a little bit at a time and make small balls (smaller than keylimes).  These become bigger when you fry them and bigger still when you soak them in syrup (see picture).  These should be smooth without any visible cracks.  I make them in batches of 10.  Cover the remaining dough with wet paper towel so that it doesn’t dry out.
  6. Drop these in the hot oil.  Make sure the stove is on medium-low, so that the jamuns get cooked slowly, both inside and out. If the temperature is too high, the outside gets browned quickly, but the inside remains uncooked.
  7. When the jamuns have turned a rich dark brown, remove from oil and drain in a metal colander.
  8. Repeat till all the dough is done.
  9. While the jamuns are frying, in another pot, dissolve the sugar in the water.  Bring this to a boil.
  10. Reduce heat to medium and let this simmer till the syrup is a bit sticky to touch – may be about 10 – 15 minutes.
  11. Place the jamuns in a serving dish and pour the hot syrup over them.  Cover with a lid or aluminum foil and let it rest till the jamuns absorb the syrup.

Serve hot or cold.

  • I don’t like the jamuns to be very sweet, so my ratio of water to sugar reflects that.  If you like very sweet jamuns, make the sugar:water ratio equal – add 5 cups of sugar for 5 cups of water.
  • You can also add saffron, elaichi, or rose water to the syrup
  • If you want richer jamuns, you can fry them in ghee instead of in oil.
  • If I am making these for a party, I fry the jamuns and freeze them.  I then make the syrup on the day of the party and pour it, while it is still hot, over the thawed jamuns.  I then cover this with foil and let the jamuns soak up the syrup.

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