This is a quintessential Indian dessert. Delicious, very soft, deep fried flour balls completely soaked in sugar syrup; these little balls of awesomeness will be certainly present for any Indian festive, happy occasion or celebration. Life events world over get celebrated over Gulab Jamun.
It is as notorious in its skills-and-experience requirement while cooking as it is rewarding when the results are happy smiles on your friends’ and family’s faces. I guess I am trying to say- like many Indian desserts, not an easy one to make. Condensed milk, all-purpose flour, their proportions, exact science of kneading that into a soft ball of dough; it can a be daunting task even for skilled mothers and aunts. Therefore, to people like me, who prepare for Diwali on weekday nights; with mountain of work the following day, ready-mix packets of flour are a blessing. I am usually not the one to recommend you getting instant-mix packets of anything. Make from scratch is the best policy to have complete control over your creation and to enjoy the process thoroughly along the way. But really, when you are on a serious time-crunch and results are as delicious as any best Gulab Jamun made EVER, why not use it to your advantage?
You have to know which brand to use though. And whichever brand you choose, you have to know the best way to work it because following instructions behind the packet has never worked for me with Gulab Jamun. I have tweaked my ingredients and procedure to get the best out of it. I used Chitale brand Gulab Jamun mix for this preparation. They are very famous in the state of Maharashtra for their spicy snacks, Mithai and desserts. It doesn’t particularly matter which brand you use, following these tweaks and tricks you should get a good result of your own. Yet, I AM biased toward Chitale brand, seriously.. Many before have failed to live up to my expectations!
You know what another fun thing about this dessert is? It’s ethnic and yet not-so-much anymore. It is becoming a part of multi-cultural cuisine rapidly. It is popular and makes highly frequent appearance on local Indian restaurants buffet scene and dinner menus around here. So most people who are hooked onto Indian food, have invariably fallen for this too. So for those of you, who love Indian food and would like to make those desserts at home (so they are tad less sweet, maybe? I hear-ya and I am with you on that completely) but find the task of making Gulab Jamun from scratch formidable, order your packet on Amazon and read on..
The key is to use milk to knead your dough instead of water. And add your saffron and cardamom in your flour instead of sugar syrup. These two things already will improve things significantly for you. Because the dough has to be super-duper soft and milk helps bring it all together in a smooth fashion. Also, you want your dough to be covered under a moist towel while you are making the dough balls because air is your enemy. If the dough dries out, it is difficult to rescue and those tiny little Gulab Jamun balls will develop cracks! Once that happens the deep frying step will break them and your heart. Pearls of wisdom from a few failed experiments here. Therefore- cover the dough with damp towel.
Also, there is the oil temperature part. If it’s too hot, Gulab Jamun will develop “boils” and obviously you don’t want that- at all. Keep it hot enough by maneuvering your heat setting between low and medium as needed. Don’t let down your guard on this one. Once you find your sweet spot then it’s a smooth sail throughout.
I know what you are thinking- it sounds like a lot of work. And I won’t deny- It Is. Especially for “instant-mix” preparation. But this is exactly why when there is less time, you would rather focus your energy in execution and less on optimizing your flour.
You guys, the bottomline is, don’t be afraid of this and give it a try and you will enjoy making a highly ethnic cuisine right into your kitchen. And that in itself will be reward so big that all the work that went into it will be completely worth it! And did I mention, the ‘ummm- this is so good’ exclamation?
If you are crazy enough in a totally awesome way and adventurous with your food with a huge sweet tooth, warm this slightly and eat with ice cream- may I suggest some Dolce De Leche??
Your Map to Gulab Jamun
Author: Minty Chai
Serves: About 60 Gulab Jamuns
Total Time: 3-4 hr
- 1 packet Chitale instant Gulab Jamun Mix
- Approx. half cup milk
- 3 teaspoons cardamom powder
- 2 teaspoons saffron
- 1 quart (or sufficient) oil, for deep frying
- 2 cups water
- 2 1/2 cups sugar
- Open the Gulab Jamun mix packet and empty contents on the counter, your favorite kneading pot or large not-so-shallow plate for making the dough. Add to it 1 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder and saffron and mix the flour lightly.
- Add the milk to it very slowly and bring all flour together into a ball of dough. Don’t over-add milk, less is fine. Continue kneading for few more minutes until the a small piece of dough feels very smooth and don’t crumble easily between your fingers.
- Once the dough is ready, cover it with damp paper towel or thin cotton kitchen towel. take a small piece out of the dough and roll it into a marble-sized ball between palms of both your hands. Grease your palms with little oil or ghee if necessary.
- Heat the oil in your round bottom pan or deep fryer. Don’t overheat. Use only medium heat as your maximum setting and don’t rush this step. Test temperature with small piece of dough first. When ready, gently release 3-4 balls into the oil and fry them until they come out golden brown. Move them around continuously to ensure even cooking as well as color distribution.
- Remove from oil when the color is right and set aside for a couple of minutes to let them cool down a bit.
- In a saucepan, add 2 cups of water and 2 1/2 cups of sugar. Heat it together till all sugar dissolves. Transfer to a serving pot and let cool. Add remaining cardamom powder. You can also add 1/2 teaspoon rose water or few rose petals if you wish. This step can be completed ahead of time if desired.
- Add the cooled Gulab Jamun balls to the sugar and allow them to soak for at least an hour. They will grow larger in size as they soak in the syrup.
- Serve slightly warm or cool, according to your preference.