Making these fragrant, syrup-soaked little orbs of heaven is not easy. I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that preparing this traditional Indian dessert is so elaborate and labour-intensive it borders on the ritual. It will probably take you all afternoon and even then you still have to wait until the next day before you can really tuck in. But trust me, they’re worth it. The first time I made these, I was probably 15 or so and I couldn’t get over how delicious and unique they were. Almost ten years later, I still feel exactly the same.
I realise that there are many different recipes for gulab jamun, but I remain loyal to the one printed below. These jamuns will retain a slightly chewy centre, which might not be 100% authentic but which I personally love, and I find that their subtle combination of cardamom and rose water is pretty damn close to perfection.
Ingredients (for 25-30 jamuns)
200 g powdered milk
2-3 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
125 g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of ground cardamom
for the syrup:
450 ml water
300 g sugar
a sprinkling of rose water
- cut the ghee into tiny pieces and use your hands to mix it with the milk powder until you achieve a crumb-like texture.
- Add the self-raising flower, baking powder and enough cold water to be able to form a very tough dough.
- Shape the mixture into a ball. Wrap it in clingfilm and put in the fridge for at least 3 hours.
- Take the dough out of the fridge. Cover your work surface with a thin layer of flour and use your hands to crumble the dough until you are left with a heap of very fine crumbs.
- This will probably take you a while, but it’s good exercise.
- Now, using a spoon, sprinkle a small area of crumbs with water and form a little ball the size of a walnut. Repeat this process until you’ve used up everything.
- Put the balls on a plate and switch on your deep fryer. I fry them at high heat for about 3 minutes, but this does mean that the centre stays slightly tough and chewy. If you want them completely spongy and soft, which is how they are traditionally meant to be, deep fry them in oil or ghee on a low to medium heat till they are a dark golden brown. This will take a little longer, but they will soak up the syrup more easily.
- Leave to drain on some kitchen paper and put them in a glass bowl.
- Heat the water and sugar in a pan, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Pour the hot syrup over the jamuns. Sprinkle with a little rosewater. Cover up and put the bowl in the fridge.
- The next day the jamuns will have soaked up about three-quarters of the syrup. This process continues over the course of the next few days, so don’t eat them all at once! They will only get better and better!