GULAB JAMUN (“goo-LAHB JA-moon”)
Indian Donuts In Chamomile-Cardamom Syrup
Yields about 4 servings
This is another famous Indian dessert that sends us rushing the dessert table at weddings and other festivities. Gulab jamun are ALWAYS at or near the top of most people’s favorite Indian desserts. And for good reason. What could send your heart into sweet cardiac arrest faster than a deep fried ball of milk dough, soaked in syrup, and sometimes topped with ice cream?! For my taste, the traditional versions are always a little leaden and impossibly sweet. My recipe produces a cloud-like dough (which means you should use light hands when cooking them), cuts down on the sugar and adds a blush of chamomile. This recipe took so many tries. I’m really proud of this one! Serve these warm or at room temperature.
Note: depending on the climate you’re cooking in, you may need more or less milk. So don’t add the entire 1/3 cup at once. Add a little at a time until the dough comes together. You may not need it all.
1/2 cup instant nonfat dry milk
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon lemon zest (from about 1 lemon, plus extra for garnish)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon melted (and cooled) ghee or butter
2 to 3 tablespoons whole milk (or up to 1/3 cup; see note)
Vegetable shortening or sunflower oil for deep frying
1 tablespoon minced pistachios
Chamomile Cardamom Syrup:
3/4 cup granulated white sugar (I like raw cane sugar)
2 cups water
4 chamomile tea bags (snipped of labels)
4 green cardamom pods, crushed open but left whole
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Pinch of saffron threads (optional)
In a large bowl, stir together milk powder, flour, lemon zest, baking soda and a pinch of salt with a fork until well-combined.
Make a small well in the ingredients, and add the vinegar and ghee. Stir through until it takes on the texture of sand, 1-2 minutes.
Now add milk in a thin, slow stream, stirring all the while with your fork. The mixture will first look like wet sand, then come together and come away from the sides of the bowl as a loose dough that somewhat resembles cottage cheese. The dough should be soft, light and pretty delicate but not too sticky; add a few pinches of flour if it’s sticking to your fingers too much.
Don’t dilly-dally; this dough dries out quickly! Divide the dough into 8 equal portions. Roll into small balls, about 1 inch in diameter. They’ll look a little puny to you, but don’t worry; they will swell in both the oil and the syrup. Place on a plastic wrap-lined plate. Top with a lightly dampened paper towel, then with another piece of plastic wrap.
In a small heavy-bottomed Dutch oven, warm a 1-inch depth of shortening or oil to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (a frying or sugar thermometer is helpful here; if you don’t have one, then drop a small piece of dough into the oil. It should sink to the bottom, then pop to the surface in about 15 seconds).
Meanwhile, line a plate with a double layer of paper towel.
When the fat is at the right temperature, carefully drop four of the balls into the pot using a slotted spoon. As soon as they pop up to the surface, use a spider or slotted spoon to keep them gently moving and rolling in the hot fat so that they brown evenly. Cook in this way for two to three minutes until they’re a light mahogany or acorn color. Scoop them out and lay them on the paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining balls of dough, making sure that the fat is back at the correct temperature.
Now make the syrup: bring sugar, water, tea bags and cardamom pods to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, uncovered. Turn heat down to medium low and simmer for about 3 minutes. Push tea bags to the side, and lay donuts in the syrup. Stir to ensure the donuts are well doused in the syrup and simmer, partially covered, for 5 minutes until they swell and soften. Remove from heat, and pull out tea bags and cardamom pods. Carefully stir in saffron if using, crushing lightly between your hands, lemon juice and a pinch of kosher salt. Let it cool off for a couple of minutes.
Active time: 35 minutes