I adore Indian food, but the baker in me can't help but be a tad disappointed by the lack of authentic dessert menus in so many Indian restaurants. I normally gorge on so many papadums and hunks of peshwari naan that I'm far too full for pudding anyway, but I always like having the option.
I've recently made more effort to try and discover sweet treats from different cultures, and have had gulab jamun on my hit list for a while. Whilst we were shooting Crave, my lovely food stylist Annie Rigg often turns up with exciting treats for us to try, and mid-shoot I turned up and a parcel of the most delicious, sticky gulab jamuns were sat on the table. I was instantly hooked on the syrup-saturated doughnuts and promised myself i'd recreate my own version at some point.
When Waitrose briefed me saying they wanted an Indian-inspired bake for my column, this was the time to try. I spent a few days testing different ratios and getting to grips with baking with milk powder (the basis of these doughnuts), but I think I've settled on a recipe that I am really happy with. The key is getting the oil to the right temperature. Too high and the middles of the gulab won't cook and they will be too hard to absorb the syrup, but too low and they will be soggy and collapse during the soaking time. The oil should only be bubbling very gently, and the balls take a while to get colour on them.
This dessert is all about the syrup. The fried balls of dough would be bland without being doused in syrup, so allow enough time for it to be absorbed.
Recipe taken from here or found in Waitrose Weekend this week (4th-11th May):
FOR THE SUGAR SYRUP
300g caster sugar
5 green cardamom pods, slightly crushed
1 tsp rose water
FOR THE GULAB JAMUN
125g dried skimmed milk powder
3 tbsp plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
25g ghee (or butter)
150ml whole milk
Vegetable oil or ghee, to deep fry
Pistachios, chopped, to serve
1. Begin by making the sugar syrup. In a small saucepan, combine 150ml cold water with the caster sugar and cardamom pods. Simmer over a low heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring all the time until the sugar has dissolved and the syrup looks slightly thicker. Remove from the heat and stir in the rose water, then set aside.
2. Next make the gulab jamun. Combine the milk powder, flour and baking powder in a mixing bowl. Melt the ghee or butter in the microwave or in a small saucepan, then add to the dry ingredients.
3. Mix the ingredients together, adding the milk a little bit at a time until a soft, slightly sticky dough forms. Leave to stand for 2-3 minutes to firm up before rolling into 25 small round balls with damp hands. If the dough is too dry and starts to crack, add a little more milk to make smooth, round balls.
4. Heat enough oil or ghee in a medium saucepan to come halfway up the pan until it reaches around 150ºC on a thermometer. Try not to let the oil get any hotter than this or the balls won’t be cooked in the centre. Cook them in small batches for 5-7 minutes, stirring often to get an even golden colour on the outside. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on a piece of kitchen roll to absorb the excess oil. Cool for 3-4 minutes then place in a deep baking tin (a brownie tin works well).
5. Place the syrup over a low heat and warm gently, then pour the syrup over the gulab jamun. Leave to soak for 1 hour before sprinkling with chopped pistachios. To enjoy them warm, heat with the syrup in the microwave in a non-metallic container for 20 seconds.