Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Gulab Jamun & Father's Day

Today we've got a special recipe for you because it's one that I vowed I'd never make...

My introduction to the Gulab Jamun goes way back to my days in kindergarten when I witnessed a classmate of mine pull this little golden brown morsel out of her backback and devour it at the lunch table.  This must have intrigued me because - as kids do - I went home that day to tell my mother all about it. After that we set out to find out what it was and I think from what I recall I managed to point it out among the hundreds of variations of from the other sweets at a place called Shirin Mahal back in Peshawar.  I was never much of a sweet person, things that were overly sweet or drenched in syrup made my tummy hurt but my mother became obsessed with them, to the point that I remember my father bringing home boxes of them because they were all she craved while she was pregnant with my younger sister. The gulab jamun was a big hit and later on from time to time my mother tells the story of how she tried to make them at home, and unfortuntely it resulted in utter failure so we came to the conclusion that it's "much better to just buy them anyway".

Years later I introduced them to my husband, ironically at a place called Shirin Mahal, which seems to be a chain throughout the general Toronto Area and with him having a sweet tooth it's no surprise that he instantly fell in love with them too.

As you all know I enjoy cooking and baking so the joke around here is whenever I ask my husband if he has any requests he says "Make me some Gulab Jamun" knowing that it's the one thing that I refuse to attempt after my mother's tale on how complicated they are to perfect.

I guess the moral of the story is "never say never" because this Ramadan I had a pot of oil sitting on the stove from frying some Luqumat which is a very special treat since I hardly ever deep fry and so I figured why not look up a recipe and surprise my husband for his very first father's day!

I picked up a bag of milk powder from the supermarket and when my husband noticed it in the kitchen he wondered what it was for because it's not something we ever buy. I jokingly told him it was for the baby to which he was more puzzled why we'd be feeding him powdered cow's milk when he's perfectly happy nursing... then I caved and told him I wanted to attempt to whip up a batch of Gulab Jamun. You can imagine how happy he was but if only it was as simple as it sounded.

I started making my first batch friday evening and couldn't believe how easy it was to whip up the dough because it's only 2 or so major ingredients! By time we started frying them we realized our mistake but proceeded to see how it would go ... then we realized our mistake, while they looked beautifully dark brown on the outside they were no where near cooked inside but we still continued to  put them in the sugar syrup... and ... they were not absorbing anything. The next batch failed too ... and then another...

Three days later and 5 attempts and we finally had a result that was actually absorbing. Some mistakes I made was browning them too fast in hot oil, and also kneading the ingredients too much, or not adding enough moisture so it was a dry dough with cracks. We tried saving a few batches too by boiling them in syrup with extra water added and while they looked like they were  puffing up eventually they would shrivel back to these tough gummy little nuggets. 

I'd say the final batch was a success because we worked together and did a lot of research beforehand. Some of the things we learned was to make a light dough and my husband rolled the balls gently between greased palms while I fried them on a lower oil temperature (160ish, hard ball on the candy thermometer) very slowly until puffy and golden all around.

We put them in warm syrup and this time they absorbed all the way through and that's how we stored them as well, submerged. 

I think once taken out of the syrup they can dry out a little bit to the desired texture but overall I'm very happy with how they turned out and we have one sitting out to check it's texture this evening. It was a very interesting learning experience. It's amazing how the simplest recipes are the hardest to perfect. 
I can't wait to make an authentic - from scratch - version someday, that requires using whole milk and heating the milk down to a curd which is used instead of the more modern substitution of milk powder.

Ingredients (measuring cup used, 1 cup = 250 ml)
Recipe Source VegRecipesofIndia 

Sugar syrup:
2 cups water
1.5 cups sugar
3-4 green cardamoms, husked & crushed or powdered 

Saffron or Rose water optional. 

Mix the syrup ingredients and bring to a boil, cook for about 5-10 minutes on medium high until it's syrupy, but still light. Not thick like maple syrup or honey. If using rose water stir in at the end.  Set aside, it's better if you have it warm or on a low flame and ready for the gulab jamun's which you would make immediately after.

Gulab Jamun:

1 cup milk powder
¼ cup all purpose flour
1 tsp oil or ½ tsp ghee
a pinch of salt 
a pinch of baking soda
2 tbsp yogurt

Mix the dry ingredients and add the yogurt at the end, 1 tbsp at a time and see if it needs the full two tablespoons. It should not be a cracking dry dough, but moist enough and not sticking to your hands, mine was a little on the sticky side and we used oils palms to gently (VERY GENTLY) roll balls and set aside. All our other attempts yielded very dry balls. 

Fry on low as mentioned above and keep tossing and turning them in the oil so they cook inside and outside. They will almost be fluffy like a cake donut tim bit (donut hole) and you can cut one open to test it if you need to. 

Upon removing from the oil after they've browned put them into the syrup. We let them sit 2 hours and then transfered to a jar in the fridge, submerged in syrup. We allowed them to dry up a bit from the syrup by removing them and placing on a plate to drain before eating, even if the top is dry of syrup it is good as the syrup should absorb all throughout. 

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