Sunday, July 11, 2010

Gulab Jamun: My First Large-Scale Cooking Experiment

I haven't posted as regularly these past couple of weeks because things have been so incredibly hectic. My sister Anagha performed her solo debut of Bharat Natyam, a form of classical Indian dance, yesterday, and this past week especially was crazy with preparations for the event and many out of town guests. To top it all off, my mom and I, being my mom and I, prepared all the food for the reception ourselves instead of opting for the convenience of a caterer. The menu consisted of: samosas, bhelpuri and gulab jamun, my own contribution, along with fresh watermelon.
I must say, I was quite intimidated by the task of preparing 600+ gulab jamuns. Gulab jamuns require concentrated effort, patience and skill to prepare correctly. Even though my mom 's recipe from the past 15+ years furnished truly spectacular gulab jamuns, her recipe contained bisquick, which we wanted to avoid using due to the trans fat it contains. So, we spent two weeks experimenting with different recipes and variations of them to find one that yielded gulab jamuns which held up to our standards. Towards the end of the experimentation process, after several trials and tribulations of jamuns that either fell apart while frying or flattened while soaking in the syrup, Aai(which is the Marathi term for "mother") and I got so exasperated that we almost decided to just use the original recipe. But I decided that after exerting this much effort, we had to keep going and come up with a working recipe. So to reduce wastage, we began to make quarter batches of each new variation we tried. Finally, after 4 attempts, we discovered the magic recipe that yielded the perfect gulab jamuns. The jamuns turned out firm enough to hold their shape, but soft and spongy on the inside, with the syrup soaking well into the jamuns. Again, this dessert requires patience to properly prepare, and they must be fried at the proper temperature. Otherwise, they will soak up the fat if the heat is too low or remain uncooked on the inside if the heat is too high. However, in spite of the rather labor-intensive procedure, the end result indeed proved worth it. Hey, after all, this is what professional chefs do day in and day out as they work to devise their own recipes.
Gulab Jamun (adapted from Manjula's Kitchen):
3 cups milk powder
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 and 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 and 1/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup whole milk at room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup ghee and 2 cups canola oil for deep frying
1 tsp. cardamom powder
3 cups sugar
2 cups water

For the jamuns:
Heat oil and ghee in a deep-frying vessel on medium-heat. Mix together the milk powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
Mix in the butter thoroughly.
Knead in the milk completely.
The dough will be very soft and sticky, but let it sit for a couple of minutes to firm up only slightly. It should still be soft though.
Knead the dough, and divide it into 60 equal-sized balls, of about 3/4" in diameter.
Check the temperature of the oil-ghee mixture by dropping a small piece of dough into the fat. It should rise within a few seconds. If it sits, the temperature is too low. If it rises immediately, it is too hot. Fry the jamuns over medium-low heat until well-browned, about 5-6 minutes.
Drain the prepared jamuns on a paper towel, and let them cool slightly.

For the simple syrup:
Combine sugar and water in a large pot, and bring the mixture to a boil. When the sugar is completely dissolved, add the cardamom powder. Add as many jamuns as will fit in a single, even layer on the bottom. Let them sit until the syrup comes back to a boil, the turn off the heat in just a few seconds. Place the jamuns in a tray, and let them come to room temperature. If need be, save the syrup for any remaining jamuns that need to be soaked. Once they are all finished, pour the syrup evely over all the jamuns, and refrigerate them overnight after they have cooled to room temperature. Enjoy cold or warm-they taste awesome either way! If you eat them warm, try them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. This makes for a fabulous combination :)

2 comments:

Swathi said...

Gulab jamun looks perfect. I love them. Hats off to you for making it in large scale. Congrats to your sister for doing arangetam of Bharathnatyam.

Priya said...

Wowwwww spongy jamuns looks irresistible..awesome work...

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