Gulab Jamun is one of India’s most famous and beloved desserts. In most basic terms, gulab jamuns are simply fried dough balls soaked in lightly spiced sugar syrup. They are similar in taste and texture to cake, but when soaked in sugar syrup --- they are absolutely heavenly. In Hindi, “gulab” means rose. This is in reference to the rosewater usually added to the sugar syrup imparting a subtle floral taste and fragrance. “Jamuns” are small round purple fruits (also known as black plums or Java plums) that bear a resemblance to the actual gulab jamuns.
There are several different recipes on how to make the perfect gulab jamuns. The traditional method is, of course, a bit more labor intensive. So I am going to give you my quick and easy way to make perfectly delicious gulab jamuns. I am also going to add my own little unique twist to this recipe.
I love gulab jamuns, they are actually one of my all-time favorite desserts. My unique twist to this classic dessert is to add a delicious mixture of nuts, jam and ricotta cheese. For this particular recipe, I am using apricot jam but I have tried this recipe using mango, pineapple, strawberry and peach jams as well as, apple preserves. So feel free to use your favorite variety of fruit jam or preserves. But if you prefer, feel free to make the gulab jamuns without adding the fruit mixture if you like to eat them the traditional way.
GULAB JAMUNS (or Fruit Flavored Gulab Jamuns)
Makes 25-30 gulab jamuns
1 cup Bisquick (OR you can substitute: 1 cup all-purpose flour, ½ tsp baking powder)
2 cups nonfat dry milk powder (such as Carnation or Nido)
4 tbsp melted butter (room temperature)
milk as needed (either whole or 2% is also fine to use)
Fruit Mixture: mix the ingredients together in a small mixing bowl & chill for 30 minutes before use (OPTIONAL).
2 tbsp firm ricotta cheese
4 tbsp good quality apricot jam (should not be runny)
2 tbsp finely ground pistachio nuts (toasted & unsalted)
1 tbsp honey, to taste
Syrup: this can be made earlier and kept warm
3 cups sugar
2 cups water
2-3 whole green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
pinch of saffron strands (kesar)
a few drops of rosewater or rose essence
oil for deep frying (vegetable or canola)
¼ cup toasted pistachio pieces for garnish
In a large mixing bowl, make the dough for the jamuns by combining the Bisquick, nonfat milk powder and melted butter together. Then slowly add just enough milk to make a semi-firm dough, do not over mix the dough. The dough is usually very sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 25-30 minutes, the dough will be easier to work with when chilled.
*For my delicious fruit flavored gulab jamuns: add the chilled fruit mixture to the gulab jamun dough. Then carefully fold together until well combined. Do not over mix. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30-45 minutes, the dough will be easier to work with when chilled.
To make the gulab jamuns: make the balls by gently rolling each portion between your palms into a smooth ball roughly 1 inch or so in diameter. Make sure there are no cracks in the balls, otherwise add a touch of milk to the dough. Place the balls on a plate, cover with a slightly damp kitchen (or tea) towel and allow them to rest for at least 30 minutes before frying.
In a deep skillet or wok, heat the oil on high initially and then lower the heat to medium. Slip in the balls into the hot oil from the side of the pan, one by one. They will sink to the bottom of the pan, but do not try to move them. Instead, gently shake the pan to keep the balls from browning on just one side. After about 6-7 minutes, the balls will rise to the surface. The gulab jamuns should rise slowly to the top if the temperature is just right. Carefully turn them over, they should be lightly golden brown on all sides. Remove quickly and drain well on absorbent paper towels.
Set aside until needed.
If the temperature of the oil is too high then the gulab jamuns will tend to crack and break. So adjust the temperature of the oil to ensure that the gulab jamuns do not break or brown too quickly. The gulab jamun balls must be fried very slowly in medium temperature oil, this will ensure that the gulab jamun balls are completely cooked inside and evenly browned on the outside.
*For the sugar syrup: the syrup should be made earlier and kept warm. In a large sauce or soup pot on medium high heat, combine both the water and the sugar together. Next, add the cardamom and the saffron. Stir well to combine all of the ingredients. The sugar should be dissolved and the syrup should be slightly thickened. This may take up to 8-10 minutes. Do not overheat, that will caramelize the sugar. Now add just a drops or two of the rosewater (or rose essence), remember a little goes a long way.
Keep the syrup warm. Now add the fried gulab jamuns directly into the warm syrup. Leave the gulab jamuns in the syrup to soak overnight for best results. They can be served warm or at room temperature. My favorite way is to serve them warm with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.
VARIATIONS & TIPS:
Kala Jamuns are just a darker version of gulab jamuns with a slightly caramelized flavor. Just before frying, lightly roll the balls in superfine sugar. A thin layer sugar adds a wonderful depth of flavor. Fry on medium heat, drain well and add to the sugar syrup just as you would for gulab jamuns.
Gulab jamuns also freeze well. You can freeze the fried dough balls in a freezer storage bag after they have cooled. Then just make fresh syrup and add the frozen balls. Cook on low heat for about 10-15 minutes and then let them soak in the sugar syrup (overnight is best).
Instead of rosewater or rose essence, try adding a drop or two of vanilla or orange essence. Also, feel free to add some raisins to the fruit mixture if you like.