Gulab Jamun is an Indian dessert where small balls made of milk solids and flour are deep fried and then soaked in sugar syrup flavoured with cardamom or saffron. They are absolutely delicious, with a thin caramelized layer on the outside and soft and juicy on the inside. The word ‘gulab’ means rose, maybe because rose water was often used in the sugar syrup, and ‘jamun’ refers to a tart plum-like fruit called jamun or jaam, as the sweet has a similar deep brownish red color as the fruit. It is also called Lal Mohan in Nepal and some parts of India (lal means red). There is a variation of this sweet, where sugar is added to the dough besides the milk solids and flour. When this is fried, all the sugar caramelizes and the sweet gets a dark, almost black color because of which it is called Kala Jaam or Jamun (kala means black). It is usually triangular or oval in shape and harder and denser than a regular gulab jamun.
There are different ways of making gulab jamuns. You can use milk powder, fresh paneer or khoya. I made it twice before with milk powder and paneer but was never completely happy with the results. I plan to try it again and if it turns out well, I will post that recipe too. But this time I used khoya, which is basically milk solids either created by heating whole milk in an open pan till it thickens or dried whole milk low in moisture. Using khoya will not only make it easy for you to create the gulab jamuns, but also help you save time. You can get khoya in any Indian grocery store or sweets shop and it can be used to make many different types of desserts. It is better to prepare gulab jamun a day early so that the sugar syrup gets soaked well by the fried milk balls. You can keep it in the fridge and heat it up before serving or even serve it cold. This recipe makes 40 medium-sized gulab jamuns.
Khoya: 1 cup
All purpose flour or Maida: 1/2 cup
Cornflour: 1 tbsp
Baking soda: 1/4th tsp
Milk: 1/2 cup
Oil for deep frying
Sugar: 1 1/2 cups
Water: 1 1/2 cups
Cardamom powder: 1/2 tsp
Saffron: a few strands (optional)
1. Mix flour, cornflour, baking soda and crumbled khoya. Adding baking soda is optional but it helps to make the gulab jamun fluffy and light. The cornflour helps to bind all the ingredients and leads to a smoother texture.
2. Add milk 1 tbsp at a time and start making a dough. You will need a little less than 1/2 cup milk.
3. Knead this dough on a flat surface for at least 15 minutes till it is soft and smooth. This will make it easier to shape the balls and they will not crack when fried. Cover with plastic wrap or keep it in a covered container for 20 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, heat water in a saucepan and mix the sugar in it to make the syrup on medium heat.
5. Stir the sugar till it dissolves and add cardamom powder and a few strands of saffron. This makes the syrup more aromatic and adds a beautiful light orange color. Once the water level reduces and becomes almost half, remove from heat and let it cool.
6. As it cools, apply a little ghee on your palms and make the balls from the dough. Don’t make them too big, as they will puff up a little when fried and also when they are soaked in the syrup.
7. Heat oil on medium heat and deep fry the balls. There are a few things you must keep in mind here. The oil should not be very hot; medium or a little less than medium heat is perfect, otherwise the exterior will cook too soon and become dark, while the inside will remain uncooked or have a hard lump in the middle. Also, keep moving the balls in the oil so that they don’t stay in one position for more than a few seconds. By rotating the balls, you can get even coloring and there is less chances of burning them. It took me around 8 minutes to cook the gulab jamun balls and get the right color but it may vary depending on how many you are frying at the same time, how heavy your pan is and what is the exact heat. Here you can see how the color changes:
8. Immediately transfer the balls to the sugar syrup. Make sure the syrup has cooled down and is just slightly warm now. If the syrup is too hot the gulab jamuns will fall apart or the outer layer will peel off. Let them soak for a few hours or overnight in the fridge and serve warm or cold.
Here is the easy printable version of the recipe: