Thursday, December 25, 2014

Gulab Jamun

Mixing milk powder with other dry ingredients.

At age 23, I ventured to Japan to teach English. I was scheduled to lead a full load of classes on Christmas day. Alone on what had always been a sacred and celebratory family holiday, I promised myself dinner at a feisty Szechuan spot where the soup arrived crowned with a domed lid layered with  chrysanthemums. Intensely flavored, it was the best substitute I had found for South Indian food in Japan.                        

Resting gulab jamun dough.
Near the end of my first class that day, a student inquired about my meal plans for Christmas. More specifically, would I be going to Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner? The other students leaned in, curious to hear my reply. 
 Kneading gulab jamun dough.
The thought of consuming a highly commoditized meal on a day rife with meaning was odd. Chili-infused soup served at a ma-and-pa restaurant was one thing. Highly processed chicken was another. I explained I would not be traveling to Tokyo for KFC.

Cooling fried donuts.

By the end of my 8-hour day, I had fielded that same question numerous times. Would I be having Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas? Clearly Colonel Sanders was running a very successful marketing campaign.

Adding the rose water.
Gulab jamun ready to serve.

That day, I realized that the true beauty is that there is really no one Christmas meal in the U.S. Some people eat ham, others eat fish, and in our family dinner starts with mom's Chicken Biryani and ends with a warm bowl of Gulab Jamun (donuts in cardamom-infused syrup). 


Makes 15

Made with milk powder and a trace of cardamom and rose water, Gulab Jamun are a donut lover's dream dessert. For the best results, serve them warm.


1 cup nonfat milk powder
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 pound trans-fat-free vegetable oil
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon rose water


In a medium sized bowl, combine the milk powder, all-purpose flour, and baking soda. Using a large spoon, stir in the cream. All the dough to rest for 15 minutes.

Knead the dough until smooth.

Form the dough into 15 balls.

Heat the vegetable shortening in a frying pan on medium low heat.

Carefully lower 5 of the balls into the shortening. Cook, rotating the ball continuously with a heat-proof, slotted spoon to ensure even browning.

Remove when dough turns reddish-brown and cool on paper towels.

Repeat with the remaining dough.

Place the sugar, water, and cardamom pods in a medium sized saucepan. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until all of the sugar has dissolved.

Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice and rose water.

Soak the donuts in the flavored syrup.


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