A dish that is believed to have come to us from Persia now Iran, Gulab means rose and Jamun refers to the Indian plum (not a plum really) that has an oval shape and a deep dark plum colour. Traditionally Gulab Jamuns are balls of milk dough soaked in a sugar syrup. Commercially very few makers use pure rose syrup and prefer to spice it with cardamom powder and most Halwais make the dough balls round and not oval.
Gulab Jamun has 3 main components the sugar syrup or chachni, the khoya or condensed milk fat and the Chenna or fresh paneer from which the dough is prepared. Some instant Gulab Jamuns are also made with milk powder.
You can choose the shape you prefer and the flavour.
In this recipe I make the chachni or soaking syrup from beautiful dried whole pink rose buds I sourced in New Delhi. You can use a high quality rose syrup or just cardamom powder if you prefer.
For Gulab Jamun you need to buy a creamy and soft Khoya called Daap, Chikna or Malaidar Khoya. The curdled milk cheese can be prepared at home by splitting milk with lemon juice or you can simply buy the fresh Chenna at a sweets seller. The advantage of buying it is that it will be well drained and all lemon juice washed off. If you prefer to make it at home use a liter of full fat milk and make sure to strain it for an hour or so.
400 grams damp or chikna khoya room temperature
100 grams fresh Chenna or paneer room temperature
75 grams of all purpose flour or maida plus more for rolling
1 teaspoon pan roasted rawa/sooji or fine semolina
1 teaspoon powdered seeds of green cardamom (optional)
1 cup rose buds
2.5 liters water
Toasted almond slivers and rose petals to garnish (optional)
CHACHNI OR ROSE SYRUP
Set 3 litres of water to boil on a high flame. Add the roses and let steep 25 minutes until the water has reduce to 2.25 liters. Add 2-3 whole green cardamom pods if desired. When you remove the rosebuds drain them off with a perforated ladle and discard.
Add a kg of sugar to the water and cook on a medium flame.
Do not stir this mixture with a spoon as this could cause the sugar to become gritty. Swirl it about in the pan using the pans handle instead. Using your ladle gently remove any sugar scum (small discoloured bubbles that rise to the top). This helps keep the sugar syrup bright and clear. Reduce by about 1/2 so you have 1.5 litres of syrup. The syrup should not be too thin or too thick. If it gets sticky you’ve made it too thick. You need to then make a thinner syrup on the side and combine the two. Both should be hot when combined. Do not add cold water to a hot sugar syrup to thin it.
As the syrup cools it will automatically thicken so it should be thin enough for the gulab jamuns to move about freely. This allows them to soak and absorb the sugar.
Using the back of your palm macerate the khoya on a clean surface about 3-4 minutes until smooth. Do the same with the Chenna and then combine the two and continue to knead the two with the back of your hand until completely combined and you cannot tell the khoya apart from the chenna. Add roasted semolina and flour and finally the powdered cardamom seeds if desired. Combine well.
Form into equal sized balls. I make about 24 from this dough but you can make them larger. The balls should be smooth and round without cracks or dents. Roll lightly in all maida or all purpose flour.
Set a pot of oil about 3 inches deep in a kadai, large deep saucepan or small wok. Add 1/2 cup of ghee to it for flavour if desired.
Heat on a medium flame. The oil should be warm but not bubbling hot when the Jamuns are added to it. This dessert needs to cook slowly.
Add 4-6 balls at a time depending on the size of your pan. Do not over crowd. From time to time stir the balls in the oil to ensure even browning. Using a perforated ladle turn them from side to side very gently to make sure they brown evenly and to the color of your choice.
Drain them ad plunge into the warm sugar syrup. Let them sit in this syrup for 1-2 hours until they reach room temperature. Then refrigerate to allow the syrup to thicken and the fats in the milk to solidify. You can rewarm them later of you wish.
Garnish with rose petals and almonds if desired.