Jamun in Jacob’s Kitchen (Project Food Blog – Challenge 2)

This post is my second entry for Project Food Blog, foodbuzz.com’s quest to find the next food blog star. Click here to see my contestant profile. Voting begins Monday, September 27, 2010. Follow me on twitter, facebook, or through my RSS feed to keep up to date with my progress in the competition. Thank you to everyone who took the time to vote for me in the first round, I appreciate all of your support!

Growing up, our family’s diet was very all American: meat and potatoes. Our meals offered very little in the way of exotic flavors beyond that of our favorite Chinese restaurant. And while as a child I certainly had no complaints, it wasn’t until college, when I was first out on my own, that my palate really began to expand. Living so close to San Francisco, I was able to discover food from all over the world: Thailand, India, Japan, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Peru, and many other places. These were new flavors. Exciting flavors. Flavors that, even to this day, remain some of my very favorite. It was as though up until then, I had been eating my way through a black and white world and suddenly stumbled upon a Technicolor buffet.

Since I genuinely enjoy cooking and baking so much, I find that I very rarely eat at restaurants these days. When I do, I am attracted to those dishes that I don’t venture to create with much frequency in my own kitchen: most often, Sushi, Thai curry, and Indian food. And while I have certainly tried my hand at some delicious homemade curries, rolled my own sushi, and explored North African, Middle Eastern, and Southeast Asian cuisine at home, I have rarely experimented with international desserts. It’s ironic, because as you can no doubt tell by my posts here on Jacob’s Kitchen, desserts are typically what most inspire me. Ina Garten always says that people will often not remember what you served for dinner, but they will always remember what you served for dessert. I agree. And so, challenged to create a dish from another culture, I figured the time had finally come to venture out into the exciting new world of international sweets.

After much deliberation, I decided upon my very favorite Indian dessert, gulab jamun. Which are, if you have never had them, much like Indian doughnut holes, soaked in a rose water and cardamom flavored sugar syrup. The dough is rich, moist and spongy, and it has a deep milky flavor and aroma. The syrup is sweet and fragrant, and together they make for the perfect end to any Indian meal.

I scoured my cook books and the internet and came up with five or six different gulab jamun recipes that were, essentially, all the same. The only difference seemed to be that some called for a pinch of saffron, and some did not. While the saffron does add a beautiful color, since I found myself almost out of it, I decided to exclude it from my recipe. The rose water is a key ingredient, however, that really cannot be omitted. (“Gulab,” after all, being the Hindi word for rose.) Luckily, having made baklava only last month, I had a nice big bottle of it in my pantry.

I began by mixing together the dry ingredients: two cups of non-fat dried milk powder (which you can typically find in the cereal or baking section of your grocery store), one half cup of all purpose flour, one fourth teaspoon baking soda, a half a teaspoon of ground cardamom, and a large pinch of salt.  To that, I added six tablespoons of room temperature butter, and, using my fingers, gently blended the butter into the dry mixture. When it was thoroughly combined, I added half a cup of warm, full fat milk, mixing the dough together with a fork. Once the dough came together and everything was fully moistened, I covered it and set it aside, allowing the dough to rest for ten minutes.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, I combined two cups of granulated sugar, four cups of water, one half teaspoon ground cardamom, and a splash of rose water. The rose water I purchased isn’t as concentrated as others that I have used in the past. Here I used roughly a fourth of a cup, which is a shocking amount, but you will want to add a few drops incrementally, and decide after sampling if you would like more. In the end, you want the syrup to be fragrant without tasting like perfume. Once the syrup reached a boil, I reduced the heat to low, and allowed the mixture to gently simmer while I tended to the making of the balls.

In a non stick skillet, I added enough canola oil to reach approximately one inch up the side of the pan, and set it over a medium low flame to slowly heat. I removed the rested dough from the bowl and kneaded it by hand for four or five minutes until it was very smooth (the dough should still be very soft and relatively sticky at this point). The dried milk powder absorbs a lot of liquid, so if you find that your dough has become too stiff, that it is cracking, or no longer holding together, don’t be afraid to add an additional splash or two of milk until you reach the desired consistency. Once the dough is very smooth, pinch off portions of dough about the size of a ping pong ball, and roll them in your hands until smooth. All of the recipes I referenced stressed the importance of the balls being very smooth before frying, and I found this step to be particularly troublesome. And while, in the end, I didn’t arrive at perfectly smooth balls, I discovered that dipping each ball halfway into milk, shaking off the excess, and then rolling them more easily facilitated the formation of blemish free balls.

To test the oil, carefully place a small scrap of dough into the pan. If the oil is hot enough, the dough should sink to the bottom, slowly bubble, and rise to the surface in approximately twenty seconds. If it rises much faster than that your oil is too hot; if it takes much longer your oil is too cold. Gently place the formed balls into the heated oil, and fry for six to eight minutes, periodically turning them to ensure evening browning. Don’t rush this step, as you want the balls to be deeply golden brown and fully cooked through. Remove the finished balls from the pan, place them on a paper towel lined baking sheet to absorb any excess oil, and allow the balls to cool to room temperature. Place the cooled balls into the warm syrup (now taken off of the stove) and soak for at least fifteen minutes but for up to four days. Serve the galub jamun warm with a little bit of extra syrup. Optionally, you may also choose to garnish with a sprinkling of finely chopped pistachios, almonds, cashews, or even some toasted coconut.

One of the greatest things about food, which never ceases to amaze me, is its ability to transport you all the way to the other side of the world. All you need is a fork and a healthy sense of adventure. With a few simple new techniques and exotic ingredients, you might find yourself whisked away to Morocco, Paris, or Dubai, exploring the flavors and traditions of Bangkok, Brussels, or Bangladesh, without ever having to leave your kitchen. Little mini meal vacations, with no passport required. I hope the ease of making these simple, but delicious Indian treats has inspired you to pick up a new ingredient or experiment with some new flavors in the kitchen. You don’t have to be intimidated by the idea of having to recreate numerous courses of international cuisine. Start small, test the waters, and soon enough you’ll be cooking your favorite foreign classics like a pro. The most important attribute to have in the kitchen is fearlessness. After all, it’s just food, what’s the very worst that can happen?

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Filed under Desserts, Project Food Blog

109 responses to “Jamun in Jacob’s Kitchen (Project Food Blog – Challenge 2)

  1. This looks so beautiful! Good luck with #PFB2010. I hope we both advance to the next round!

  2. Wow! Beautiful!!! You did an amazing job with those, they look perfectly done. Good luck in round 2.

  3. Looks wonderful! Good luck! I chose Russian cuisine, please check it out.

  4. mj

    your jamuns have come out purrrrfect =) being from the same country as they r…I can definitely vouch for them…all the best.

  5. They look wonderful…Good luck in the competition!

  6. b kinch

    I love cooking with rosewater, and orange blossom water as well. This look delectable 🙂

  7. YUM!!! That is all I can say… yum. Want one right now… excellent job! You’ve got my vote!

  8. Beautiful as usual! Thanks for this delicious recipe! I don’t think I’ll make it, but I will drool over it!

  9. gonna send this to my mom

  10. Your galub jamun look beautiful. They are a real taste of my childhood – they were my grandfather’s specialty – and though I have had them several times since over the years in Indian restaurants, they were somehow just not the same. Missing ingredient – a grandfather’s love. I think I need to try making my own – using your recipe. Thanks so much for sharing it and of course it gets my vote 🙂

  11. well done looks so delicious. Making of gulab jamun is really challenging.

  12. Wow, Jacob. These are beautiful, I especially love the photo of them all lined up in a little row! Gorgeous.

    I bet they tasted awesome. Am feeling kinda jealous that you get to eat them and I don’t! 😉

    Good luck in this round! Here’s to round #3!

    Jax x

  13. Beautiful! I mean, how can you go wrong with what’s basically donut holes soaked in cardamon and rosewater. Yum! Good luck!

  14. Gorge, as usual. I love these things, too–I try to get them when I eat Indian out. Also, college really did a number on my palate as well. Thank goodness, right?

  15. I love these treats. But the last time I had one was when I was like 6. Great job Jacob you always have my vote. Such a talent (=

  16. I love that you chose an International Dessert. I’d like to know if I can order a few dozen 😉 Your photography is a feast for the eyes. I’m certain you will advance to round 3. You are very gifted!

  17. Thanks everyone! I so appreciate all of your support! Go team Jacob! =)

  18. These turned out so lovely! I love the colors and can almost taste the sweetness.

  19. Yum, this looks delicious! Great luck making it to the next round.

  20. superb jacob, gulab jams look perrfect 🙂

  21. As always…amazing!!!!!

  22. Gulab Jamun is my absolute favorite Indian dessert, and you’ve presented it so well for this challenge! Too well that my heart has just done a somersault in delight.. ;-). Best of luck for future PFB challenges, I can see you going far!

  23. I love your creation! Nice post. Armenians have a similar dessert called Tulumba…It’s soo good and and soo bad at the same time.

  24. This is without a doubt my favorite Indian dessert, its what I crave when I’m sick, sad, happy you name it. It looks beautiful. Good Luck in round 2

  25. I’m impressed with your efforts. This dessert looks great.

  26. I knew if anybody could tackle a wonderful dessert with an exciting story and pictures, it would be you!
    well done…congrats!!

  27. Beautiful presentation! Best of luck in Round 2:)

  28. Love this! And beautiful photos! Good luck on PFB!

  29. WOW Gorgeous!

    You have got my vote! Please check out my entry for this challenge http://www.foodbuzz.com/project_food_blog/challenges/2/view/703

  30. It’s not easy to step out of “your box” and test yourself. You did, and your creation turned out as well as the original recipe, along with the story and the pictures. Going on to round #3! Good Luck!

  31. Those look amazing! I’ve never had gulab jamun but I feel like I really need to try it now!

  32. Gorgeous. This challenge is so fun because I love seeing how people landed on such different dishes and for unique and personal reasons. Yours is especially gorgeous. I’ve eaten these countless times before at my local Indian restaurant but never had any idea what they were called. I especially love that they include Rose Water as I bought some recently without much of a plan of how to use it. Now I know. You have my vote. 🙂

  33. This is the first time I have been to this site. I am so happy to have found it too. Not only do I love this entry. I plan on exploring much more. GREG

  34. Beautiful photography, these look delicious. Good luck on making it to round 3, you’ve got my vote.

  35. Jamun is my favorite sweet dish- really fantastic job- love the presentation!

  36. Jinx! We both made Gulab Jamun! Yours are lovely, and get a vote from me!

  37. This looks wonderful! Good luck 🙂

  38. I’m not horribly familiar with Indian food, but these look great! You did an awesome job for the second challenge, and you’ll have my vote once again!

  39. Jacob, bravo bravo bravo! I love that you made a dessert, and the combination of rose water and cardamom sounds absolutely scrumptious. Here’s my vote with pleasure 🙂

  40. Joy

    That look great. I voted for you.

  41. I love these! So good! I should try making them! Gorgeous photographs! 🙂

  42. These look amazing! I can’t wait to try them. You have my vote.

  43. mmmm….you made my all time favorite dessert that i’ve eaten since the day i understood taste =)

    gulab jamuns looks great, love the presentation, i love mines dipped in juice but these look rather delicious!

  44. just beautiful, Jacob! great job. I could gobble more than a few of those up! I love rosewater too. I hope to see you in the next round!

  45. I am very impressed!! Jamuns cab be tricky sometimes. Yours are perfectly shaped and colored! hats off!!

  46. Wow, I have never had this before but clearly I need to try it out, the ingredients sound fabulous and definitely something I would like. Voted! 🙂

  47. I am so happy to discover new things. I have never seen, heard of, or consumed this dish before. The pictures are stunning and the food sounds great.

  48. This has got to be one of my favorite foods in the world. Anything that’s fragrant, deep-fried, and drizzled with syrup is a guaranteed success, but gulab jamun is just… amazing. Awesome post, you’ve got my vote!

    Lick My Spoon

  49. Jacob, great stuff here! Very creative, and your photos are mindblowing as always 🙂 Thanks for voting for me last challenge, check out my entry for this challenge and GL going forward!

  50. These look perfect and your pictures are beautiful. Great post and they look absolutely delicious. You got my vote, good luck!

  51. Great looking pictures as always! I love cooking with rose water and the jamuns look awesome. Good luck on this round…you got my vote!

  52. Nice entry…beautifully presented.

  53. Voted! Now do I get to eat one?

  54. What an exotic dish!! I love your approach to cooking ethnic foods. For those of us with a “mushroom” travel budget, we can enjoy “truffle” foods from around the world. You have my vote!

  55. looks delicious! i voted for you and thanks for voting for me last round:)

  56. Mmm, looks delic! I’m voting for you b/c I can’t wait to see what you come up with next!!! Good luck! You’re an amazing foodie blogger.

  57. Hi Jacob,
    just voted for you 199 votes left. all the best for your contests!

    your daily dose of humor and updates


  58. Glad to see that you made it to round 2. You won my vote at “Indian donut holes.” I love how you were able to get them so perfectly round. Nice work.

  59. you got my vote and my tweet – good luck.

  60. Love the photos! This dish looks wonderful. Good luck in project food blog. You have my vote!

  61. They are very sweet, but very good. Perfect with chai tea. Love the photos too! Definitely voting for this one.

  62. Voted.

    Well done! They look perfect.

  63. I’m impressed. Jamuns can be tricky and getting them right isn’t easy for first timers! Yours look perfect! U got mine…

  64. these look amazing! well done 🙂 You get my vote

  65. You have my vote! These gulab jamum look awesome! Your pictures are beautiful! Glad to have discovered a great blog through the Project Food blog!

  66. Definitely a great finish to an Indian meal!


  67. oh wow, these look so much better than the ones i’ve ever seen completely swimming in syrup. great entry!!

  68. Oh I always look forward to dessert in Indian restaurants for these. Great choice and they look better then any I have ever seen. Got my vote!

  69. Thanks so much for the vote, and omg! This dessert looks absolutely delicious. Great pick, and I can’t wait to see more! Cheers, xx

  70. Such incredible photography!!! Very jealous! 😉 You have my VOTE!

    The Young Foodie

  71. Gorgeous as usual! I’ll have to look for these on the menu the next time I dine at an Indian restaurant. Voted for you – I’m certain you’ll make it to #3!

  72. You’ve got my vote. Great job with the challenge!

  73. I just recently found you and love your site and recipes! I vote for you!

  74. Beautiful – gulab jamun…I soooo want to try to make these. I have never even heard of them until now, so thank you. These are gorgeous and look tasty – And with Cardamom….perfect! I like your quote, “Little mini meal vacations, with no passport required”. Nice. Another Vote to Jacob’s Kitchen!
    (from runningonbutter)

  75. Your Jamoon look perfect! In the Caribbean these are served for special festivals like Eid and Divali and I am fortunate enough to sample from my friends:)
    You definitely have my vote- excellent job!

  76. Absolutely breathtaking. In fact, everything that everyone else has said and then some. Incredible job.

  77. Those are so so pretty. I’ve been to so many indian places but still never had those!

  78. Makes me hungry for SWEET. Love your Ina Garten comment. I voted for you.

    Lexi Van de Walle
    Lighthearted Locavore. Check out my Peking Duck and vote for me too.

  79. Such a fantastic post! Your pictures are always amazing, slightly jealous.

  80. MMMMM….these look sooooo good! I’ve never heard of these before. Voting now 🙂

  81. Looks delish, love your photos!

    I voted for you! Mind checking out my post?


  82. Just lovely…they look perfect, and nice entry. Looking forward to your challenge #3 post 🙂

  83. Beautiful photos! I wish I could just reach through the screen and snatch one up!!

    Good luck on this round – you’ve got my vote!

  84. absolutely beautiful. looks so good, and different too. you def have my vote.

  85. Looks amazing! Thanks for voting for Fashionably Fit — I returned the favor. 🙂 Isn’t it amazing that folks in other countries eat rich desserts like this and the flan that I made, yet they don’t have the obesity problem the U.S. does.

  86. This looks fantastic. You have such great pictures on your site, it’s very inspiring! You got my vote too 🙂

  87. Katharina

    I agree and can relate to so many aspects of what you wrote!

    “Since I genuinely enjoy cooking and baking so much, I find that I very rarely eat at restaurants these days. When I do, I am attracted to those dishes that I don’t venture to create with much frequency in my own kitchen” I am the very same way. It leads me to being adventurous when I go out to eat. I also like what you said about being transported, and how one doesn’t have to be fearful.

    Also, I just LOVE gulab jamun. Whenever I go to an Indian restaurant, I feel all giddy inside when I take a glorious bite into this wonderful little dessert.

    Best of luck! You’ve got my vote 🙂


  88. Gorgeous! (Much more so than most gulab jamun that you see in restaurants.) You definitely have our vote!

  89. These are more perfect than any I’ve ever seen before! Great menu, wonderful post. Glad to see you’re still going strong in PFB!

  90. Gulab jamun!! Gorgeous (much more so tan most restaurants. You have our vote!

  91. bonnielu

    Fantastic post! I think I had these at an Indian wedding once and every time I tried to find out what it was called, no one knew. Will have to make these to see if this is what I had at the wedding.

    Best of luck to you and sending votes your way!

  92. Just voted! These look so fabulous! What beautiful photos and a detailed how-to. I can’t wait to make them.

  93. Fabulous post! You are an excellent writer – I just love your writing style! Plus, I love how detailed you are in your recipe directions! I love knowing exactly how to do things!

    I learned so much information from this post -a new dessert (gulab jamun) and cuisine (Indian), a new ingredient (rose water), and a new cooking technique (how to test the oil).

    I really love your food presentation! The photos are absolutely gorgeous!

    I appreciate how much effort you put into your posts. Your readers can definitely tell how much thought and care go into them!

    Your blog is quickly becoming one of my faves, and that’s saying a lot since I’ve only just recently found it through PFB! I’m going to have to check out all the posts in your archive!

    I just voted for you! Best of luck with PFB!

  94. love myself some gulab jamun! yummm and a big vote from little ole me!

  95. Hello Jacob,
    This Indian dessert looks truly amazing. I’ve voted for you. Your food worth every single vote. Good luck in competition and have a nice day. 😀

  96. Those are beautiful and look delicious. You have one of my votes. Good luck!

  97. Looks great! thanks for stopping by my post, and i’m happy to return the favor!

  98. Gulab jamoons used to be my favorite dessert before I went vegan. Yours look really great and authentic. Good luck on PFB — you’ve got my vote!

  99. gabrielle

    yeah, they are DELICIOUS too! stunning photos, but seriously these balls are so sweet and flowery (i want to say evoke the genius SNL radio ladies teeheee!). ❤

  100. These sound so delicious, and are beautiful, too! I love the Indian flavors that you used here, and that you tried a dessert. Great job!

  101. OMG they look fabulous! Love the plating and pictures. Must try this recipe out for myself! Best of luck on the project food blog challenge!

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