When I was growing up, one of my favorite after school surprises was coming home to my mom making gulab jamun. As soon as I opened up the door, I could smell the amazing fragrance of saffron and cardamom boiling, and the fritters frying. It was such a treat to have warm gulab jamun straight from the stove.
The name gulab jamun literally means "rosewater berries" as the syrup originally was made with rosewater. Unfortunately, rosewater is not my favorite flavor, but fortunately, my mom always makes them with saffron and cardamom--two flavors I love--rather than the rosewater. I bet these fritters could be versatilely made with almost any flavor you could dream up!
Gulab jamun are definitely an occasional treat for a special occasion as they are by no stretch of the imagination even remotely healthy for you! They are small balls made of 2 parts evaporated milk powder to 1 part bisquick shallow fried in shortening. After a quick drain, they are placed into a syrup made from sugar, water, saffron, and cardamom. After soaking, they develop an incredible, soft, and slightly chewy texture similar to a sponge cake! They are absolutely delicious, and I highly recommend making these at your next special occasion.
For the fritters:
2 cups evaporated milk powder
1 cup Bisquick
1 tsp. melted vegetable shortening
1 Tbsp to 1/2 cup very warm water
Enough shortening to fill a small frying pan with 1 and 1/2 inch when melted
For the syrup:
4 cups water
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. ground saffron
1 and 1/2 tsp. cardamom seeds
1/2 tsp. powdered cardamom
Combine all of the ingredients for the syrup into a large, flat pot. Bring to a robust boil and then reduce to a simmer.
While the syrup is coming up to a boil, begin making your fritters. Combine the evaporated milk powder and Bisquick in a large bowl. Add the melted shortening and begin to knead using your hands. Begin adding the warm water, 1 tablespoon at a time, kneading after every addition. Add water until it gets to the consistency of a slightly slack pie crust.
Begin to roll the dough into balls. In order to do this, take a small amount of dough and roll between your palms applying a good amount of pressure and rolling until the surface becomes smooth and soft. This may take a while as the dough will seem really crumbly when you start rolling, but don't despair and keep rolling. The balls should be about 1 inch in diameter, and you should end up with about 30-35 balls in total.
Begin heating the shortening in a small frying pan, keep adding enough shortening until you have about an inch to an inch and a half of melted shortening in the pan. Heat over medium-high heat until the shortening shimmers. Turn off the heat from the simmering syrup. Add about 10 balls into the oil, and shallow fry, turning frequently until golden brown in color. Remove from the oil and allow to drain on a plate. Add next 10 balls to the oil and repeat the process. Before removing the batch of fritters, transfer the draining fritters to the syrup. Repeat until all of the fritters are fried. Allow to soak for at least 30 minutes. Serve and enjoy!
Note: These can be refrigerated and served for up to 1 week.