Take a stroll through the Little India section of Singapore right now, from Race Course road, deep into the narrow and crowded side streets, and it's like the area has just exploded with color and lights. Strings and strings of bright blinking lights, flowers, glitzy garlands, and any kind of festive bling you can think of cloak just about everything. Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, is right around the corner. It's a major celebration here, and in honor of that, I've decided to recreate a classic Indian dessert, Gulab Jamun.
You've probably seen Gulab Jamun before, most likely in a silver serving dish on the sweets end of an Indian buffet line. They're little golden balls of cake soaked in a heady and aromatic sweet syrup. Most likely you've never given much thought as to how it's made. I had no idea either, until I decided to make it myself.
What I discovered was that Gulab Jamun is super easy to make. A simple dough of all-purpose flour, milk powder, leavener, butter (traditionally ghee), and milk are hand-rolled into spheres. Then, just like a mini doughnut, the balls are quick fried in oil. Finally, the fried balls are submerged in a flavorful syrup typically made from cardamom, saffron, and honey. As they cool, the firm and cakey-textured balls of fried dough soak up the syrup like a sponge. Delicious.
For my Gulab Jamun, I wanted to inject chocolate into the recipe, but I also wanted to do it with restraint. A few recipes that I came across for a "chocolate gulab jamun" looked just like a bowl of moist chocolate munchkins—tempting, but too far off course for this particular dish. I love the traditional flavors of gulab jamun so much that I didn't want to mess with a good thing. The best way to keep the chocolate flavorful but not overpowering was to add a handful of chopped chocolate to the gulab jamun dough. All else would stay the same. For the chocolate, I chose a 70% bittersweet because it's bold enough to stand up to the sweet soaking syrup. A sprinkling of pistachios on top add crunch. Served either at room temperature or chilled, these tender, drenched chocolate chip cakes are a fun twist on a classic, as well as a tasty way to introduce yourself to the world of Indian dessert making.
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About the Author: Yvonne Ruperti is a food writer, recipe developer, former bakery owner, and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Easy Artisan Bread. You can also watch her culinary stylings on the America's Test Kitchen television show. She presently lives in Singapore as a freelance writer for Time Out Singapore. Check out her blog: shophousecook.com . Follow Yvonne on Twitter.