Gulab Jamuns could truly be the most pan-Indian dessert. Found in every corner of the country, big and small, the flavour rarely varies despite the regional twists. Rose, kewra, cardamom, saffron... the gulab jamun still tastes just like home.
I have yet to meet a person who doesn't like gulab jamuns. Or G-Jams, to borrow a term from my cousin. Even those who prefer savoury over sweet can rarely resist the call of the G-Jam! Really, what's not to like? Golden, fried dumplings soaked in cardamom scented sugar syrup. Exotically delicious, yet endearingly simple!
The commercially available G-Jams are usually made of khoya. And homemakers like mum choose the less complicated route of instant G-Jam packets that use milk powder for a smoother, lighter version that is a lot less complicated than the original. And then there is a third, more unorthodox version. The Bread Gulab Jamuns!
I was first introduced to the bread version during my college years. Homesick on diwali, one of our friends surprised my roomie and me with a huge box of gulab jamuns. Made by his fauji mess cook. As we popped the first one into our mouth, he dropped the B-word! These were made with regular white bread! Despite being a foodie and a cooking enthusiast, I would never have guessed had he not told us! As for the taste? Suffice to say I disappeared with the entire box, coz, " Joey doesn't share food!"
I've been looking for the perfect recipe ever since and after many years of trial and error, I've created one that would have made the old Cook baba proud!
Bread 12 slices (I used wholewheat)
Custard Powder 3 tablespoon
Baking Soda 1 teaspoon
Milk 2 cups
Sugar 1 1/2 cup
Water 1 1/2 cup
Oil to deep fry
Method: Trim the edges of the bread. Soak a slice of bread in milk and squeeze to remove the excess. Repeat with all the slices. Run the crumbled, wet bread with the custard powder and baking soda in the food processor. Gently pulsing twice to obtain a smooth yet firm paste. Heat the sugar, water and crushed cardamoms in a deep pan till the syrup reaches a sticky, one string consistency. Take off the heat. Meanwhile, gently form the bread paste into smooth balls. Take care not to press too hard while rolling them or the consistency will not be spongy. Heat oil and gently drop the bread jamuns few at a time. Cook over medium heat so that the outside doesn't brown before the inside cooks. Once they are evenly golden, drain on kitchen paper and transfer to the warm syrup. Repeat with all the G-Jams. You can eat them warm or chill them in the refrigerator to serve later. Either way, they are easy to make and are always a blockbuster hit!