Friday, September 4, 2009

The Not-Quite-Definitive Recipe: Fresh Fig Gulab Jamun


Two quick notes before we begin this week's post!

First, thanks go out to eagle-eyed reader Sarah Y. for catching an error in our last post. In the description of how to melt the chocolate, the text originally read to melt down "one stick of butter per 12 ounces of chocolate." It should have read "1/2 of a stick of butter per 12 ounces." The correction has been made to the page, hopefully soon enough to save all of you from runny chocolate and unnecessary coronary episodes.

Second, we couldn't help but notice that, six days after our own recipe for Grilled Lamb Chops with Sun-Dried Tomato Chimichurri went live, the New York Times ran this remarkably similar recipe. We here at Burning Pasta don't assume that Ms. Clark or any other NYT staffers read this page, but we do love a good coincidence.

On to this week's post!

There are some dishes that simply don't have standardized versions.

Different iterations might taste similar, or look similar, or have similar textures, but the truth of the matter is, whether it's Pasta alla Bolognese, a Bloody Mary, or, today's recipe, there are certain foods that are notable because there are so many variations, whether they be national, regional, or even different from cook to cook.

Gulab Jamun, is, at a very basic level, fried dumplings made from a dairy-based dough, soaked in sugar syrup. This simple description of ingredients is hardly adequate, however, nor does it illustrate just how delicious the final product is. Depending on who you ask, the flour could be pastry, or rice, or all-purpose, the dairy anything from sour cream to cottage cheese to milk powder, the sugar syrup based on almost any sweet substance you can think of. And that's not even thinking about what to flavor the syrup with.

Our version is based on sweetened condensed milk and all-purpose flour; something that most people already have in their pantry (and, if they don't, they're easily found). To add a late-summer twist, we've added fresh figs and copious amounts of orange zest; a perfect (and classic) combination that waves farewell to summer and looks eagerly towards the crisp, bracing fall.

Fresh Fig Gulab Jamun
Serves 4

1 and 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
1 Tablespoon Butter, melted
1 (14 oz.) can Sweetened Condensed Milk
6 Black Mission (or other fresh) Figs
Zest of two Oranges

3 Cups Vegetable Oil
Candy Thermometer

2 cups Water
1/2 Cup Honey
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
3 Cardamom Pods
1/2 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1 teaspoon Rose Water (optional)
1 pinch Saffron (optional)

First off, you have to make your batter. Start by pouring the can of sweetened condensed milk into a bowl.

Zest your oranges into it, and add your vanilla extract and melted butter.

At this point, it's time to add in your dry ingredients. Gently stir in your flour, one 1/4 cup at a time. Add in your baking powder as well.

You should be left with a fairly stiff dough. Set aside to let the baking powder work its magic.

Heat your oil up to 320 -- a bit cooler than you would usually get things for deep-frying. You want to cook these dumplings fairly slowly, and all the way through, so searing heat isn't what we're looking for.

Meanwhile, mix together your honey, sugar, and water, bringing it up to a boil so it gets nice and syrupy.

Once things are at a nice boil, add in your cardamom and cinnamon. If you have saffron on hand, go ahead and add a pinch of that in too. If not, don't worry about it. Turn the heat under the syrup down to low.

By now your oil should be up to temperature. Slice your figs into halves (as seen at the top of this post). With well-floured hands, form the dough into balls, tucking a fig half into each one.

Drop your dumplings, one at a time, into the hot oil. Cook them for two minutes a side, or until browned well (but not too dark).

Place your fried dumplings into the simmering sugar syrup. Ladle it overtop a few times, or until well coated.

Serve the Gulab Jamun with vanilla ice cream and chopped mint leaves, adding additional fresh figs on top and drizzling extra sugar syrup around the plate. The final product:

This is a wonderful dessert -- fluffy, crispy, sweet, and with just enough comforting doughiness for those early, cool late summer nights. Still not on board? It's basically a doughnut with bread pudding inside, and, at its core, there's gooey, delicious, jammy fig. Oh, yeah. You should make this.

We'll return next weekend with yet another recipe! See you then.

Music: George Michael -- "Father Figure"


  1. Gulab Jamun is my favorite dessert, and I love the combination with figs!

  2. I think adding figs with gulab jamun is different combination I never seen this type of combination. Thanks for sharing this gulab jamun with figs.


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