Wish you all a very happy(or Deepavali)!!
I am going to shamelessly borrow my brother’s greeting to me to add:
“May the Markets recover, May the economy recover, May Paulson and Bernanke see light and usher in prosperity this year.”
Last Diwali, I was making sweets and ruminating about Ravana’s army. I was pondering deep philosophical questions like why Ravana’s army actually fought with Rama. What were they fighting for – their king’s right to abduct unsuspecting women? Was there a draft, or did people join the army so they could get subsidized home appliances? As I said, deeply philosophical issues.
This year, my thoughts are less on Rama and more on Obama, what with the election just a few days away and campaigning and reporting at fever pitch.
This year too, I made sweets for Diwali. With no crackers to burst, Diwali here seems to involve pretty much making sweets and eating them. If eating sweets worries me, the idea of having to make them worries me even more. But then, it’s Diwali.
I made gulab jamuns this year. I have made Rasagullas so often this year that they are definitely passé, and I have two unopened packs of gulab jamun mix that were purchased so long ago that if I don’t use them now, they will die of old age.
Do I have to even mention that I have never made gulab jamuns before, or that I am not exactly sure what the gulab jamun mix even contains? No, I am sure, if you are a regular reader, you will take all that for granted by now.
But I am a great believer in following instructions. I am not saying I always do, just that I believe everyone else should.
So I took out this pack and read the instructions. The good news – there were only 3 steps. How hard can that be?
Next, I actually read the steps. Step 1 asked me to add 50-60 ml of water to the mix and knead into a dough. I did that. I read on, and found that ideally, I should have added milk. Too late. These instructions were clearly written by a devious mind. Why not say this right at the beginning: add 50-60 ml of either water or milk?
Step 2 wanted me to make the dough into exactly 20 round jamuns. I wish they had been more specific. How was I going to get 20 jamuns? What should be the diameter of each jamun? 1 inch? 1.5 inches? 2 inches?
The bigger mystery was – why 20? The pack advertisied that the mix made “25 gulab jamuns of approx. 25g. each (after soaking in syrup)”. So shouldn’t they ask me to make 25 jamuns and not 20?
Also, what exactly was a “25g. jamun(after soaking in syrup)”? Was I supposed to weigh each completed jamun in a tiny beam balance (the sort I had last seen in physics/chemistry labs) to make sure it would be exactly 25g., or should it be 20g with a 5g. allowance for sugar syrup?
I gave up on the instructions and started making jamuns based on what I thought I wanted my gulab jamuns to look like. I ended up making exactly 12 balls. In hindsight, I could have probably made smaller jamuns; I would have been happy with golf ball sized jamuns, but these fluffed to become lemon-sized, or maybe just smaller than a small orange! On the other hand, the jamuns were a lovely sight.
The instructions also say you have to make round and smooth jamuns without cracks in the dough. My jamuns were smooth enough, but they weren’t round. Try as I might, I was getting a spheroid with a distinctive equatorial ridge and squashed poles. In the picture above, you can clearly see the ridge in the jamun on the right. Sounds familiar? Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, I have solved the mystery of Saturn’s moon Iapetus and its equatorial ridge.? I hereby postulate that Iapetus is just a super-sized gulab jamun in space.
I warmed some oil and started deep-frying these jamuns. More mysteries of Iapetus started to get solved – in this case, the two-tone surface of Iapetus. Iapetus has a bright hemisphere and a dark hemisphere. These jamuns were no different. For some reason, they resolutely fried with one particular side always on the surface. So while they were beginning to turn a lovely, velvety brown on the underside, the top remained golden. Flipping them over made no difference. They just flipped right back and floated lazily, golden crowns mocking me while the underside fried furiously.
The only option I had left was waterboarding, or rather, oilboarding – dunking the jamuns down in the oil, golden side down and holding them there until they turned brown. I probably violated every tenet of the Geneva convention (Delhi convention?) that applies to the treatment of gulab jamuns. If there are any gulab jamuns reading this blog, I hope you don’t hold this against me. I was just trying to get you to tan evenly 😉
Step 3 was to soak the jamuns in sugar syrup for 30 minutes. Dissolve 300g of sugar in 320 ml water, the pack directed. Now I was in a quandary. How many cups is 300g of sugar? Here was a pack that was clearly targeted at the US market, with its “Nutrional Information” and whatnot, and yet the manufacturers were trying to insidiously foist the metric system on us poor US NRIs 😦 The deviousness of it all!
I searched online and found that 190g equals 1 cup of granulated sugar. So I had to add about 1.6 cups of sugar.
As the sugar syrup boiled, I drained my now-evenly-tanned jamuns on paper and then dunked them in the sugar syrup.
Then I used a technique my mother told me about today, which really saved the day. Actually, it was probably partly responsible for the super-sized jamuns too, not that I am complaining 🙂
When the jamuns are boiling in the sugar syrup, spoon in a little ice-cold water on the tops of each jamun, she said. They will absorb more of the sugar syrup and fluff up more, she said. You should do this every 5 minutes and keep the pan covered at other times. (Edit- you can also add ice-cold sugar syrup instead of water if you are worried about diluting the sugar syrup).
This made sense. I suspect the temperature differential at the top of the jamun causes more hot sugar syrup to rush into the jamun from the boiling solution below. Repeating this process a few times at intervals results in gulab jamuns loaded with sugar syrup.
My gulab jamuns pretty soon fluffed up so much they filled up the entire bottom of the pan, squishing each other and revealing only tiny gaps where I could see the sugar solution. They were also absorbing sugar syrup in such prodigious quantities that soon there was no solution left even in those tiny gaps. I had to make another batch of sugar syrup to drizzle over the first one. (Note to myself – next time, completely ignore pack directions on quantity of syrup needed).
In the end, despite following every instruction to the tee (what, didn’t I?) I ended up with gulab jamuns that can be more accurately described as jumbo jamuns 🙂
I am not complaining – they are incredibly delicious, but I suspect they will vanish in a couple of days, taking all my weight loss goals with them.