I love indian food. That has to be one of the hardest things about being allergic to nightshades: I can't eat much at an indian restaurant when I go out anymore. Indian food used to be one of my standards suggestions when omni friends asked where I could eat if we went out - most of it is so vegan friendly.
Except the desserts. Almost all indian desserts not only contain dairy, but center around it. (The only one I can think of that doesn't is the occasional jalebi recipe, but even then, sometimes they have yogurt.) I've tried my hand at a few indian desserts: gajar halwa, or carrot fudge, date rolls, kheer... also I am a master at laddu, but an ex once made fun of them and said they were just balls of cookie dough so I don't like to share them with people anymore). But there was always that one dessert that haunted me.
Gulab Jamun. Little deep-fried balls of... dairy (some people call them cheese, but I think technically cheese has to have cultures, so it's just a dairy ball) soaked in sugar syrup. With rose and saffron.
I've weeded though dozens of recipes for gulab jamun. All are different. Some are staggeringly unveganizable. And almost all of them make gulab jamun sound like such a complicated dish that even if you could veganize them, it's not worth the time.
but: 1.) I love a challenge 2.) I loved gulab jamun and 3.) a very good friend of mine had a birthday last week and he's been pining over gulab jamun for the 10 years he's been vegan. AND SO:
This recipe takes longer to read than it does to make. It looks/sounds complicated, as it has quite a few steps, but it isn't actually very difficult. And it's totally worth how amazed everyone is that you've made:
Vegan Gulab Jamun
serves 3-4, maybe more if you don't keep taste-testing as you go...
NOTE (8/6/2010): Since I first posted this recipe, I have had questions as to what kind of soymilk powder I used. Embarrassingly, I don't remember. HOWEVER, I have repeated the recipe with Fearn's Soya Powder, and it worked BEAUTIFULLY. If you can't get that, I would recommend trying soy flour (you may need to up the soymilk amount) before trying soymilk powder--there is such a wide variety of consistencies in soymilk powder that it might mess up the recipe too much.
For the balls:
1 1/4 cup soymilk powder
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp "butter" (melted) or peanut oil
3/4 C soy milk (you may need more later)
Vegetable oil for deep frying
For the syrup:
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups water
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 Tbsp rose water*
pinch (5-6 strands) saffron*
(for a cane-sugar-free but not cost-effective version, use 2 C maple syrup or 1 1/2 C agave nectar mixed with 1/2 C water)
* - these are optional, use one or both or neither, but they give the recipe a nice authentic taste and the saffron gives it a nice color.
Combine the soymilk powder, flour, baking powder, cardamom and salt in a large bowl. Add the oil and soymilk and stir well. The texture should be a bit less firm than play-doh but not as wet/limp as clay (wow, sorry, that is totally unappetizing). If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a bit more soymilk powder; it too dry, more soymilk, a Tbsp at a time.
Let the dough sit while you make the syrup. In a small pan, combine all of the syrup ingredients. Bring ingredients to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer, stirring often, until the syrup is reduced to nearly half of what it was.
Mine was a pretty orangey color thanks to the saffron. Remove from heat.
Now, back to the dough. Form the dough into slightly-smaller-than-walnut-sized balls. (They should be small enough that they will either be submerged or nearly submerged when you fry them.) They will be very sticky: I used a small pat of Earth Balance to rub my hands to keep the dough from sticking to me.
In a saucepan, pour 1 1/2 inch to 2 inches of vegetable oil. How big a sauce pan to use depends on how much oil you want to use - the bigger the pan, the bigger the batches you can do, but then, the more oil you'll use. I used about 2 cups canola oil in a small pan - this means I had to fry the balls in several batches, so it's a question of which you'd rather save: time or oil.
This is the trickiest part of the whole process (you can handle it!):
Turn the heat up to high. After 3-5 minutes, the oil will be hot - test by dropping in a tiny piece of the dough (finger-nail sized?): if lots of little bubbles form around it, turn it down to medium. (If lots of little bubbles don't form around it, wait another minute or two and try again with another small piece of dough.) TURN DOWN THE HEAT TO MEDIUM.
Hold the pan by its handle and tilt it a little sideways. Put in the balls of dough, one at a time, slipping them in along the side. This is so they don't stick to the bottom when you drop them in. I used a small pan, so I only did 4-5 in a batch, but if your pan is bigger, you can do bigger batches. Once they are all in, level the pan and shake it gently to stir the balls around. Let them fry for 3 minutes, jiggling the pan around occasionally to ensure even browning. After 3 minutes they should be a nice golden brown; if not, give them a little more time.
Here are mine, bubbling away in the oil. The uncooked ones are in the background.
Remove from oil with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl lined with a napkin or towel to soak up some of the oil. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough.
Mine were a little darker than golden brown, but still pretty, right? right. Try to take yours out a little earlier than this.
Combine the balls and the syrup. Let rest anywhere between 20 minutes to a day so the balls can soak up loads of the syrup. Serve in the syrup, at room temperature or warmed slightly.
If the balls aren't submerged when in the syrup, make sure you stir/shake the balls occasionally so they soak up the syrup evenly on all sides.
Yeah, so that was epic. Mostly I've been making desserts from other people's recipes lately for dessert.
From Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World:
Rum raisin cupcakes for my book club, with just the rum glaze because I'm not big on frosting.
lychee cupcakes with coconut glaze. I have no words for how amazing these babies are.
mmm... preglazed... you can see the chunks of lychee. Uh oh. I'm getting hungry as I type this.
An M cake! My roommate mish's birthday was this month, and for the past two years I've made her M-shaped cakes in honor of the occasion. It's an orange-chocolate cake: I used the basic chocolate cupcake recipe, added orange extract and put a layer of marmalade under the chocolate ganache.
I was admiring everyone's Jelly Donut Cupcakes from Veganomicon, so I tried my hand at them this evening. Unfortunately I only have whole wheat flour and raspberry preserves on hand, so both were a bit denser than the recipe called for. The taste is AWESOME, but the jelly didn't sink to the center like it's supposed to...
I didn't cover them with powdered sugar, because I told myself that if there's no sugar on top, they're healthy. Really! I used whole wheat flour and agave instead of sugar, they are basically jelly donut MUFFINS, which makes it okay to have two in one sitting, right? right.
And last, but definitely not least: Pecan Fudge Pie from sarah kramer's La Dolce Vegan.
Incredibly decadent and really simple.
Ugh it was such a bad idea to write up this post late at night... total snack attack... and those jelly donut "muffins" are sitting on my kitchen table...
I mean, if there's no sugar on top - they're healthy enough for a late-night snack -