the monster dessert post!

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
pinch cardamom
pnch salt
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 -



VeggieGirl said... Best Blogger Tips

Excellent job veganizing some Indian desserts! Yum! Your entire post though, I must say, is making me salivate, haha - so many tantalizing sweets to admire!

Rural Vegan said... Best Blogger Tips

I don't know which one I would pick if I had to choose! Those jelly donut cupcakes are totally healthy. I mean, jelly is made with fruit, afterall. Everyone knows fruit is good for you. ;)

Ruby Red Vegan said... Best Blogger Tips

I've never had an Indian dessert! Pooey on them, that they're always throwing dairy in. The pictures of Gulab Jamun remind me of hush puppies - you know, those fried who-knows-whats at Long John Silver's?

You've been busy with the desserts. I love all the cupcake photos! And how you tell yourself they're healthy if there's no sugar on top...I quite like that mindset.

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

Oh my. I want everything on this post in my belly right now! Especially the jelly donut "muffins".

Emilie said... Best Blogger Tips

sweet!! gulab jamun veganized. thanks so much for breaking the ground on that, i can't wait to try making them for my friend's big birthday bash.

さくら said... Best Blogger Tips

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Liz² said... Best Blogger Tips

holy crap, you're a goddess for veganizing gulab jamun! I've only ever had them once, and it was kinda transcendant... I am so so so pulling out a batch of these for some special dinner. Also, all the deliciousness.... so much deliciousness.... (eat the healthy jelly muffin, before I get to it!)

Ruby Red Vegan said... Best Blogger Tips

you are so right! i wish i could have peanut sauce at every meal. what is the fantabulous recipe that you usually use?!

jd said... Best Blogger Tips

This post is AMAZING!

I, too, love Indian food :) It's one of my most favorite cuisines...

And just so you know, the section of your post on Gulab Jamun is totally gonna make my bf happy. He loves that stuff, but I had no idea how to make it until now.

Thanks so much(from both of us)!

Judy said... Best Blogger Tips

Gulab juman is the best food in the whole entire world.

bazu said... Best Blogger Tips

Oh my god, vegan, homemade gulab jamun???? You're my hero! I love those, and haven't had them since going vegan either!

Virgo Girl said... Best Blogger Tips

Wow, you will have to make Indian desserts for my fantasy "International House of Vegan Desserts" restaurant! Gulab jamon w/ Chai Tea or Coconut based Mango Lassi...

VeganWoman said... Best Blogger Tips

Thank you so much for the Gulab Jamun! I was thinking about it today and googled "vegan Gulab Jamun" and found your blog! Going to try these!

Raaga said... Best Blogger Tips

I love your revere ware pans... remind me of my mom's kitchen!

best electric car said... Best Blogger Tips

I thought it was an excellent blog, that information has been very helpful in my life, I am a desserts lover, so I really enjoyed this reading, this weekend I want to do one! Thanks for this great moment!

Jahnvee said... Best Blogger Tips

OMG. I have been looking for a vegan gulab jamun recipe and you made it happen!! I am about 85% vegan and cook only vegan foods. I am also a huge fan of VCTOTW and use it all the time for creative baking! I look forward to trying out your recipe. Thanks! Check out my blog too!

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi thanks for the recipe! I order the soya powder you recommended just to make this. My boyfriend is from India and has been vegan for almost two years and gulab jamun was his favorite before going vegan. I wanted to make the vegan version as a surprise for him. Anyways, the balls came out very soy beany tasting and not sweet at all. I didn't add all the soymilk called for because the dough came together nicely, however I think the addition of some vanilla extract would be great. Also, I need to make my syrup sweeter. What do you think? I've never had non-vegan gulab jamun so I have nothing to compare it to. Needless to say, it went in the trash before it went in my boyfriend's mouth...

Sarah P said... Best Blogger Tips

Anonymous, a little vanilla extract would be good. I'm not sure what you used though, if you didn't need any soymilk--did you get the Fearn Soya Powder? That's the only thing I can guarantee to work until I retest the recipe. Anyway, this recipe NEEDS that 3/4 cup of liquid to hold together and turn into dough, so I'm not sure what you used if you didn't need any of it. I don't remember them tasting particularly "beany," but part of that may be which soymilk you use--I prefer ones without a strong soy taste.

Anyway, the balls themselves aren't supposed to be sweet and aren't very flavorful; that's why they need to soak in the syrup for AT LEAST 20 minutes, and up to 24 hours (though if both the syrup and the balls are warm, it shouldn't take more than a couple hours for them to be completely saturated). As for the taste, the balls are supposed to soak up the flavors of your syrup, which is why you need the cardamom (and why I really recommend the saffron and rose water).

If you want the syrup sweeter, You can up the sugar to 2 or even 3 cups.

Good luck! I might just have to make these again soon to troubleshoot varieties of soy powder/flour.

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

Thanks for the reply! Yes I used Fearn's Soya Powder and I did add soymilk just not all (I think maybe 1/2 cup) because it seems to already be the consistency you mentioned. I don't like things too sweet so I used less sugar than what was called for but did add the cardamom/saffron/rosewater for flavor. I think next time I will add a bit of vanilla to the dough, use almond milk instead of soy milk, and up the sugar to make the syrup. In addition, I think I will make the balls smaller. This is just me thinking out loud. The recipe is a great one! But one more thing I'd like to mention for anyone who attempts to make this in the future is that Fearn's soya powder is not exactly soymilk powder. The label reads that it's just ground up soybeans and I didn't realize this til I ordered it. I know you warned that not all soymilk powders are alike but I was dumb and went ahead and blew through(wasted) a whole canister of "better than soymilk" soymilk powder. Definitely not the same!!!

Sarah P said... Best Blogger Tips

Ohhhhh okay, I misunderstood and thought you didn't use any soymilk.

Those changes sound good. Let me know how your next attempt goes!

Tovie said... Best Blogger Tips

Oh, thank you for this recipe! I'm not vegan but I can no longer have dairy and gulab jamun are my most favorite Indian dessert.

I have made them before with dry milk powder and was just looking at the recipe and wondering if it would work with a milk substitute powder. But having learned the hard way that you can't make a pudding mix with soymilk :D I was afraid to try. So nice to know it works. I'll have to try it.

Sarah P said... Best Blogger Tips

Tovie--make sure you read the comments above; different people have had different experiences with this recipe. I KNOW the Fearn Soya Powder gives good results, but I can't vouch for other brands. Please let me know how yours goes, and what you've used--and good luck!

Anonymous said... Best Blogger Tips

I can't wait to try and make these! I've been waiting for somebody to veganize galub jamun since I went vegan....so good.

Avocadess said... Best Blogger Tips

I LOVE your website and recipes. I too am allergic to the nightshades and tomatoes are the hardest food I ever had to give up. Even when I gave up everything else I never would even consider giving up tomatoes until now (at age 62)!!!

You are wonderfully creative and I enjoy your recipes, so please do not take the following as harsh criticism. I tell you only because I care.

You may want to rethink using soy in so many recipes. Not only is most if not all soy GMO, it also is very highly estrogenic, causing problems not only for adults but causing many children to develop breasts in puberty (including boys). Enough said about that. You can do your own research.

I find that just about anything that calls for soymilk I can use (homemade) almond milk or just about any nut milk; same thing with soy powder -- one can use almond powder or even a powder made from the leftover fiber in the nutmilk bag after squeezing out the nut milk (which not only saves money but keeps one from eating too many nuts). Nuts are healthy but should not be overeaten.