Syrup Sponge Balls
If you've ever tried Indian sweets, you will know they are eyewateringly sweet, even for those with a very sweet tooth, like me. One of my favourites is a sticky delight called gulab jamun, little syrup sponge balls that typically come with far more syrup than cake. I’ve never understood who needs all that syrup, as it usually gets left behind, so I have created my own version, which involves less syrup, and therefore less waste. Mine aren’t as sweet as the traditional ones, but they’re still sticky, spongy and very yummy.
|For the dough:|
|110g||plain flour, plus extra for dusting|
|½ tsp||baking powder|
|½ tsp||bicarbonate of soda|
|4||cardamom pods, seeds only, crushed|
|250ml||whole milk, room temperature|
|25g||unsalted butter, melted|
|1||medium egg yolk|
|15g||pistachios, roughly chopped|
|1||small orange, zest only|
|For the syrup:|
|1||pinch of saffron|
Start by making the dough. Mix together the milk powder, plain flour, baking powder, bicarb and crushed cardamom seeds in a bowl. Mix together the milk, butter and egg yolk in another bowl.
Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and add the wet mixture. Using a palette knife, bring it all together. The dough will be very wet. Cover and leave to one side for 30–40 minutes, so the milk powder can absorb some of the liquid.
Have a baking tray ready to put your prepared dough on. Lightly oil your hands to help prevent sticking. Take a piece of dough about the size of a walnut (in its shell), about 25g, and pack it into a tight ball. Repeat with the rest of the dough, placing the balls on the baking tray as you go. If the dough is sticking to your hands, wash them and rub them with a little more oil. Once the balls are on the tray, squash them a little to flatten them.
Now make the syrup. Put the sugar, water and saffron in a small pan on a high heat. Once it has boiled and the sugar has dissolved, take off the heat.
Put a large non-stick frying pan on a high heat and pour in the oil. Once it’s hot, turn the heat down to medium.
Have a tray ready with kitchen paper, to mop up any extra oil. Gently drop the balls of dough into the oil. Fry for 2–3 minutes on one side, then turn them over and fry on the other side for another 2–3 minutes. They should be a lovely golden colour. Once fried, pop them on to the kitchen paper to drain.
Lay the balls out on a serving dish big enough that they can all be in a single layer. Spoon some of the reduced syrup on top of each ball of dough, then pour the rest of the syrup into the dish. Pop the dish into the fridge for 2 hours, for the syrup to soak in.
Before serving, sprinkle a little chopped pistachio and orange zest over each one. I like to eat these warmed in the microwave with a dollop of ice cream sometimes, but they are just as good served as they are.
Prep Time: 30 minutes, plus resting and chilling.
Cook Time: 25 minutes.