Pairing a story with a recipe is always fun! Getting some kids to taste food that has different textures or flavors than they are used to can be a challenge. We don’t want to exoticize food or push kids to think that food from other cultures is unappealing. If your kids are picky, it’s important to gently introduce them to new cuisines, and possibly choose dishes that resemble foods they are used to. (or you might have kids like my boys who will literally try anything and everything!) These gulab jamuns are a fantastic choice. Who wouldn’t like to try a dessert of fried dough in sugar? I think after reading the picture book, and making the gulab jamuns recipe themselves, even the most discerning kids will have fun tasting the sweets!
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In the book “10 Gulab Jamuns” we read about two brothers in India who are preparing for a party with their mamma. She makes 10 gulab jamuns, and goes on getting ready. One by one the boys taste them, and mamma keeps catching them, subtracting from the total to see how many are left. When they all disappeared, they do help their mamma and daddy make some more for the party.
I love that the author, Sandhya Acharya has included phrases in her native tongue (Kannada) sprinkled throughout the book. Other cultural aspects are illustrated throughout the scenes such as Indian dress, home decor, and food. Whenever I read a multicultural book like this, I love to show kids where the setting is, where the kids in the book live. You can talk about rural vs urban, you can talk about what type of weather they might have based on their geographic location, you can talk about what language they might speak, and what the landscape might look like. It adds value to the story, and gets kids to use critical thinking skills.
Gulab Jamun Recipe Adapted from Hetal Vasavada
Gulab jamuns are round like donut holes, soaked in a sugary syrup. The author has graciously shared a recipe for gulab jamuns with us, which I slightly modified to work for us. I highly encourage you to read the counting story again as you try these delicious Indian treats.
Sugar Syrup (we made a double recipe!)
• 1 cup water
• 1 1/4 cup sugar
• one 3-4 inch cinnamon stick
• 4-5 cardamom pods
• 10-15 saffron threads (if you can’t find them, you can omit)
• 1 tsp rose water (also, optional)
• 1/2 tsp lime juice
Dough (we doubled everything!)
• 1 cup dry milk powder
• 1/2 c self-rising flour
• 1/2 tsp baking soda
• pinch of cardamom powder
• pinch of salt
• start with 1/4 c warm milk
• 1 tsp ghee or room temp butter
First, heat oil to 300 F.
Making the sugar syrup:
Add water, sugar, cinnamon stick, cardamom seeds, and saffron into a small saucepan. Heat on low heat until all the sugar has melted. Boil for 5 minutes. Add rose water and lime juice. Keep on low heat, slightly simmering.
Making the Gulab Jamuns Dough
1. This is the fun part! In a small bowl, add milk powder, self-rising flour, baking soda, cardamom powder, and salt and mix well. Mix in the butter with your hands and make sure it is distributed. Add warm milk a little at a time and stir until well incorporated (depending on how dry/humid your house is, you might need a little more milk). It will be a wet sticky batter. The batter should be sticky but should be easy to shape into a ball.
2. Grease your hands with ghee and take a teaspoon-amount of dough and roll into a ball, making sure there are no cracks! Continue until all the dough is gone. This is definitely the kids’ job! They loved it!!!!
3. Drop dough into hot oil, it will look like the oil isn’t hot enough, but it is! (this is definitely the parent’s job) Just give it some time. The dough will slowly rise up. Fry until golden brown (~6 minutes). If the first ball gets too brown, too fast, lower the heat a little so that it can cook all the way through. Place the ball into a container. Use a fork to remove the cinnamon and cardamom pods. Pour all the hot syrup over them. Set aside to soak for 1-2 hours, preferably overnight. Top with chopped pistachios and almonds!
Kids absolutely love these gulab jamuns- who wouldn’t!? Fried dough with sweet syrup? Such a rich, special dessert.