First stir the sugar, water, cardamom powder and saffron in a pan and keep it on fire. I have kept the cardamoms peels and these can be discarded when serving.
Gently bring to a boil and continue to stir occasionally.
Add some pistachios in the syrup. An optional step but tastes good. Make a thick syrup and switch off the fire much before the sugar solution reaches a one thread consistency.
You can cook the sugar syrup till it reaches a half string consistency. On cooling, if the sugar syrup crystallizes, then just add 2 to 3 tablespoons water and warm the syrup again. It will again return to a liquid state.
Mix the 1 cup milk powder, ¼ cup all-purpose flour or maida, a pinch of baking soda, a pinch of salt (optional) in a mixing bowl. Add 1 teaspoon oil OR ½ teaspoon ghee and 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh curd or yogurt.
Just mix everything lightly. Add some more curd if the mixture looks dry. Don’t over mix or knead.
You don’t want gluten to form, so just mixing well is enough. The all-purpose flour is just added to bind the mixture. If gluten forms then the dough balls become dense and won’t absorb any of the sugar syrup and the jamun will not be soft.
The mixture will be sticky but smooth. Apply some oil on your palms and make small balls from the dough. These dough balls almost double when frying and also increase when soaked in the sugar syrup. So don’t make large sized balls.
There should be no cracks on the dough balls. They should be smooth. If there are cracks, then just add some 1 or 2 teaspoons of curd or milk to the mixture and continue making the balls. Once done, then cover the balls with a kitchen towel.
Heat oil for deep frying in a kadai or a pan. When the oil becomes medium hot, lower the flame.
Add a small ball in the oil. The ball should slowly rise to the top from the bottom. If it does not rise then, the oil is not hot enough. If it rises quickly and browns also quickly, then the oil is too hot to fry.
If the small ball does not crack or break while frying, you are alright to proceed further. If it cracks, then just add some 1 or 2 teaspoons flour to the dough and form the balls again. In an ideal case, the dough ball should not crack and should rise slowly to the top and should not get browned quickly.
When you know the oil is hot enough and on a low flame or medium-low flame, then add 3 to 4 balls or more depending on the capacity of your kadai or pan.
The balls have to be stirred with a slotted spoon frequently to get even browning. If there are handles on the pan, you can just lightly shake the pan so that the balls are evenly fried without using the spoon. But take care as hot oil is there in the pan. The balls should also not become browned too soon. They have to be cooked from the insides too.
Keep on turning the balls until they become golden. If the oil becomes cold, then don’t fry the balls. Increase the temperature and then fry. Otherwise, the balls would have a hard crisp thick cover when fried in a less hot oil and they won’t absorb the sugar syrup. Plus they would absorb a lot of oil too.
Soaking jamun in sugar syrup
When the balls are evenly golden and browned, remove from the slotted spoon and add them directly into the sugar syrup.
Keep the fried golden balls in the sugar syrup for at least 1 to 2 hours before serving. This is done so that the jamun soaks up the sugar syrup which will make them soft and sweet. That’s why in the mithai shops, the gulab jamun are always soaked in sugar syrup.
If you feel the jamun is not soaking in the sugar syrup, then warm the whole gulab jamun along with the sugar syrup on stove-top for a couple of minutes. Cover and set aside. Just warm them, don’t heat.
Gulab jamun can be served warm or cold. If they are at room temperature, then warm in the microwave and serve them topped with sugar syrup and garnished with pistachios or almond slices.