Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Completing the Classic Sweetmeat Trio

গোলাপ জাম 

Golap Jaam

Golap jaam in rose and cardamom syrup,
served with crushed pistachio

This post about golap jaam (and by extension kalo jaam) feels like a big milestone. Being able to cook these sweets, along with roshogolla, completes an important trio of Bengali sweetmeats that I grew up with. Roshogolla, golap jaam and kalo jaam were the safe, go-to desserts in our family, bought en masse for special occasions, celebrations and the traditionally Asian practice of delivering sweets with good news. They are rarely cooked at home in Bangladesh. All three are milk-based, but while roshogolla is traditionally made from boiled cheese curd, golap and kalo jaam are made from deep-fried milk solids. The difference between golap and kalo jaam is the sugar added to kalo jaam, which creates a dark, caramelised outer layer during the frying process. Some sweet shops even add purple food colouring to their kalo jaam, making it look more like the fruit it is named after. This recipe is obviously not all that traditional, constrained by ingredient availability and practicality outside Bangladesh. It grew from a mishmash of recipes collected by word of mouth, with ingredient amounts cross-referenced from various sources online. As such, I don’t really want to claim it as mine. I do, however, want to highlight a few things I learned from cooking these sweets multiple times. First, to address the various horror stories of disintegrated dumplings or sweets with uncooked centres: I think these are more the result of our habits – not writing down recipes and estimating ingredients! If you’re a beginner, then yes, these sweets will be a challenge. But if you’re a fairly regular cook, used to forming dough and deep frying, there’s not much to worry about here. The “dough” from the recipe below doesn’t disintegrate easily, even with slight cracks, as long as you add enough milk to hold it together. 

Kalo jaam in syrup
Some of these were overcooked, some were burnt
Hard to tell them apart in my opinion

Also, make sure you have enough oil for the dough balls to properly float in; otherwise they will burn at the bottom where they touch your pan. While making golap jaam, you can quite comfortably cook the sweets on medium-low heat for some time without any burning. And if do you start to burn them, it’ll be obvious from the blackening on the dough – immediately take the pan off the heat and scoop out the sweets.  And if you undercook them, leaving a hard, uncooked lump in the middle, boiling and soaking the sweets in syrup will usually soften your centre. It only gets difficult, in my opinion, with the kalo jaam: it’s hard to tell while frying whether the dark (almost black) sweets are the result of sugar caramelising or actual burning. I’ve found no way around this, apart from making sure I have plenty of light directed towards my stovetop! My second note is on ingredients (the below amounts make approximately 20 sweets). I haven’t specified the fat content of the milk in the recipe, largely because I have obtained similar results whether I opted for whole or semi-skimmed. I like to think this is because the fat content is mostly provided by the double cream. Despite the very non-traditional approach here, the end result feels surprisingly authentic (a dangerous word!). Of course, the sweets will be lacking the earthy flavours of ghee made on a kindling stove, and the rich flavours of raw, unrefined sugar – fortunately the rose and cardamom will go a long way in masking those “deficiencies”. And with that, I feel like my Bangladeshi dessert repertoire has grown a strong backbone. Time to move onto shandesh! 

Ingredients (for the syrup):
  • 600.00 ml water
  • 100.00 g sugar (brown/muscovado if you want a honey-coloured syrup)
  • 7-10 cardamoms
  • Rosewater, to taste

Ingredients (for the golap jaam):
  • 75.00 g powdered milk
  • 20.00 g semolina flour
  • 25.00 g flour
  • 30.00 g sugar (if making kalo jaam)
  • 0.25 teaspoon baking powder
  • 0.25 teaspoon salt
  • 2.00 tablespoons ghee (or melted butter)
  • 2.00 tablespoons double cream
  • 4.00 tablespoons liquid milk
  • 500.00-700.00 ml vegetable oil (see method for details)


Syrup boiling

  • Put the ingredients for the syrup in a pan on high heat, and bring to boil
  • Turn the heat down low and simmer for 15 minutes. Cover and set aside
  • Mix all the dry ingredients for the jaam in a large bowl. If making kalo jaam, add the 30.00 g of sugar here
  • Follow up by adding the liquids (ghee, cream and milk) to form a dough that is just soft enough to form balls 
  • If necessary, add a little more liquid milk than the specified 4 tablespoons - the additional sugar for the kalo jaam usually requires a little extra milk. The aim is to form a dough smooth enough to shape into balls
Dough balls, ready for drying

  • Form about 20 small balls - these are your uncooked golap or kalo jaams. Make sure, as far as possible, that there are no cracks in the dough

I found myself investing in cooking oil
for this recipe specifically!

  • Pour the vegetable oil into a pan, making sure the layer of oil is deep enough for the uncooked golap or kalo jaams to float freely. Account for the balls to grow by 25%
  • Turn on the heat to medium-low, and allow the oil to heat up
  • Add the raw golap or kalo jaam balls and deep fry till brown (for the golap jaam) or black (for the kalo jaam), maintaining a low heat. This allows the jaams to be cooked longer without burning - and for the inside to cook through. This should take 8-10 minutes.
  • Be especially careful if making kalo jaam, as their dark colour makes it hard to notice any burning. Golap jaams will go golden-brown, so any burning/blackening is more obvious

Golap jaam soaking in syrup
Some of these were undercooked,
but that was easily rectified through

  • Once the golap/kalo jaams are fried, scoop them out and add to the syrup. Bring the syrup and golap jaam to boil, and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Leave to soak as desired
  • Serve warm as a dessert or tea-time snack

Additional Information:
As with the roshogolla, golap or kalo jaam will survive in the refrigerator for around a week. They'll go hard in the cold, so scoop them into a bowl with some of the syrup and zap them in the microwave. This will warm them up as well as soften them. Of course, some people actually prefer the sweets cold. Experiment with the syrup flavours: most sweetshops in Dhaka don't actually bother with any flavouring at all - the rose and cardamom is just a personal preference. I know saffron is used commonly enough in other countries - think outside the box, I've had roshomalai served to me in the UK with strawberries

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