I had a lot of trouble writing that title, because my college student mind could not get around the fact that I wanted to say all my favorite desserts in the past week have been sweet balls. Sorry to everyone past the age of (me) that is reading this.
Been spending the past few days in Parle, a majority – Marathi area in Mumbai [the artist formerly known as Bombay]. (For the uninitiated, Marathi is the type of Indian I am + the language I fail to speak with my family)
Parle is also home to the biscuit factory known by brown kids around the world for producing that ubiquitous lightly-sweetened ‘glucose biscuit’: Parle G.
According to Wikipedia, it is the largest selling brand of biscuits (read: crackers) in the world. That makes sense, because Indian people can’t go a day without chai (stereotype based in truth) and chai cannot be had without Parle G, since production began in 1939.
I’m not going to say I digress because I think that’s the whole point of this whole shindig: to digress.
But I digress.
So I’ve been staying with my aunt and uncle in Parle, and utilizing my beloved-niece-returned-to-India status by requesting all of the sweet things I can of my culinarily-gifted aunt. This lady also has a degree in library science, a 30 year career in managing portfolios, the same hands as my grandma, and a general reputation as badass in residence.
She was somewhat disappointed by the simplicity of the food I requested, but of course we set about making it anyways: besan laddus.
Besan is the Marathi/Hindi word for gram flour (aka chick pea flour) and laddu describes general balls of sweet things that are typical of Indian desserts. The deliciousness of this particular laddu comes from the grainy, thick texture of the flour, that makes the finished product almost stick in your mouth like peanut butter. This is actually not supposed to happen in the traditional sense, but I like it better that way.
Easiest recipe in the world: 3 main ingredients.
- 4 parts besan (gram flour)
- 1 part ghee (clarified butter)
- 2 – 3 parts powdered sugar
- Optional: Powdered cardamom + nutmeg to taste
- Optional: 2 tbsp. milk
- Optional: handful golden raisins or pistachios for decoration
Lady of the 21st century that my aunt is, we utilized the traditional cooking device knows as the *microwave* to produce these particular laddus.
To make, you just mix the ghee and besan in a microwave-safe dish, and heat for 1 minute at a time, mixing in between, about 3 times. You’ll know its done when the besan is a solid golden color, and the top layer of the mixture has bubbles in it when you pull it out of the microwave.
Also, the kitchen will smell deliciously buttery.
Once the besan is properly browned, evenly distribute the milk and mix in immediately. This prevents the laddus from becoming too thick and chalky, and also makes sweet sizzling noises when you add it.
Lastly, mix in the powdered sugar, starting with 2 parts and increasing to taste. Add about 1 tsp. powdered mix of cardamom and nutmeg and then make sure to eat at least 1/8 of the current conglomeration with a spoon whilst hot. Because yum.
Roll into balls. Stud with golden raisins or pistachios if you so desire. Consume at will. But don’t be like me and eat 6 for breakfast, because apparently that’s bad for digestion. Apparently.
In radiation/microwave free days, this recipe was slightly more work-intensive: to properly brown the besan, a person would have to stand over the pot on the stove and stir for about 15-20 minutes for optimal browning, and my tweenage aunt would shoulder this task, book in hand, while my grandma would drop in to check on its status.
This lineage of meticulous cooking may (but more likely may NOT) have extended to me, but is apparent in at least two generations, as my aunt’s hands look exactly like my late grandmothers’. The same lines, the same set of the fingers, same shape of fingernails, make it so the laddus taste like home a little bit more.