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Recipe courtesy of Nidhi Jalan for Food Network Kitchen


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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 1 day 12 hr 45 min (includes fermenting time)
  • Active: 45 min
  • Yield: about 20 jalebis, depending on the size
Jalebis are much-loved sweets in India: You can get a bowl of freshly fried jalebis on the street any day, but they’re also specially prepared for occasions such as weddings, Holi, Diwali and Eid. The best ones are made by halwais (confectionery chefs), and I was given tips on making the perfect jalebi from a halwai who caters for our family events. Though they originated in Persia as a sweet called zulbia, they were brought to India by Persian traders and have now been completely appropriated by us! The perfect jalebi is made with a fermented batter and is crispy outside, a little chewy inside and ever so slightly sour from the fermentation. It’s then dipped in a saffron and cardamom flavored syrup and eaten while still hot. When the fermented batter is fried, chemistry happens and a hollow center forms in the jalebi that gets filled with the saffron flavored syrup. It’s quite a little miracle!



Special equipment:
a squeeze bottle or piping bag with a 4- to 5-millimeter opening; a deep-frying thermometer
  1. Combine the all-purpose flour and rice flour in a medium mixing bowl and mix well. Add 3/4 cup lukewarm water and mix well until you have a smooth and thick batter. If the batter is too dry and not smooth, add water 1 tablespoon at a time until you have a smooth batter. The batter should be slightly thicker than pancake batter. Cover and let it ferment at room temperature until bubbly, 24 to 36 hours.
  2. Once the batter has fermented, add the food coloring gel or turmeric powder. The food coloring gives the jalebi a nice orange color and the turmeric results in a more yellow jalebi.  
  3. The fermented batter should be the consistency of pancake batter. If it’s too thick, add water 1 tablespoon at a time until you have the right consistency. If too thin, you can add a little flour. To make good jalebis, the consistency of the batter is very important. If it is too thin, you won’t get a nice round shape and it will be more like tape. And if it is too thick, the jalebis will be fat and soft. Transfer the batter to a squeeze bottle or piping bag with a 4- to 5-millimeter opening.  
  4. Combine the sugar, cardamom, saffron and 3/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the syrup is thickened slightly and sticky, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the lemon juice. Keep warm. 
  5. Add about 1 inch of oil, ghee or a combination to a wide Dutch oven or deep saute pan. Attach a deep-frying thermometer and heat over medium-high heat to 340 degrees F. It is important that the oil be medium hot. If it’s too hot, the jalebis will brown, and if it's not hot enough, they will turn out flat.  
  6. Squeeze out the batter into the hot oil in concentric circles or spirals from the inside out, 3 to 4 inches wide, ending with one quick stroke back toward the middle of each jalebi so it doesn't unfurl (see Cook's Note). Keep piping jalebis until the pan is about half full. Cook the jalebis, flipping them over, until crispy, about 45 seconds on each side. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to remove to a paper towel lined plate or tray. Repeat with the remaining batter. 
  7. Dunk the jalebis into the warm syrup. Depending how sweet you like your jalebis, you can either let them soak in the syrup for about 10 seconds or just do a quick dip. The jalebis are best eaten immediately. If not eating the jalebis right away, don’t dip them in the syrup until ready to eat. Instead, heat up the syrup and dip the jalebis just before eating.  

Cook’s Note

If you want a short cut and don't want to ferment the batter, you can buy a packet of Gits Jalebi mix. It even comes with a squeeze bottle. While that jalebi lacks some of the nuance of the fermented batter version, it still tastes quite good. Traditionally jalebis are fried in ghee. I fried a batch in ghee and found that I like the ones fried in the oil-ghee combination better. They are also really good just fried in oil. Be careful if you are using a squeeze bottle with a screw-on top. If the batter is too thick, you can have a hard time squeezing out the batter and the top can fall off. You might want to practice a little on a plate to ensure this does not happen. Making perfect spirals needs a bit of practice. I love getting creative and making Jackson Pollock-inspired squiggles, and it still tastes amazing.

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