If there’s ever been a dessert that springs to mind when I hear someone say ‘melt-in-mouth’, then it’s besan laddoo. For me it’s rather evocative. The thought of it stirs emotions of holding the besan (gram flour) dough and moulding it, using the heat of your palms, until a neat round ball of ‘laddoo’ or ‘laddu’ is formed. It’s such a tactile emotion tinged with a desperation to achieve perfection. Nobody can resist a perfectly round laddoo. However, in my case, I like to shape them the way my mum does. You could argue they look like ‘pedha’ as they’re slightly flattened on one side. But I will always call them ‘ladoo’ or ‘besancha ladu’ in Marathi, my mother tongue.
Besan laddoo are eaten across India. It’s prepared by slowly roasting besan with ghee to form a smooth dough. When sugar is added, the dough gets sticky and pliable which when gently rolled between the palms of your hands, sticks together in a ball. The heat of the body is the magic that creates a perfectly round ball we call a ‘ladoo’.
This quick and easy recipe uses just three main ingredients – besan, ghee, and icing sugar. I have used what’s locally available and easy to find. If you can’t get icing sugar, you can grind caster or granulated sugar to make your own. The ratio of besan to ghee is 2:1.
A good besan laddoo (or ladoo) melts in the mouth and doesn’t stick to the palate. To achieve this it’s important to roast the flour thoroughly over a low flame. Secondly, while the flour is being roasted, the ghee is added a little at a time rather than all in one go. This helps to roast the flour evenly without burning it.
- Sift 200g (that’s 1½ cup) besan (gram flour). Ensure that there are no lumps in the sifted flour. Using the back of the spoon break the lumps in the sieve. This helps make the flour light and airy.
- In a kadhai or a heavy bottomed frying pan, heat 75g of the 100g (⅓ cup) ghee over a medium flame. Keep the remaining 25g aside to be added when the flour is partly roasted.
- Tip the sifted besan into the kadhai. At this point the flame should be turned down to medium-low. Keep stirring with a spatula as you roast the besan. The secret to a good laddoo is in the roasting technique. The more evenly you roast the flour the better it’ll taste. Overall, it takes anything between 15-20 minutes to fully roast the flour. When you first add the flour to the ghee in the kadhai, it will look lumpy. Continue roasting for 5-10 minutes.
- Then add the remaining ghee to the kadhai and carry on stirring with a spatula. Continue stirring and roasting over a low flame for another 5 minutes and you’ll see the mixture changing from a dough-like consistency to a fairly runny one. Give it another 5-10 minutes and this runny dough will start leaving the sides of the kadhai. By now your kitchen will be filled with the lovely nutty aroma of roasted besan.
- At this point add a splash of water by hand, the equivalent of 2-3 tablespoons. Immediately, the besan slurry will start frothing. Do not panic and carry on stirring for 7-10 minutes over a low to medium flame. The slurry will become smooth and start leaving the sides of the kadhai.
- Tip the slurry onto a wide flat plate and allow it to cool thoroughly. It may take up to 20 minutes for it to cool down completely.
- Sift anything between 150g to 200g icing sugar, depending on how sweet you like your laddoo, over the cooled mixture resting on the plate. Mix the sugar well and start binding it into a dough by gently kneading.The sugar and besan mixture will come together to make a soft smooth dough. At this point, you can add a teaspoon of cardamom powder or nuts like slivered almonds, cashews and/or raisins. I like my laddoo simple so I simply grate ½ teaspoon of nutmeg into the dough.
- Take a walnut-sized ball of dough. Make sure it’s soft and pliable by kneading between your palms. Roll between your palms until a perfectly round ball of dough called a laddoo is formed. At this point, if you want you can give it a more ‘pedha’ like shape by gently flattening it with fingers but it’s a personal preference. Place a raisin on to your laddoo and gently press it down. Repeat until all the dough is finished.
- Place all the laddoo on greaseproof paper and leave them to set in the fridge. Once set, transfer in an airtight jar. They will keep well in the airtight jar in the fridge for upto two months. At room temperature, they’ll last for 3-4 weeks.
Besan Laddoo / Besancha ladu / Besan ladoo / Sweet Gram Flour BallsCourse: Dessert, Snacks, BreakfastCuisine: Indian, MaharashtrianDifficulty: Medium
200g (1½ cups) besan (gram flour)
100g (⅓ cup) ghee (organic preferred)
2-3 tbsp cold water
150g-200g icing sugar
½ tsp grated nutmeg
- Essential equipment
Kadhai or heavy-bottomed frying pan
- Sift the besan onto a wide plate.
- In a kadhai or a heavy bottomed frying pan, heat 75g of the 100g (⅓ cup) ghee over a medium flame. Leave the remaining aside.
- Turn the flame down to low and tip the sifted besan into the kadhai. Keep stirring with a spatula as you roast the flour. Continue roasting for 10 minutes ensuring the flour doesn’t get burnt but starts becoming fragrant and golden. You’ll notice lumps but they will disappear as you stir.
- Then add the remaining ghee (25g) to the kadhai and continue stirring over a low flame for another 5 minutes. The mixture will become runny. Give another 5-10 minutes of continuous stirring and this runny dough will start leaving the sides of the kadhai, and exude an aromatic nutty fragrance.
- At this point add a splash of water by hand, the equivalent of 2-3 tablespoons and notice the besan slurry frothing. Stir for another 7-10 minutes until the slurry becomes smooth and starts leaving the sides of the kadhai again.
- Tip the slurry onto a wide flat plate and allow it to cool. It may take up to 20 minutes for it to cool down completely.
- Sift 150-200g icing sugar, depending on how sweet you like your laddoo, over this cooled-down mixture resting on the plate. Mix, then knead by hand on the plate to form a soft dough. Grate the nutmeg onto the dough.
- Take a walnut-sized ball of dough. Make it soft and pliable by kneading between your palms, then roll between your palms until a perfectly round laddoo is formed. Place a raisin onto the laddoo and gently press it down. Repeat this step until all of the dough is finished.
- Place all the laddoo on greaseproof paper and leave them in the fridge to set. Once set, transfer to an airtight jar. They’ll keep well for two months in the fridge and for up to 4 weeks at room temperature.
- Use freshly milled besan. Always check the expiry date when buying besan.
- While roasting the flour, make sure the flame is always medium to low. Over-roasting may turn the flour bitter and brown.
- Always sift in the icing sugar rather than plonking it onto the flour dough straight from the packet. You need to get rid of any lumps in the sugar.
- If you can’t find icing sugar, simply grind caster or granulated sugar in a coffee grinder to make your own.
- Do not add sugar while the dough is hot. Similarly, if you’re adding nuts and raisins, only add when the dough has cooled down. Sugar crystallizes when added to a hot dough.
- While moulding and shaping the laddoo, if the dough gets warm and becomes too soft , place it in the fridge for 15-20 minutes to set and then start shaping again.
- If the dough is too dry, add a couple of tablespoons of ghee and knead again before moulding.
- To get consistent-sized laddoo, you can use a tablespoon to measure out the amount of dough needed for each laddoo.
- Always store the laddoo in an airtight jar whether in the fridge or at room temperature.
- If the laddoo are stored in the fridge and you like to eat them warm, reheat in the oven at 100 C or 212 F for just long enough to warm them. Be careful not to make them too hot, they will melt!