Diwali is almost here! It’s T-3 as I write and heading into T-2. Need I say more?
It’s time to get our act together and prepare for a party fit for the gods. And who would be pleased with a festive gathering lacking traditional dessert? Besan ladoo are a very traditional Diwali dessert and one with a personal connection too.
Diwali is incomplete without besan ke ladoo
So ladoo it is! Besan ladoos to be precise. Every college break that I was home would culminate with a day of ladoo prep. My mother knew I loved them, especially in winters, so each trip besan ladoos were the tuck that I carried back. I was extremely possessive, sharing only a small quota with my roommates. If any of you drop by and read this, you can come over and have some made by moi!
Prep time: 1 hour approximately.
Yields 20 medium-sized ladoos.
- 3 cups Besan (chickpea/ gram flour),
- 1 cup Sugar (Add 1/2 cup more if you like it really sweet),
- 1 cup Ghee (melted; gauge need and adjust quantity accordingly),
- 2-3 tsp Cardamom powder,
- Assorted seeds & nuts – almonds, cashews, magaz (optional),
- Optional: 10-12 Dates (chopped; for a low sugar version),
- Saffron – 1/2 tsp worth (optional)
Let’s make Besan Ladoo:
Measure all ingredients. Keep besan, sugar, ghee, nuts and dates in separate containers and ready for later. Try using fine sugar, like castor sugar/superfine sugar. I like to give the usual white granulated sugar a few pulses in a spice grinder or coffee grinder to make it into a fine powder.
Toast nuts & seeds. Then, if using nuts, dry roast them in a kadhai or pan. Once fragrant and toasted, remove from heat and keep for later.
Two ways to cook Besan:
Next, roast the besan. There are two ways to go about cooking besan for ladoos.
A. Dry Roasting Besan
One option, which I’ve used for many years is to dry roast the besan by itself. Put a heavy bottomed pan/wok on medium high heat. Then add besan to it and start stirring and turning. The most crucial part of ladoo making is this first step. Besan will start heating up quickly, especially the lowest layer closest to heat. It’s necessary to stir the flour and keep it moving to avoid burning it. Ladoos won’t smell or taste great if the besan used is burnt.
B. Cooking Besan in Ghee
Alternatively, you can also toast besan in ghee. Use about 3/4 cup ghee. Warm it up and then add all the besan. Keep stirring constantly to cook so that the flour doesn’t burn. there is a gradation in color, as you can see. In 2015 the ladoos were much darker than in 2021 but both were cooked and delicious.
The best way to know if besan is done is to keep a check on its color. It will also become fragrant as it cooks. If you see brown particles at the bottom- those are burnt.
Make besan ladoo:
After besan is done, take it off the heat and let it rest. Cool besan until just warm enough to handle with your hands.
Here too based on how you roasted besan, there will be a slight change. But the basic method remains the same.
- If you cooked the besan in ghee (like step B.), then simply do this:
Add cardamom powder to the cooked besan, followed by all the sugar. Stir it in and mix well.
If you plan to add nuts and seeds to the besan ladoo, then this is the moment to mix them in. I used some crushed cashews and melon seeds called magaz. This is also the right time to add saffron, if using.
Warm up the leftover ghee ~ 1/4 cup of the total. You might need a little extra. Make that decision as you work through the mix.
Then, pour a bit of ghee into the mix and start rolling about 2 tablespoons worth of sweetened besan mix into balls. Press them gently to make tiny spheres. Keep mixing ghee and making these until you are done with the entire besan mix. If you run out of ghee, warm up a little more and add it to the besan.
- On the other hand if you dry roasted besan (as in A.), then you just have to do this:
Warm up the ghee to melt. This melted, liquid ghee will help in binding the cooked besan and convert it into ladoos as described above. In a wide platter or flat bowl mix together besan, sugar and cardamom powder, as well as any nuts and/or saffron, if using. Then make a well in the center and pour the ghee. Mix besan and ghee.
After this, take about two tablespoons of mixtures into the cup of your palms and press together to make small balls. Work through the mix. If binding is difficult and ladoos break apart too quickly, adding additional warm ghee will help.
Tip: I’ve noticed that most women work with warm besan. To my understanding sugar caramelizes faster at a warmer temperature and binds with besan. Heat from a person’s palms also helps this process.
Variation with dates:
I also make a version with lesser sugar by using dates.
Follow the same steps for roasting besan. Then instead of adding 1 cup of sugar, use only 1/4 cup and replace the rest with chopped dates. Mix them with besan, add ghee and mould into ladoos.
A healthier option for diet conscious guests is ready. That’s it! A traditional dessert fit for Diwali is done.
Hope you have a lovely Diwali with lots of fun, food and merriment.