Besan laddoo is a sweet dough-like food made during most South Asian festivals. Anyone can make them at home, as long as they’re up for a lot of stirring. Keep a close eye on the ladoo mixture so it doesn’t burn.
Ingredients - 2 cups (184g) coarse besan, ½ to ⅔ cup (110–150g) ghee, 1 cup (125g) powdered sugar, 1 tsp (5 mL) cardamom powder (elachi powder). Optional: 1 tbsp (15 mL) milk, 1 tsp (5 mL) cinnamon powder, 2 tbsp (30 mL) golden raisins, 15 slivered almonds, cashew halves, or pistachios.
Roast the besan over medium-low heat. Stir constantly for about 10–12 minutes, watching the besan brown evenly. This is the most important step. Too little cooking will leave an unpleasant raw taste, while too much can burn the flour. Constant stirring will help prevent these problems. Use an Indian karahi (kadai), a wok, or a deep saucepan. Besan is the Hindi word for gram flour. It is also sold as chickpea flour, garbanzo bean flour, cece flour, chana flour, or (in Tamil markets) kadalai maavu.
Melt and add the ghee. Warm the ghee in a separate pan to melt it. Pour it into the besan, stirring constantly. Keep roasting and stirring until the besan smells nutty and becomes easy to stir. This takes about 5 or 6 minutes. Taste it to make sure there is no sour taste. If there is, cook for longer. Start with ½ cup (110g) ghee. If there is still dry besan, or if you like extra-shiny, soft ladoos, add more one spoonful at a time. Ghee is clarified butter that's been toasted for a nutty, caramelized flavor. You can substitute plain unsalted butter, but it will have much less flavor.
Add cardamom and milk. Add the cardamom powder (elachi) at this point. If you are using milk and/or cinnamon for more flavor, add those as well. Stir for just a few seconds, then turn off the heat. Milk adds a richer taste and fluffier texture, but shortens the shelf life. You can skip the milk if you like.
Let it cool in a mixing bowl. Move the mixture to a large bowl. Keep stirring for a minute to avoid burning the besan. Set it aside and let it cool for ten minutes. This will stop the sugar from melting, but not cool it so much that the sugar can't blend in. While waiting, you can make boora if you want to use it instead of sugar.
Mix in powdered sugar. Add sugar to the besan mixture. Stir until combined. Do not add the sugar while the besan is still hot, or it may burn. Leave the mixture to cool to room temperature. If you only have granulated sugar, turn it into powdered sugar with a food processor, coffee grinder, or spice grinder.
Shape into balls. Wash and dry your hands. Shape the mixture into balls with your hands. Store in an airtight container. If you want to decorate them, see below for optional instructions. If it is too dry to form balls, mix in another teaspoon (5 mL) of ghee and try again. Keep adding ghee until the balls stick together. They will also be easier to form if you put the mix in the fridge for 20–30 minutes.
Mix in golden raisins. You can add these directly to the mix, or poke one into each ball. Deep fry them in ghee first for even better flavor. Pat them dry after frying, with a paper towel. Chopped, dry fruit will work as well.
Decorate with nuts. Put a slivered almond, a cashew half, or a pistachio on the top of each ladoo. Press lightly to push it into the dessert.
Coat in almond meal. Coarse almond meal adds a tasty, crunchy outside. Roll each ball in it. This is sold as badam powder at Indian markets.