How To Make Insanely Delicious Cardamom Chamomile Donuts For Diwali

Food TV personality and blogger Aarti Sequeira might have been born in Dubai, but she considers herself an L.A. girl. In fact, she even used to write for this here site! The bubbly Angeleno really made a name for herself in the national eye on The Next Food Network Star, and has just released her first cookbook titled Aarti Paarti: An American Kitchen With Indian Soul.

Peppered with Sequiera's animated, endearing voice, the book puts spins on classics like saag paneer (substituting kale and chard for spinach) and these gulab jamun (pronounced GOO-lahb JAH-moon)—Indian donuts given a modern twist by being drizzled in chamomile cardamom syrup.

They're the perfect treat for any special occasion, and are often served at weddings, birthday parties, and holidays like Diwali, the Indian festival of lights that starts on Thursday. They also make an excellent weekend baking project.

"For my taste, the traditional versions are always a little leaden and impossibly sweet," says Sequiera, "My recipe produces a cloud-like dough, cuts down on the sugar and adds a blush of chamomile."

And they are divine. We had a taste at her book release party and were whisked to memories of faraway spice markets by the whispers of floral chamomile and aromatic green cardamom. Thankfully she's shared her recipe with us, just in time for the start of the holiday.

Here's how it's done.

Ingredients

For donuts:

1/2 cup nonfat instant dry milk powder
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon melted ghee or unsalted butter, cooled
2 to 3 tablespoons whole milk
Sunflower oil for deep frying

For the chamomile cardamom syrup:

1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups water
4 chamomile tea bags
4 green cardamom pods, crushed open but left whole
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
kosher salt

To garnish:

1 teaspoon minced pistachios
grated lemon zest
vanilla ice cream

Method

For doughnuts:

In a large bowl, stir together the milk powder, flour, lemon zest, baking soda and a pinch of salt with a fork until well-combined.

Make a small well in the ingredients, and add the vinegar and ghee. Stir until the mixture takes on the texture of sand, 1 to 2 minutes.

Now add the milk in a thin, slow stream, stirring all the while with your fork. The mixture will first look like wet sand, then come together and come away from the sides of the bowl into a loose dough that somewhat resembles cottage cheese. The dough should be soft, light and pretty delicate, but not too sticky; add a few pinches of flour if it's sticking to your fingers too much.

Don't dilly-dally; this dough dries out quickly! Divide the dough into 8 equal portions. Roll them into small balls, about 1 inch in diameter. They'll look a little puny to you, but don't worry—they will swell in both the oil and the syrup. Place them on a plastic wrap-lined plate. Top with a lightly dampened paper towel, then with another piece of plastic wrap.

Pour oil into a small, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven to a depth of 2 inches. Heat the oil over low to medium-low heat until it registers 325ºF on a deep-fry or candy thermometer (if you don't have one, then drop a small piece of dough into the oil—it should sink to the bottom, then pop to the surface in about 15 seconds).

Meanwhile, line a plate with a double layer of paper towels.

When the fat is at the right temperature, use a slotted spoon to carefully drop four of the dough balls into the pot. As soon as they pop up to the surface, use a spider or slotted spoon to keep them gently moving and rolling in the hot fat so that they brown evenly. Cook in this way for 2 to 3 minutes, until they're a light mahogany or acorn color. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and lay them on the paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough, making sure that the fat returns to the correct temperature before adding the dough.

For chamomile cardamom syrup:

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water, tea bags and cardamom pods and bring to a boil over medium heat, uncovered. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 3 minutes. Push the tea bags to the side, and lay the fried doughnuts in the syrup. Stir to ensure the doughnuts are well doused in the syrup and simmer, partially covered, for 5 minutes, until they swell and soften. Remove from the heat, and pull out the tea bags and cardamom pods. Carefully stir in saffron (if using), crushing it lightly between your hands, then add the lemon juice and a pinch of kosher salt. Let the whole thing cool off for a couple of minutes.

Serve 2 doughnuts per person (hot or warm) with a couple of tablespoons of the syrup. Top with pistachios and lemon zest. And if you're my mum, top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Chef's note:

Depending on the climate you're cooking in, you may need more or less milk. Don't add the entire 1/3 cup at once. Add a little at a time until the dough comes together. You may not need it all.