This recipe, a favorite of my husband, is a valentine sent with love from his cousin, Surinder Kaur Gill now of Houston, Texas. She was the only girl who lived in the village compound with an extended family of unruly boys. As the youngest and “civilizing” force, she reigned supreme in the hearts of Babaji, her grandfather, and all her uncles and aunts who doted on her--a rose among thorns!    

    Surinder says that the syrup for balushahi is quite thick. If you were to touch the syrup between your thumb and forefinger, it should make several strings when pulled apart. In Punjabi we call it teentari chashni. It should be two times thicker than gulab jamun syrup.

“Donuts”-Punjabi Style Balushahi

Yield: 8 small treats

For the dough:

1 cup all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon baking powder

1½ tablespoons plain yogurt

1 tablespoon hot water

2½ oz. butter (about 5 T), melted

Oil for frying

Optional garnish: 1 tablespoon finely ground pistachios

       Sift the flour and baking powder together. In a separate bowl, whisk the water, yogurt and food color. Stir in the butter. With your fingers, lightly mix the dough just until the dough holds together. Let rest it while you prepare the syrup (below) and begin heating the oil over a low flame until a small piece sizzles, but does not brown.

      Divide the dough in half, then quarters, then into eight pieces. Take a small, walnut–sized piece of dough. Roll it into a ball. Flatten it slightly into a circle. The dough will be flaky and somewhat uneven. Put a dent in the middle of the circle with your thumb. When you have four, fry them together without crowding too much. They should be cooked through but only very slightly brown. Make sure the syrup is not too thick. Drain the fried pieces on a slotted spoon and immediately transfer to the syrup without touching the spoon to the syrup. Use another spoon to lift them out. Repeat. Place on a plate. Sprinkle immediately with the pistachios. Remove to a serving plate or cool and store in an airtight container.

For the "Three-String" Syrup:

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup water

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

Red food color 2 drops (optional)

         Boil until in a small pot, preferably non-stick, until it reaches syrup stage—about 220 degrees. (This happens quickly. Dropped from a spoon it makes threads, but does not make a ball in cold water.) If it is too thick, stir in a tablespoon of water. Stir in the food color. Keep warm.