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Laddu is an Indian sweet made with any one of a number of different kinds of flour and shaped into small balls for serving. In English it is also sometimes spelled laddoo or ladoo. The sweet can be made from both grain and legume flours and often has nuts or dried fruit added. It is particularly popular as a treat for festivals and special occasions.
One of the most popular varieties is boondi laddu. The primary ingredient is gram flour, made from garbanzo beans. Gram flour, sometimes called besan, is mixed with milk to make a thick batter. The batter is then forced through a strainer into hot oil, making small drops, or balls, of batter which quickly cook in the oil. Once all the drops are cooked and slightly cooled, they are mixed with a sticky, cardamom flavored sugar syrup and formed into balls a bit smaller than a golf ball.
One common variety, Besan laddu, is also made from gram flour, but is prepared differently. In this case the flour is slowly browned in ghee, a clarified butter used in Indian cooking. After the flour is golden brown and fragrant, it is mixed with sugar and cardamom powder, and formed into small balls.
Rava laddu is made from semolina which is cooked or soaked in sugar syrup and rich milk until the mixture is dry enough to form into balls. Nuts, raisins and grated coconuts are frequent additions to rava laddu. The pale color of the semolina also makes this a good recipe for the addition of ingredients like grated beets, which add a distinctive flavor and bright color to the sweet.
Another variety, Churma laddu is made from wheat flour. Some recipes use whole wheat flour and some a mixture of all-purpose and whole wheat. Regardless of the flour used, it is mixed with milk or water to make a stiff dough. Pieces of the dough are fried in ghee, then cooled and ground to powder. The powder and ghee are mixed with powdered jaggery, an unrefined sugar popular in Indian cooking, and spices before being formed into balls.
Other flour possibilities for laddu include ground channa dal, a relative of garbanzo beans; toasted ground aval, or rice flakes, and ragi flour, which is made from finger millet. Cashews, almonds and raisins are popular additions. Some recipes use sweetened condensed milk in place of some or all of the sugar. Many recipes call for the use of rolled shredded coconut, finely chopped nuts or poppy seeds to make the balls easier to handle.