Nankhatai or Indian cookies are a version of shortbread that most Indian kids of my generation ate when growing up. Soft, buttery,egg less, and cheap, they were usually made in a small hole in the wall bakeries and were a rare treat that we looked forward to. The exact origins of this biscuit are unknown, but some records suggest that Nankhatai is derived from Persian word ‘Nan,’ which means bread and “Khatai,” which means ‘Biscuit.’
Sadly like most things, these cookies are now almost forgotten, and they are not very fashionable to eat and have just become a memory of a distant past. So, when I started thinking about making biscuits to serve with Tea for The Modern Desi dinner I thought of ‘Nankhatai’ because you cannot get more Indian than this. After 10 failed attempts I finally feel that I have a recipe that works pretty well, so I have listed some tips that have works well.
– My version of Nankhatai is made with ‘Jaggery’ instead of ‘Sugar,’ somehow, I find that it gives a delicious caramel flavor to the cookies.
– Traditionally the cookies are made with Ghee, but I use unsalted butter as I feel it works well
– Try using fresh Cardamom powder if you can; this gives the cookie a wonderful flavor
– Since they are egg less, I find that shaping them can be a little bit of a task, so refrigeration of the dough is essential. It helps to bind the Butter or Ghee once again make it easier to shape them. The mixture makes around 20 cookies, so I bake in batches and keep the dough in the fridge as the first batch bakes
– Another important thing is the baking time because they bake under 15-20 minutes and can burn in a blink of an eye, so another technique that I have followed after a few disasters is that I remove them from the oven after around 15 minutes and let them sit on the baking tray to cool down. The heat from the baking tray gently cooks them for a few more seconds, and they harden up without burning
– However, if you remove the cookies from the oven and they are still soft, just put them back for 2 -3 minutes. Once again I cannot stress how quickly the cookies burn, so it is crucial you don’t do anything when they are baking
– Always keep some distance between the cookies because they expand when they bake so keeping some distance gives them space
– Cool the cookies completely before you store them in an airtight container
Cooking time 15 minutes
Makes 20 cookies
250 gms Flour (Maida)
80 gms Chickpea Flour/Besan
40 gms Semolina
2 tsp Baking powder
1 tsp Baking soda
1 ½ tsp Cardamom powder
1 tbsp Yogurt (I used Greek Yogurt)
1 cup Jaggery Or powdered Sugar
1 cup soft (not melted) unsalted Butter or Ghee in a semi-solid state
A few Pistachios or slivered Almonds for decoration
In a bowl mix the Butter and Jaggery and using a hand blender whisk them together. You are looking for a smooth creamy mixture. Keep whisking till you get that consistency. Remember this will only happen if the Butter or Ghee is in a semi-solid state
Sieve the flours and add them in the bowl with the Butter mixture along with the Baking powder, soda, Cardamom powder
Now gently fold everything together without using the whisk till you have a soft dough. Don’t worry about how it looks or if it doesn’t come together well, refrigerate the mixture for atleast 30 minutes before shaping it into small balls
Preheat the oven at 180 degrees C
Shape the dough into round balls, not too big as they will expand when baking. Press pistachio or few Almond slivers with your thumb in the middle and refrigerate the remaining dough till you are ready to bake
Bake the cookies for 15 minutes and remove them from the oven. If they are thoroughly cooked, quickly remove them from the tray, so they cool down. If they are not baked and still soft let them bake for 2 -3 minutes more. The cookies burn very quickly, so it is vital that you watch them like a hawk.
Store in an airtight container and enjoy. Remember, they have no preservatives, so they are only good for around 5 – 7 days.