Saturday, December 21, 2013

Nankhatai - the Indian Eggless Cookie

The Nankhatai is the most recognized and celebrated cookie in India. It has a good penetration in urban and rural households since it is eggless and a pure vegetarian cookie. In India, although biscuits are more popular and common, most bakeries have local versions of cookies. The most common of them being the Nankhatai. It is so much a part of our daily fibre that in some hill stations, vendors make them fresh in a coal fired oven placed on their push cart. The Nankhatai could have been influenced by the English biscuits and scones and may not necessarily be completely Indian in origin.

Another fast disappearing feature in Mumbai is the bhaiya, who balancing a steel trunk on his head walked through lanes and by lanes hawking khari biscuit, jeera biscuit and nankhatais. When we were kids, mom would buy stuff occasionally from the bakery, till I insisted on trying the stuff once from the bhaiya and called him over. The biscuits and nankhatais were really fresh and from then on he came regularly to check if we wanted anything. In fact, he stopped only a year or two after my marriage when mom asked him to stop coming because of low consumption (after all the main gobbler - me was not around).
Today's recipe is this ubiquitous eggless cookie - the nankhatai. I made this nankhatai from the recipe given here.  
Maida - 1 cup
Caster Sugar - 1/2 cup (can be reduced if you dont want it too sweet)
Ghee - 1/2 cup
Baking soda - 1/2 tsp
Green cardamom - 4
Cream - 2 tbsp (optional)
Salt - a tiny pinch
Melt the ghee and keep aside to cool down. Powder the cardamom seeds finely. Mix together the cardamom powder and caster sugar. Mix or sift together the baking soda, salt and maida.

In a bowl pour in the ghee and add the sugar and mix well. Mix the maida into this ghee mixture little by little till all the maida in added in. Then with your fingers make this into a dough, in case the dough is sticky sprinkle a little maida and make into a dough. But if the dough turns powdery like mine did, add a little malai at a time to form into a ball of dough. Keep this dough aside for a minimum of an hour to 4 hours. I kept my dough overnight because the urge to bake struck me at 11.30pm and then waiting for an hour plus the baking time seemed too much.

So the next morning, I took the dough out again and I had to knead it a little again with warmed hands because the dough was stone cold from the Delhi temperatures. Equal sized balls have to be made and since I am slightly challenged that way, I used a tablespoon measure to scoop out each portion. Shape them into balls and flatten them slightly and arrange on an ungreased tray. Keep a distance of an inch between every nankhatai. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius, the original recipe stated 170 degree but I tweaked it based on my oven's performance. Place the tray in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Do check after about 17 minutes so it doesn't brown, if your oven heats fast then you may end up burning it.  
 Nankhatai baking in the oven

My Nankhatai - the Indian Eggless Cookie goes to this event -
Holiday Baking by Ammaji Recipes

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