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Mum's NANKHATAI (Indian Butter Cookies)

Shaping Mum's NトNKHATトI (Indian Butter Cookies)

By CulinaryKizzy, member

Posted: January 8th, 2010

Nト]khatト(s (pronounced naan-kha-tie) are (egg-less) Indian butter cookies that invariably make an appearance during Diwali – the festival of lights. Sweets (a range of Indian desserts known as mithai) are usually purchased from local halwai or mithaiwala (sweetmeat sellers) who are adept in the few sweets that they specialise in; these recipes are heavily guarded and generations of halwai have learned the art of making them from their predecessors. There are a few sweets though that are home-made even today during festive occasions such as Diwali and Holi and nト]khatト( is one such treat. It is simple to make and seeped in nostalgia for Indians.                                    

The following recipe is Mum's base recipe that yields plain butter cookies; and may be adapted to make several variations such as almond butter cookies (by addition of slivered almonds), cashew nut butter cookies, pistachio butter cookies, saffron butter cookies, coconut butter cookies (use untoasted desiccated coconut), cocoa butter cookies, and even citrus butter cookies by addition of pure lemon essence (found at Italian stores). These are the tried and tested variations by Mum and I. A savoury version with cumin or caraway seeds is very popular in Iranian (Parsi) bakeries all over Bombay.

Nankhatai cookies are served with chai (Indian black tea with milk and sugar), along with an assortement of sweet and savoury dainties, during festive family gatherings, or a casual high tea. These rich butter cookies make a fine addition to festive gift baskets as well.

Chironji nut, also known as charoli or chiroli, are seeds from chironji tree, from cashew family. It is deep beige in colour; tastes sweet, almost musky, and is a signature of nト]khatト( cookies.


more about:

1/2 cup castor (confectioners窶 or powdered) sugar
1/2 cup refrigerated ghee (clarified butter) or unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla essence [OR 1/4 teaspoon saffron, soaked in 1 tablespoon of lukewarm milk]

1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (maida)
1/2 cup semolina flour (rava)
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom [or 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg]
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons chironji nuts [substitute: cashew pieces or pistachio pieces or slivered almond], for topping

Traditionally, these butter cookies are made by hand. But a hand-mixer or a stand-mixer eases the process of forming the cookie dough. Do not handle the cookie dough too much in order to keep the ghee/butter temperature low; else the dough may fall apart.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment or wax paper [to avoid baked cookies from sticking to the sheet]. Pre-heat oven to 325ツーF. Please note that the oven temperatures may vary; and the baking temperature may vary depending upon the season. Bake in batches and pre-heat oven up to 350ツーF, when needed.

In a mixing bowl, sieve castor (confectioners窶) sugar; add refrigerated ghee/butter and cream until the mixture turns frothy. If using, add liquid essence [vanilla, almond, citrus, or saffron dissolved in lukewarm milk] and mix to incorporate.

In a bowl, sieve flour, semolina and baking powder. Add ground cardamom [or nutmeg] and add to the creamed sugar-butter mixture in at least 2 batches. When the cookie dough forms in the mixer bowl, transfer it to a cool surface and gently knead it a few times. Divide the cookie dough into 20 portions and shape into flattened round; make a thumb depression at the centre; as shown in the picture. Press in few nut pieces [chironji, cashew nut, pistachio or almond], place on the lined cookie sheet, and continue to shape the remaining cookies.

Bake the cookies at 325ツーF for about 20 to 25 minutes. Check at 20 minute interval to ensure that the cookies do not brown or develop any deep colour. Note that these cookies naturally crack (which is the test for doneness) and that is the desired appearance. Remove the cookies from oven before any colouring. Cool on a wire rack and store the nankhatai in air-tight cookie jar.

Note: Use refrigerated ghee (clarified butter) or butter; since using room-temperature or melted butter makes it difficult to bind the dough together and get the desired flakiness in the baked cookies.

Note: If semolina flour is difficult to find, use all 1 cup of all-purpose flour or even whole-wheat flour. Grainy semolina lends a certain texture which fine flour does not.

Note: On festive occasions, ツシ teaspoon saffron, soaked in 1 tablespoon of lukewarm milk, is added to the cookie dough.

Note: Ground cardamom is a common flavouring agent in Indian desserts and baked goods; it is the equivalent of use of vanilla in the west.

Note: Use liqueur of your choice to the cookie dough to make your own variations. For example, a hint of Amaretto liqueur added to Almond Nankhatai is highly desirable.

Note: Learn more about chironji nuts here and here.


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