Lately, the baker in me has been feeling stifled by the cook in me!!…Truly speaking, the baker in me is kinda laid back. Since baking is such a precise craft, and me not being so much into precision, I am not as much into it as I’m into cooking.
BUT, since this blog, which was soooo long stuck in the planning stages,(by which I mean procrastination) is finally on its way, it makes me feel like I can do anything.Now bear in mind that,by anything, I am not talking about tight rope walking across the Grand Canyon, but something closer to me, like baking for example!!
So, coming back to the baker in me, I felt like every once in a while, I could let that part of myself do a bit of work and let the cook me, take a backseat!! (Wow, this makes it sound like I have a multiple personality disorder…but no, I’m sure I don’t!!)
Any way, jokes apart, I had been wanting to bake something for a while, and couldn’t decide what. Then while talking to my 6 year old nephew over the phone one day, he mentioned that he had just had his favorite cookies – Nankhatai!! Its a favorite in my family. My Mom likes them, my brother, my sis-in-law, my little nephew and DH, everybody loves them. As far as the history of these cookies goes, I am not sure, but I think these are originally from Iran and were brought to India by the Iranian immigrants. I say this, because, before they became a staple on the local bakery shelves in India, they were found in the Irani Cafes that were aplenty once, mainly in Mumbai. The cafes might be scarce now, but this cookie found its way into the hearts (and tummies) of many Indians and is pretty much a part of our culture now.
Nankhatai is basically a sort of shortbread cookie, with the basics like butter, sugar and flour and most importantly they do not have any eggs. So for my vegetarian friends (yes, most Indian vegetarians do not eat eggs), it would be a perfect little snack and not to forget my kiddo, who is a fussy eater. I envisioned that something sweet and delish like this cookie might just win him over and give me the opportunity to add one more ‘home-made” treat to his very small list of favorites.
What I like about this cookie is that it goes very well as an accompaniment to tea, (which is my preferred beverage) and that it has cardamom powder as opposed to vanilla, which is a refreshing change from most baked goodies which call for the latter!
So, here’s how I do it!
Ingredients (makes 15 nos.)
- Unsalted butter – 1/2 cup (1 stick) (If using salted butter, no problems. Just skip the salt mentioned separately in the recipe)
- Powdered sugar – 1/2 cup
- All Purpose flour – 1 cup
- Baking powder – 1/2 tsp
- Cardamom powder – 1/2 tsp (If you are not very fond of cardamom, you may reduce or simply skip this)
- Salt – 1/8 tsp (skip, if using salted butter)
- Cashew/pistachio/almond halves – 1 for each cookie
*Something that really helps while baking, is to have all your ingredients measured out and ready with all the necessary equipment handy, before starting to prepare the dish. It might not seem like a major tip, but when you start making this, you will know what I mean.
- First make sure that the butter is soft and squishy. For this, you will simply have to keep it out of the refrigerator for about an hour. But it totally depends on the climate and might take longer or lesser time, if you are in a colder or warmer place. Do not put it in a microwave as you will end up with a puddle of melted butter, which is not what we are aiming for.
2. With a rubber spatula, cream together, the butter and sugar until they are well combined, light and fluffy. In my experience, it helps to run the powdered sugar through the sieve too. So, if there are lumps in it (which usually there are!), it will become smooth before its added to the butter and thus much easier to work with.
4. Now, add in the dry ingredients to the sugar-butter mixture, a little at a time and keep mixing and adding.
5. If using a hand mixer, keep it on low to medium speed. DO NOT keep the mixer on high, or else, you will be wearing more of the dry ingredients than eating!(Don’t ask me how I know this!!!) 😉
6. Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally to aide in the uniform mixing of the dough.
7. When everything is well combined, knead the dough with your hands (since using the spatula after the flour is added, gets difficult in my experience.) Form a dough ball and either wrap in plastic wrap or simply cover the mixing bowl and keep in the refrigerator for about 15-20 minutes to chill.
8. While the dough is cooling, pre-heat the oven to 300 Deg F. and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
9. Remove the chilled dough from the fridge.
10. Divide the dough into 15 equal portions. If you want bigger size cookies, you could, but this recipe makes 15 of the size that nankhatais usually are. Make balls out of each and place on the lined baking sheet about an inch apart from each other.
11. Now, press each cashew half, to embed it on top of each ball. I used cashews, because I had those handy. You could use almonds or pistachios or even skip the nuts altogether.
11. Bake the nankhatai at 300 deg F for 20-25 minutes, until they spread out and have a light golden brownish rim on the bottom.These cookies have a nice dome shape on top and will flatten from below, as they melt while baking.
12. Remove from the oven and let them cool for 2-3 minutes, before transferring them to a cooling rack. Let them cool completely before transferring to an airtight container.
These can stay well for about 2 weeks, but they are so good, I doubt they will!! 🙂