Nankhatai – Indian Shortbread
The birth of Nankhatai originates in the 16th century, when the Dutch came to India – to set up spice trading posts in India. Surat – a coastal city of Gujarat was a highly occupied city then and the Dutch also set up a bakery in Surat to cater for their own needs. The bakery employed 5 local Parsees and when the Dutch left India the bakery was handed to their very trust worthy employees named Mr Faramji Pestonji Dotiwala and not long after the bakery became known as “Dotiwala Bakery”
Unfortunately the Dutch style breads & cookies were disliked by the Indians and business started to decline and Mr Doiwala had to put on his “Indian Cap” and start “fusion baking” for financial survival. He modified the “puff pastry” to the salty “Khari” which he spiked with some “ajwain” (carom seeds). And his tweaking of the “Dutch Butter Biscuit” – was the birth/creation of the – Nankhatai – a melt in-the-mouth biscuit, with the rich aroma of ghee tinged with spicy notes of cardamom, and added flavour of crushed almonds and pistachios – this little biscuit/cookie is a perfect example of Indian ingenuity.
The addition of almond and pistachio powders improves the flavour and also makes the Nankhatai more porous – thus making every bite just melt in your mouth, coating your taste buds with rich Indian flavours. This biscuit/cookie became a popular tea time treat amongst the Gujarati community of Surat and thus it was exported from Surat to Mumbai and then as they the rest is history.
Nankhatai is fairly simple to prepare, and like every recipe – it has been tweaked and tweaked over the years, but the original Nankhatai was made using semolina, chick pea flour, wheat flour, baking powder, sugar, butter/ghee and nuts – all of these base ingredients and added flavour of cardamom, nutmeg and saffron adds the ingenuity of Indian flavour combinations to these cookies making them and an amazing accompaniment to a cup of masala chai.
125 ml ghee
60 ml oil
125 ml castor sugar
5 ml ground cardamom
250 ml cake flour
30 ml chick pea flour
5 ml baking powder
15 ml semolina
20 ml flaked almonds (for garnish)
- Cream ghee and oil till light and fluffy – add the sugar and cream again till the mixture turns whitish in color
- Add the cardamom powder and cream once more, before adding the sifted cake flour, chick pea flour, baking powder and semolina
- Using a spatula combine the flour and ghee mixture ensuring that all the ingredients are mixed well.
- You should have a soft dough – roll into a log and cut off pieces the size of golf balls and roll in the palm of your hand and place on a baking sheet and garnish with a sliver of flaked almond
- Bake at 170 for about 15-20 minutes
- Cool thoroughly before storing – these are rather delicate biscuits that pack a punch of flavour
- Best enjoyed with a cup of masala chai