It seems appropriate that Nankhatai is a word of Persian origin; its decadent luxury and enduring elegance is an ode to it’s buttery past. In India the name evokes joy, serenity even sheer delight.
You sip your tea and in the mist of rising steam, your world becomes a soft and dreamy bubble, albeit for a fleeting moment. You may dip the biscuit, you may not but you linger over your tea, holding that knob of promised satisfaction between your fingers. When the tender crumb gives in between your teeth like a hesitant lover, the aroma of burnished flour envelops your senses.
This is a biscuit for gardens, for cool fountains, for swans, for rainy days, for giggling ladies and happy youth gathered over a table of hope but it is also for the meditative, for those of us who have been down life’s rocky road before.
Nankhatai is as much at home in the company of gilded china on a well set table as it is with clinking chai glasses on a street corner.
There are many recipes for this vegetarian cookie, you may call it biscuit too but most of them contain either chickpea flour, rice flour, all purpose flour and in some cases like mine almond flour. They are often made with ghee though I prefer mine with homemade clarified butter.
But I also like to have fun with the soft and pillowy dough so I used a cookie press. I made sandwich cookies with dulce de leche, Jim jam Nankhatai with chocolate filled centres and some traditional ones crowned with pistachio crumble.
Here is the recipe-
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup almond flour
- 2 tbsp chick pea flour
- 2 tbsp fine semolina
- Pinch of salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 cup clarified butter (method below)
- 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
- 1 tsp Powdered cardamom or nutmeg or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract mixed with the milk
- 2 tbsp plain cold wholemilk
Roasted pistachio crumble
Dulce de Leche or thick caramel sauce
Melted semi sweet chocolate and dark chocolate chips
TO CLARIFY BUTTER AT HOME
To clarify butter melt 450 grams of butter in the microwave in a heatproof freezer proof bowl. It should be just a little foamy.
When melted remove, cool, cover tightly and freeze for 30-40 minutes. Remove from the freezer. You will find a layer of water above the butter. Drain it out. Now cut the clarified butter into pieces and use what you need by weight for the recipe.
In a bowl sift the baking powder, chick pea and all purpose flour with salt. Add the semolina, almond flour, spices if using and confectioner’s sugar. Stir together. Dice cold but softened clarified butter into small pieces and add to the flour. Using only your fingertips crumble them into a soft mealy dough. Add milk and bring the dough together. Knead lightly only until well incorporated. Now divided into 3 small balls if you intend to make only traditional round biscuits or into narrow logs that can fit into your cookie press tube. Cover tightly and refrigerate 20 minutes.
Preheat oven 350F. Prepare baking trays with parchment or silicon mats.
Press one dough log into cookie press using a disc of your choice and squeeze them out onto a sheet of parchment, an inch apart.
Repeat with the remaining logs using discs to change the shapes of the cookies. If you are doing the chocolate Jim jams ones you need to show a disc with a hole in the centre.
For the traditional button shapes rolls the dough into inch size balls and lay them on the sheet with an inch between them. Press down with your thumb to make a light impression. Garnish with pista crumble or finely chopped nuts of your choice.
Bake in the middle run for 30-35 minutes until golden brown. Remove and let cool completely. place a teaspoon of dulche de leche on one cookie and press another one down on it. Spoon chocolate over another one and sandwich it with a second cookie. Place a dark chocolate chip in the centre.
Put in an airtight box and in very humid climate keep refrigerated.