Monday, October 22, 2012

Nan-cut aka Naan Khatais aka Indian Eggless Cookies

My 9 yr old son has been interested a lot lately in knowing all about his Indian Culture and especially food roots. So far, I have been able to present it to him in interesting ways, to keep him intrigued and and curious-er (Yeah, I don't think there is such a word either...especially after that wavy underline by my much hated spell-checker.)
So this other day, he threw me a perfect googly by asking me about baking and India. Nope, Indian Cuisine is not very big on baking, I told him. "While I was growing up, in an average community the only ones who baked were bakers, and people never bothered baking anything when delicious baked goods were available just round the corner and at such cheap prices too. Economically, buying an oven for the home was like an unnecessary luxury, and a nuisance if you factored in the frequent power outages and voltage fluctuations.
So, no...I dont think there were any Indian cookies!"
But, this tiny voice at the back of mind kept telling me I missed out something...something yummy, warm, something that melted on your tongue and left a tiny deposit of fat on the roof of your mouth, something you begged your parents to buy as soon as you saw a "Khari-wala" with his large aluminium trunk filled with warm, fresh baked goodies that he sold from door to door.
It came to me in a second. These tiny rectangles of sweet heaven that Mom used to buy as a special treat, for tea times. Of course, they were the Indian goodies that could come close to cookies, and give them a good head-to-head competition, too!

It got predictable from there...the kid wanted to taste them and I made a few phone calls back home and a couple emails to friends to find if they had a recipe. And though none had/give a proper recipe, I was able to get the general proportion of flour to ghee to sugar. And then I tried it out. Call it beginners luck, the first time was just perfect. I picked out one hot cookie, huffing and puffing like a big bad wolf, and doing that weird "hot" dance.  The light cookie melted into a warm sweet nothing in my mouth and the light aroma of cardamoms and ghee invaded my senses, flooding my brain with memory  flashes of lazy evenings, sweet bites of Naan-cuts and tea not tasting sweet anymore, with the sweetness of the little rectangles invading our the taste buds.
Just so that you also can be a part of these heavenly experience, here goes the recipe:---

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar (powdered)
1 cup ghee (clarified butter) + a little more
* Clarified butter is nothing but butter without any water to it. In order to make a cup of ghee, just melt about  1.25 cups of butter in a pan,  on low heat. Stir occasionally. Soon all the water will evaporate and clear ghee will be formed on the bottom. Spoon off the scum or the froth from top and use as needed.
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp powdered cardamom seeds (optional)


Method:-*When it comes to Indian recipes, I believe using your hand to knead any dough, brings authentic results.
But you may use a hand mixer here, if needed.

Preheat oven to 350 degree F.
Sift together salt, baking powder, cardamom and flour together.
Mix together the sugar and the ghee and blend well. Add the flour mixture into it and knead into a smooth mixture. A spoon of ghee spread between palms, pat it down.
Now, roll small balls from the dough and lay them on a parchment lined cookie sheet about 1-2 inch apart from each other.
Gently press each ball down, into a flat disk shape.
Repeat until cookie sheet is full.
Bake at 350 F for 10-15 minutes or until the bottoms are lightly browned.
Cool for 5 minutes before removing them from the cookie sheet.
Makes about 20 cookies depending on the size. Enjoy.

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