Indian Shortbread - Cardamom & Saffron Nankhatai

12 different personalities. 12 different identities clubbed together. That's what a year means to me. Each one of them has a unique temperament, unique likes and most importantly unique memories. October is my best friend of the lot.

Strangely enough October reminds me of a young bride. Adorned in festive finery; with newly accomplished title of bride making her all red. Shyness and fear of unknown making her fingers cold, yet a bright curiosity sparkling in her eyes. Yes that's what October is for me. With pinkish blush, cool breeze and festive spirits; this is the month I look forward to, all year round. Just the right note of temperature to make you feel oh-s0-cozy but not the lazy bones that December would do. And specially with the festivals all around, you would rather be 'pandal-hopping' than tucking under your blankets.

It's the month of "9 days of non-stop fun & celebration" - Navratris & Duga Puja, of "wife-husband bonding" Karva Chauth and "the king of all" - Diwali. I can pass the whole month waiting for my ultimate festival - Diwali. This is the most precious "family time" month for me. And if these many reasons were not enough - add to it the joy of having my baby's birthday amidst all this.Is there anything better than October? For me not. It's the month for new memories to be created, and kept along with cherished old one. 

Since cooking is not just a translation of the demands of the weather outside but of our mood and our creativity inside. It's invariable that our thoughts enter through the windows of the kitchen and get stirred in the cook-pots even before we realize. So when a craving for the popular Indian biscuits- nankhatai hit me, I knew I had to give in. So soon my weekly baking session visited and Indian bakery and out came these delicious, flaky eggless shortbread like bites. Made even more special and festive with a hint of saffron and a flavour of cardamom. 

While I got to baking this, I realized how very few of Indian cookies I have really baked. Attribute it to the fact that baking was not a tradition in my home, I never had a collection of baking recipes from anyone. So I turned to mighty Google to get what In want, but then that left me even more confused. There was no single standard way to bake these. Most recipes called for only maida/all purpose flour while few also added sooji/semolina to it. Some even used egg in it while many used a great amount of leavners and others didn't. And the top bosses - Sanjeev Kapoor & Tarla Dalal even added yogurt to it. So yes I had to make my own version with one thing I knew I wanted to use - besan/ chickpea flour, simply because I love the aroma, taste and texture that besan lends. After all besan ka halwa & laddoo are my all time favourites. So here;s my version of the recipe, which might not be authentic (or who knows it might be) but was just great.

Cardamom & Saffron Nankhatai Recipe
(Indian eggless shortbread, with a flaky texture. Great with tea or coffee or just on their own too. The flavour that Indian ghee/clarified butter, brings to it, is anyday superior but you can make with unsalted butter too)

Maida/ All purpose flour - 1 cup
Besan/ Chickpea flour - 1/2 cup
Fine sooji/ Semolina - 1/4 cup
Powdered Sugar - 3/4th cup packed
Melted ghee/ butter - 3/4 - 1 cup ghee 
Baking soda - 1/4 tsp
Cardamom powder - 1/2 tsp
Saffron threads - 2-3 strings, soaked in 1tsp warm milk
Cashew/ Raisin/ Almonds for decoration

  1. Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Line the tray with parchment.

  2. Sift together maida, besan, sooji and baking soda, to make it smooth. 

  3. Add cardamom powder and sugar and mix well. 

  4. Add 1/2 cup melted ghee and soaked saffron and mix it all, till it all comes together. Depending on the type of flour used u might need little more ghee. So start from lesser and then add on.

  5. Now when the dough is formed, divide into small balls and shape your nankhatai, circular or oval. Lightly press them down and with the help of fork make small marks on the top.

  6. Place the biscuits in pre heated oven and bake for 18-20 mins, till its stiff but not crisp. You need the biscuits to still be little soft when they come out of the oven. 

  7. Press the nut in the centre of the nankhatai, when still warm and then let it cool for good 10 minutes.

  8. Serve warm, since they taste very delicious with the aroma of ghee still wafting. And store the rest in air tight containers to be leisurely eaten later. 

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