Archive for June 2008

Coconut Cookies (Nan Khatai)

June 10, 2008

Nan Khatai (the way I remember it) is a shortbread with a buttery, crumbly cookie texture and is subtly flavored with a combination of spices common in both savory and sweet Indian dishes. Cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, ginger and fennel seeds are some of the must-have spices in my desserts, breads, and cookies. Aside from these spices desiccated coconut, pistachios, walnuts, almonds, cashews, peanuts, chironji, flax seeds, poppy seeds, black and white sesame seeds are also used in making a myriad of sweets in India.

Traditionally nan khatai was prepared with ghee or dalda (clarified butter or Indian version of vegetable shortening), sugar and a combination of all-purpose flour (superfine wheat flour – maida), rice flour or semolina with or without any leavening agent. It is simply a delicate butter cookie (quite rich almost resembling pecan sandies) which just melts in your mouth. Over the years I have made various types of cookies with or without the nuts. My son’s favorite is with chocolate chips and chunks of walnuts.

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar or to taste
1/2 teaspoon pure coconut or almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 cup sooji or cream of wheat
1/2 teaspoon roughly crushed cardamom seeds
1/4 teaspoon salt and generous pinch of baking powder
1/4 cup desiccated coconut, lightly toasted
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

1) In a mixing bowl, cream butter, sugar and coconut extract until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients except toasted desiccated coconut and walnuts. Stir to mix until the mixture comes together and forms stiff cookie dough.
2) Or remove the dough from the mixing bowl and knead it until all the ingredients are fully incorporated. Using a rolling pin, lightly roll out the cookie dough and flatten into a patty. Wrap the patty in the plastic sheet and chill in refrigerator for about 30 to 45 minutes.
3) Preheat oven to 325 to 350 degrees F. Shape the dough into 1-in balls and place them on ungreased baking sheets, spacing them about 1/2-inch apart. Lightly flatten with the tines of a fork (dipped in milk) in criss-cross pattern.
4) Or using a rolling pin, roll out the flatten patty into a rectangle measuring about 9 by 13 inches 1/4 to 1/8-inch thickness or as desired. Using a 2-inch round cookie cutter cut as many circles or cookies as you can from the rolled out rectangle. Lightly flatten with the tines of a fork (dipped in milk) in criss-cross pattern. Repeat the process until all the cookie dough is used.
5) Carefully lift the cookies with a spatula and place them onto ungreased baking sheet, spacing them about 1-inch apart.
6) Bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes on the middle rack of the oven, rotating the baking sheet front to back and top to bottom rack halfway through the baking time for even baking, or until the cookies are lightly golden around the edges. Cool slightly before removing from baking sheet. Remove and cool completely on wire rack before storing in an airtight container.

Note: This recipe is base for so many cookies in my western kitchen. Often prepare them with the combination of flour, rolled oats, unsalted butter, roughly chopped nuts of choice, extract, leavening agent, salt and powdered sugar along with the liquid of choice.

Yield: Approximately 3 dozen cookies.