” Amma , How come we never can make this at home ?” was the question that stumped my mom , a few years ago. An impish curly-haired moppet of say 7 years , asked my mom this question. Now make no bones about this , my mom had this uncanny ability to plunge into things that challenged her whole heartedly .. When she had a mind to it 🙂 Nothing is / was impossible was the motto! Usually the task of running a business alongside my dad, her passion for gardening, the occasional tuition lessons at home and oh yes, the new-found interest in baking all were worth the effort. In fact the last passion in particular had a very profound effect at home … Baking sessions of eggless cakes and cookies and more using the pressure cooker and dry sand method. And add to this the multi-talented grandmom of mine, my mother’s mom would have a gazillion inputs and variations and innovations on the way. It was a madcap session at home sometimes punctuated by the heat from the kitchen, laughter and excited talks and voices of the ladies gathered at home and I could be looking at new experiments in jams and jellies or pickles or home-made ketchup to grand desserts and more. Now this was the good old days of Chennai ( Madras) in the late 80’s. At that point the heat and humidity of the Madras weather, compounded by the large cooking sessions could have driven any sane person nuts, but we of course were grandly buffered by the tree-lined streets of my hometown. No A/c at that time folks, just good old ceiling fans, stand fans and hand fans and breeze from the courtyard 🙂
A visit last year to my place of birth though had me cringing of course ! Sigh ! No tree-lined streets , but more and more commercial properties and even more dust .. Why ? Why? must we lose what we have to understand the fragility of all good things in life. Any way I am digressing, the curly-haired moppet, yours truly fast forward a few years down the lane ( Alright, I am being vain, fast forward many years down the lane .. Sigh !!!) with the curly hair being occasionally tamed 🙂 ) was sort of pleaded by the youngest tyke to make something yummy. Pretty please with a cherry on the top!!!!
This after gorging on lemon cupcakes , which we of course generously shared with visiting cousins.
Now remember the question I had asked my mom? Well the subject of discussion was this crunchy, butter drenched, flattened biscuits (Yes, the British influence, what can I say ,these are called biscuits in India ) or cookies was devoured steadily by the ilk of my cousins and self. The goodies in question were brought in by my aunt from Pune. Amidst the gaggling of kids and cousins, there were faint snatches of discussions and baking method. I have no clue on the outcome of this, but for some reason I was treated to this bit of beautiful memory from yesteryears.
When you troll the internet, you will find a gazillion variations if this cookie/shortbread/biscuit . Whole wheat version, the Besan ( chickpea flour ) version, the Sooji ( semolina ) and Besan version. Everyone and their cousin will have some thing on this and more 🙂
But harking back to simpler times, these cookies are made with butter , APF and sugar as the main ingredients. Yes , whole wheat makes it better (I do have a version I use and will post it as well ), but remember these are the snatches of comfort from a bygone era.. Indulgent at the best . And an occasional indulgence never really harmed anyone .. Occasional being the keyword 🙂
Prep time : 15 min Bake time : 18-20 min Yield : 16-20 cookies
Shelf life : You are joking right ? (Ok if you really want to, it should stay for about a week and more in an airtight container)
- All purpose flour : 1 Cup
- Unsalted Butter at room temperature : 1 stick = 8 Tbsp.= ½ Cup
- Salt : a tiny pinch ( to enhance the flavor)
- Baking Soda : ½ tsp.
- Fine Granulated sugar : ½ Cup
- Cardamom pods : 12-14 pounded well to yield a nearly fine powder
- Saffron strands : a generous pinch, slight warmed and crushed well to be mixed
- Chopped nuts of your choice : Optional – 2 tsp. for garnish
- Cream the butter and sugar in a big mixing bowl. Cream it well until the sugar granules are nice and invisible in it. The creaming is essential to get the texture and ensure proper baking too. Powdering the sugar absolutely helps, but remember to add a tad less than the 1/2 cup called for.
- In an another bowl, whisk together sifted all purpose flour, baking soda, salt, crushed cardamom pods, saffron. Whisk it well to aerate it and to ensure even distribution of the soda and the fragrant spices.
- Add the dry mix into the creamed mixture and form a soft pliable dough. Honestly you should not need any liquids to bind this dough and this will be a super soft one. ( yep, it’s loaded with butter)
- Refrigerate it for say 20 min. ( I believe this would make crispier cookies)
- Pre heat the oven to 350 deg F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
- Pinch out small globes from this and make a nice smooth cookie balls. Indent with the flat side of the fork to lend it your touch. Place it about 2 inches apart from each other to ensure good baking and breathing space.
- Garnish with chopped nuts( pistachios in my case ) ,
- Pop it into oven and bake it for about 18-20 min.
- I baked mine for 20 min, because we love the crispy-crunchy-melt-in-your mouth kind of cookies. These do not change color much – Careful do not over bake them or burn them ! You just might notice a slight browning at the base of the cookies .
- The fragrance alone can drive your resistance away 🙂
- Let it cool on the wire rack(And if you do not keep an eagle eye, a few of them would be sampled and to be just sure again would be sampled again).
- Store in an airtight container (this happens only when my tykes are away and no one is at home to sample the wares albeit for a short period of time).
( Now please excuse me as a steaming cup of Ginger Chai is calling my name!!! )