Naan Khatai is an Indian version of shortbread or sugar cookies that has survived centuries of culinary evolution. These cookies came into being some four centuries back when a local bakery employee, Dotivala, received a running bakery from Dutch traders and merged the Dutch Butter Cookie with a local sweet called ‘dal’.
Naan Khatai reminds me of visiting my grandmother’s house as a child in the old city of Lahore. I always looked forward to the tea time which brought traditional goodies like Samosas ,Namak Parey and some freshly baked Nan Khatai/Cardamom Cookies that I loved dunking into my tea. Those very flaky, soft, sweet and salty cookies melted in the mouth and have become one of my most fond culinary memories.
Traditionally these delicate and crumbly cookies were baked in clay ovens/tandoors by local bakers, very few of those tandoors still exist and are carrying on the tradition. The four ingredients that every recipe has in common are ghee/clarified butter, plain flour, powdered sugar and cardamom flavouring. The two ingredients that some recipes differ in are, semolina flour and gram flour. Some use one of the two, whereas others use both in reduced proportion.
Different bakers disagree on whether to use a leavening agent in the cookies or not. In the past some bakers used ammonia to make crispier cookies and some didn’t use any substance at all. Now it has been replaced with baking soda in the recipes that call for a leavening substance.
Personally, I prefer the ones made with gram flour because semolina maintains a somewhat grainy texture even after being baked and I use baking soda to make the cookies crispy.
You can add roughly crushed or whole almonds and pistachios but I simply used a little almond extract for a hint of almond taste and aroma. The dominant flavour I enjoy in these cookies is cardamom, which makes the whole house smell heavenly while the cookies are in the oven. These can be stored in an airtight jar for over a week, if they are not eaten the same day they are baked 😉
For Naan Khatai,Cardamom Cookies:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup gram flour/besan
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup ghee or unsalted butter
2 tablespoons yogurt
1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds, crushed
A few drops almond extract
Egg or milk to brush the tops
This Is What You Do :
Preheat oven at 175degrees C.
Mix sugar and ghee in a bowl, blend till creamy.
Add all purpose flour, gram flour, salt and baking soda.
Mix with hands. Add yogurt, cardamom and almond extract, mix till the dough comes together.
Divide the dough into 12 tiny balls. Slightly flatten the balls, place them 1 inch apart on a baking tray or cookie sheet.
Brush with egg or milk, bake for 15 minutes or till the tops are golden.
Cool them completely on a wire rack to have light and crusty cookies.
Makes 12 cookies