Nankhatai – The Cookies Made For Sharing

Image credits: satish Vijaykumar via Flickr

Cookies are great and delicious for many occasions. If you want to learn how to make South Indus most-loved, melt-in-your-mouth nankhatai, then keep reading. This cookie is a hint of sugar and spice and everything beautifully nice that the whole family will enjoy.

What Is A Nankhatai Biscuit?

Nankhatai is a popular Inus cookie/biscuit that adds savory and sweet into one mix to create the perfect balance of both flavors.

Like most Indus sweets and cookies, there is seldom, if at all, egg involved. You’ll gather this much with the nankhatai recipe a bit later in this piece. As with many other treats in South Asia, various adaptations and versions are applied to modify the treat accordingly. The  nankhatai is one of these treats that has more than one variation. We’ll get a bit into variations a bit later too.

From History’s Point of View – When Nankhatai Was Discovered

The history of nankhatai is not so much a discovery as it was creating food for nourishment in the early 16th century. Surat India saw an Iranian businessperson become the owner of a previous Dutch bakery. The Dutch bakery came about during a spice trade time when trading spices was high in demand amongst India and the Netherlands. Both nations operated from Surat India.

History has it that when the Dutch folks left India, they sold their bakery to the Iranian businessperson. However, not all the local folks enjoyed the type of Dutch biscuits and items made in the bakery. In an attempt to salvage the business, the Iranian sold the dried bread of which was well received compared to the bakery’s previous biscuits.

From the dried bread of this old bakery, the foundations of the ever-popular and much-loved nankhatai developed.

The name nankhatai derives from the word “naan” which is Persian for bread and “khatai” meaning biscuit in Dari Persian. You’ll see the word from bread or biscuit in native languages all over Asia.

Some more examples of how the name nankhatai came about also includes “nankahtaing” incorporated into the Burmese language and Gnanakathaa in a native Sri-Lankan language and kulcha-e-khataye in Afghanistan and North-East Iran.

The name’s origins show just how much Asia share in common with neighboring countries.

Nankhatai
Image credits: Neha Deshmukh via Unsplash

How To Make Nankhatai Cookies

As mentioned earlier, nankhatai has many variations. Some folks enjoy it with chickpea flour, and others prefer using gram flour or all-purpose flour. The options are plenty, and it leaves room for some real creative tastes.

The basic nankhatai recipe uses only a handful of ingredients and still packs a flavorful punch with every bite.

Prep time is about 45 minutes, 16 minutes to cook and a complete duration of 1 hour.

What You’ll Need To Make Your Nankhatai

  • 1 Cup of Maida
  • 1/2 Cup chickpea flour or besan
  • 2 tbsp semolina/rava (plus another tbsp extra)
  • 1/2 Powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder
  • 1/2 Cup ghee
  • 1 tbsp sliced almonds and pistachios
  • Rose petals (dried) to garnish nankhatai

Method:

Mix the Maida, Semolina and Chickpea flour. Also sieve the cardamom powder, powdered sugar and salt.

  • Add the ghee and mix it to form a dough consistency
  • Note that the dough may seem crumbly in the beginning, but as it is with cookie dough, continue to mix it until it begins to bind (don’t add extra liquid while it’s crumbly)
  •  After the dough is night and smooth, take a pinch of dough to create balls
  • Use your index finger to create an indent in the middle of the smooth balls
  • Set the balls into a baking tray lined with parchment paper
  • Add the pistachios and sliced almonds into the indent at the top of the cookie
  • Next, set the tray into the refrigerator to rest the dough for about 20 minutes

Letting the dough rest in the refrigerator allows it to keep its original shape without expanding too much during the bake.

  • Preheat an oven to 190 degrees
  • Invert a second baking pan in the oven and place the tray from the refrigerator onto it
  • Bake this for about 10 to 15 minutes
  • You’ll know your nankhatai is done when they’ve formed cracks in the middle and still look somewhat pale at the top and browned underneath
  • Set the cookies aside to cool

Nutritional Value

The nutritional value of nankhatai may vary from recipe to recipe, depending on how many ingredients you adapt to yours.

The cookies typically contains the following per serving:

  • Kilojules (energy) 215cal
  • Protein 2.6g
  • Carbohydrates 22g
  • Fibre 0.2g
  • Fat 12.9g
  • Vitamin A 110mcg
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin) 0.5mg
  • Folic acid 3.5mcg
  • Folic acid 3.5mcg
  • Calcium 7.7mg
  • Iron 0.6mg
  • Magnesium 14mg
  • Phosphorous 32mg
  • Sodium 2.3mg
  • Potassium 44mg
  • Zinc 0.2mg

Why Ghee Is A Staple In Most Asian Foods Including Nankhatai Biscuits

Ghee is nutritious and using it in food is an ideal way to get those nutrients into your diet.

  • A tablespoon of ghee = 42cal and 5g of fat.
  • Ghee contains zero sugar, protein and fiber
  • Ghee contains sources of vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin C and antioxidants

Tips To Bear In Mind When Making Your Nankhatai Biscuits

It’s all about the ghee

Ghee is one of the main ingredients for the nankhatai and being generous with the ghee for this recipe is critical. A premium store bought ghee or better yet, homemade ghee is perfect.

Flour blending

When blending the flour or combining it into the mixture, use semi-solid ghee. If you’re going to use melted entirely ghee, it could make the mixture too watery. You’re going to aim for a crumbly effect. You can get a crumb-like consistency with semi-soft ghee.

Sugar mix

Powdered sugar will make it sweet and give it a unique flavor that’s light and crumbly.

Why you shouldn’t transfer the cookies too early from the baking tray

Avoid transferring the cookies to a cooling rack as soon as they’ve come out the oven. Moving them too soon before they’ve cooled in the baking tray could result in crumbling and breaking.

Authentic flavors

In most Indu Asian cookie snacks, flavors like saffron and cardamom are common for cookies.

Adjustments to your mixture where needed

Sometimes, if you’ve used too much ghee, it can make the dough runny. If this is the case for your mixture, simply set the mixing bowl in the refrigerator. The ghee becomes a bit more solid, and this will help you form your dough once the mixture firms up a bit after refrigeration.

Vegan variations may have a different texture

If you want to make a vegan version, you could use vegan butter or coconut oil. However, the consistency of the vegan dough might not be the same since the nankhatai is heavily dependant on ghee for texture.

No oven? You can still make your nanchatai cookies

As with many Indus food and traditional cooking methods, the techniques and recipes date back centuries. Imagine that everything people ate was cooked over an open flame or other oven-like devices since ovens weren’t always around.

In the case of making the nankhatai biscuits with no oven, you can substitute the oven for a cooker. The cooker will cook the biscuits on the stove.

You can cook the treats using the cooker for 18 minutes.

Fresh essence

Instead of store-bought essence extract, you can use fresh saffron to add that authentic South Asian flavors.

Flavor dimensions with chocolate

Who doesn’t love good chocolate? You can up your take on this classic nankhatai and add an element of chocolate powder into the dough. This may change the cookies to a spicy-sweet or spicy chocolate flavor.

You Can Tell It’s Good Nankhatai

Good nankhatain has a few traits that allow you to know it turned out perfectly. These traits for an excellent nankhatai biscuit include the following:

You have the iconic “crunch” to it

Many biscuits famous in South East Asia are known for their crispiness and crunch effects. If there’s a crunch, you’re good. Furthermore, you also want to achieve the soft-melty inside, and this requires precise measuring and technical execution.

Khasta texture has to be perfect

The khasta texture or (dough texture) has to be a good mix of soft and firm but not too firm. In fact, the khasta must have a bit of that crunchy crisp to it.

Aromatic earthiness

When it comes to the flavors to tantalize your taste buds, then you know you’ve made the perfect nankhatai when the flavors are nutty and earthy.

Smoothly melting in your mouth

The nankhatai cookies are delightfully tasty, having a crunch with the bite and melting bliss processing afterwards. If you’ve managed to get this consistency correct then you know you’ve got it and should simply practice the nankhatai biscuit recipe to improve.

Flavors are magnificently rich

South-Eastern foods are never bland and even something as little as cookies packs a flavor punch. You have a winner when you’re getting those earthy, spicy flavors in the nankhatai biscuit.

Benefits Of Using Ghee In Your Nankhatai

As you know, ghee is a top ingredient in most middle and south east Asian recipes, and with good reason.

Ghee is high in fat but the good news is, it’s high in monosaturated fats (good fats) and also omega 3. Both these are essential fats that serve the body well for functions and nourishment.

FAQ

Why do nankhatai crack?

The nankhatai can crack when it is transferred from the baking tray to the cooling rack too quickly. The trick is to leave it in the baking tray and let it cool halfway through untouched. Only after it’s mostly cooled in the tray can you put them on the cooling rack to completely cool.

How long can you store nankhatai?

Nankhatai cookies can last up to 3 weeks if it is stored in a sealed container and kept in a dry place.

Can we use wheat flour to make nankhatai?

You can use wheat flour to make nankhatai biscuits.

Why has my nankhatai gone hard?

Nankhatai, like most cookies, could result in hard cookie dough when the dough is over mixed.

How long do you bake nankhatai?

You can bake nankhatai for 10 to 15 minutes in a preheated oven of 190 degrees Celsius.

Conclusion To Nankhatai

If you want to create a delicious treat for later today, you’ve come to the right place. After reading the methods and different possible nankhatai recipe, it’s safe to say that you’re looking forward to trying this version of nankhatai cookies for the family.

Share your nankhatai variation favorites.