I have just finished unpacking the last of bags from a month long trip to Delhi. The household is slowly settling to routine, the little one is back to her usual sleep schedule and yesterday I could manage a batch of these cookies while she napped.
Tea time in India is special, though not british like,but in its own way. From gossip sessions with the neighbor to prepping for exams the next day or just as a way to relax, the ubiquitous chaishadows each and every aspect of day today indian life. Something said to taste better with company, chai is usually served with piping hot fritters, indian trail mixes or cookies (better called biscuits).
I grew up sipping overly milky, cloyingly sweet and richly spiced chai, something which I kind of got addicted to over years. Morning tea was accompanied by rusks but in the evening, while everybody liked their chai with samosas,I dunk those salty-sweet jeera biscuits which mom got every now and then from a bakery near home.
Bakery biscuits back home are quite a thing, they taste different from the usual packaged cookies you get in the grocery stores, they look rustic, taste homely and make you feel gluttony. I guess thats the whole point there, its the non- consistent taste and look that makes them so special. Unlike fancy ingredients like chocolate chips or vanilla (yes), they are loaded with nuts, whole wheat flours and loads and loads of ghee.
I am not much of a cookie person but I m partial towards these. These biscuits are more salty than sweet (which is what I like about them),crumbly thanks to copious amount of butter and the warm,woody aroma of the cumin seeds scattered in the dough is what makes them so whimsical.
Honestly, I prefer these cookies slightly over baked, when they are more crunchy than crumbly but that’s just me, the original ones which you get in India are chewy in the center even when baked through.It took me a quite a lot of attempts to scribble this recipe, hope you like it.
Ingredientes (Makes 25-30 cookies)
1.5 cups All purpose flour
1/4 cup fine semolina
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 stick (8 tbsp) cold unsalted butter, diced into cubes
3 tbsp any neutral oil
3-6 tbsp cold milk (just so that the dough comes together)
In a bowl, mix flour, semolina, sugar, salt, baking powder & soda together. Sift once. Dump the sifted flour mix in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add the cumin seeds & cold butter cubes. Pulse for a minute or so till the butter becomes pea sized.
Remove the metal blade and fit the dough blade into the jar.Add the oil.Start the processor and add cold milk 1 tbsp at a time till the dough just comes together.Stop.The dough might be slightly sticky but thats okay.
Scoop out the dough, bring it together, don’t knead and divide into two equal portions. Form logs with each portion. Wrap the logs in a parchment sheets or plastic cling films. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes till firm and ready to be cut into slices.
Preheat oven to 325F/ 165C. Line cookies sheet with parchment/ wax paper. You might need 2 baking sheets or you can bake them in two batches.
While the oven is preheating, take out the cold dough logs and using a sharp,serrated knife, cut cookies about 1/4″ thick. Try to cut as uniform size as possible. Do not cut very thick slices else cookies will be raw while baking.
Arrange the cookies on the sheet about 2″ apart. Bake in the preheated oven for 18-22 minutes till the cookie bases start turning brown and the top changes color. I personally like my cookies slightly overdone so I baked them for few extra minutes.
Let cool on the sheet before storing them in air tight containers for up to 2 weeks. Serve with hot chai.
I find P rave about those coconut cookies from his hometown quite often.The discussion comes up mostly on weekends when we have the time to sit together for morning tea. There must be something about them, I often thought to myself. More than the fancy taste, it could be the fact that his mom got them from a bakery near her workplace – making it so special for him.
I took the discussion a little further & asked him last week- after all whats so special about them? Fluffy inside, crispy outside, overly sweet but something with perfect balance of textures – a cookie which leaves behind a ghee laden,chewy coconut taste in the mouth – his prompt reply made me wonder if he waited all the while to be asked.
I knew what was baking for next few weeks. First few batches were extremely dry, I almost burnt the bottom each time & obviously the ratios went haywire. I felt extremely uninspired to try more.Well, what can terribly go wrong with loads of ghee (clarified butter),coconut & sugar? A question I asked myself all the while – however when the ingredients are few, getting the right outcome is much more difficult.
I greeted P with (yet) another batch this weekend.They came out like a small bundle of festivity.Utterly moist & chewy – that is how I imagined these cookies.These were just like it. Now, I need to dig further about what else reminds of his hometown. Clearly,our weekend tea rituals will need new topic of discussion now on.
Coconut & sweet smelling cardamom are clearly the star here – the ingredients make these cookies enchantingly indian. If you are nuts about coconut (like me & P) – then you need to try these. I started mixing the recipe with pure gut – I ram the mortar till skin separates & I sniff the cardamom pods. I mix the resulting powder with flour till my fingers smell awesome, I play with flour & sugar, I add ghee to the dough till I feet it is just enough. The whiff of air that sways through the kitchen right from when the coconut toasts to when the baking tray comes out of the oven- the challenge came out perfect.Impatiently, I waited them to cool off, I tasted one & I knew it – this is the ticket!
The recipe is real easy & despite a lot of room for error, it runs good in the oven. I always make small batches of 15-18 which are enough for two of us. The best part about the recipe – just five ingredients. Quality of ingredients plays a huge role thereby, try using the best.
Makes 15-18 cookies
1 cup dried dessicated coconut, unsweetened
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar (or castor sugar)
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
1/8 tsp fine salt
6-8 tbsp ghee, melted (or unsalted butter)
Dry roast the coconut flakes on extremely low heat for about 3-4 minutes or till you start smelling the aroma, taking care that flakes do not turn brown.Transfer to a plate & let cool.
In a medium bowl, sift the flour, salt & powdered sugar to remove all lumps. Combine cardamom powder with the sifted flour mix. Mix the coconut flakes to flour next and rub the mixture with fingers to combine everything together.
Start adding the melted ghee 1 tbsp at a time and gently kneading the dough till you get a soft & pliable dough. Do not knead too much, just until everything is combined.
Note:- You may increase/decrease the ghee by a tbsp or more if your mixture is loose/crumbly, the idea is to just use ghee to form the dough.
The dough will be slightly sticky. Wrap the dough in a cling film and refrigerate for 10-15 minutes or until firm.
Line your cookie sheet with parchment paper.Take out the refrigerated dough and knead it 2-3 times. Pinch 15-18 equal portions of the dough. Roll each portion between your palms into a smooth ball with no cracks.Line the balls on the parchment paper. Press lightly with the back of fork . Line on the cookie sheet with atleast 2″ space between them. Refrigerate again for 10 minutes.Meanwhile Preheat oven to 300F.
Bake on the middle rack for 18-20 minutes keeping a close eye, these cookies should not change color while baking.Once you see the bottoms turning brown, remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes on the sheet itself.Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.Store in an air tight container at room temperature for upto 3 weeks.
For someone like me who is not a big fan of chocolate,baking with fruits is one of the most favorite things.It gives a perfect opportunity to experiment recipes with fruits & relish the results.Baking with fruits always overwhelms me, the way the flesh, natural oils and sweetness transform inside the oven is intriguing.Take for example an apple, the texture before and after baking is completely different and good in its own way..while the fresh one is juicy & crunchy, baked is dense & succulent.
Me and P adore fruits & try to include them as much as possible meals.With temperatures already soaring in Vegas,fruit based recipes are absolutely delightful.I saw really gorgeous stone fruits at the grocery store a week back.There is something about pink/plum/red colors – they catch my eye from far away and seem to call my name.I rushed towards them.There lay boxes of fleshy,bright-colored peaches, nectarines & apricots in front of my eyes,each trying to catch my attention.Helpless at being able to choose, I bought all of them – all in the name of health foods! Gnawing my teeth into fleshy stone fruit is super exciting.The rush of juices between the teeth & the texture from the flesh add a refreshing dimension to my dull, lazy days.Eating fruits heals me psychologically, it’s comforting to feel the intake of antioxidants the most natural way possible.
Our tastes in fruits match to the extent that we LOVE them but differ in the kind of fruit.While he is a tropical fruit fiend, I swear by berries & stone fruits.The moment,I picked up the first apricot,Oh what a pink blushing beauty it was outside.I pitted it knew that I had to make something to showcase inside-oozing with juices, accurately tart & with golden-colored flesh, just waiting to be baked!
Started my google search and found this perfect recipe from Good houseKeeping of an apricot cornmeal upside down cake.It has very less quantity of oil.And one of my favorite ingredients to bake with – buttermilk! I was slightly apprehensive because I had never baked with cornmeal what if we don’t like the taste or it doesnt rise much or is dry? It was painful to think about a 8″ cake making its way into the bin.But then, unless I took a leap, I would not have discovered the delight of baking with cornmeal.We totally loved it.It was moist, perfectly sweet & very homey looking.The slight tang from the buttermilk complemented the sweetish tartness of apricots very well.A perfect cake for summertime get togethers. Below goes the recipe:-
For the Strawberry Cupcakes [Makes about 18 cupcakes]
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 sticks unsalted butter[ at room temperature]
3/4 cup pureed strawberries [frozen/fresh]
4 large egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup milk
1-2 drops of red/pink food color depending on how pink you want your cupcakes
For the Chocolate Frosting
2.5 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 tbsp of milk or as required to thin out the frosting.
[For the Cupcakes]
Preheat oven to 350 F.Line your cupcakes pan with cases or grease thoroughly.
I like to strain out the pureed strawberries through a sieve once.You can skip this step if you do not want to.
In a medium bowl sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the softened butter with the pureed strawberry until mixed.
Add the flour mix to the butter mix and blend until fluffy.The batter will be thick
In another bowl,beat egg whites, milk, vanilla extract and food color until light and fluffy.
Fold in the whisked egg whites into the batter, divided.Keep mixing gently until whole of it is incorporated.D
Using your cookie/ice-cream scoop, fill the cupcake pan about 3/4 full.
Bake 18 – 22 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.Mine took 20 minutes.
Transfer the cupcakes to the rack for cooling.Let cool completely before frosting
Sour Cream Chocolate Frosting
On a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips.Mix the vanilla extract and let them cool to room temperature.Cream softened butter and sour cream until well blended.Blend in melted and cooled chocolate chips until smooth.Add confectioner’s sugar and beat well.Add a teaspoon of milk at a time until desired, spreadable consistency is reached.
In a medium bowl, sift flour,baking soda & powder, salt.Set aside
In a larger bowl,cream the butter & sugar thoroughly untill fluffy.To this add the lime juice & vanilla and beat until combined.
To the butter sugar mix, add the flour mix and gently combine with a spatula to bring together into a dough.You might need to add a tbsp or more of milk at this stage if required to make a soft dough.
Divide the dough into 2 small balls.Take a piece of plastic cling film, put the dough balls on it and flatten with palm to make a disc.Wrap the discs with plastic cling film.Repeat the same with 2nd dough ball.Chill both discs for about 30 minutes.
Line your cookie sheet with parchment paper.Avoid using aluminium foil as the extreme heating up will burn the cookies from bottom.
After chilling, take one disc out, unwrap it and place it between two sheets of parchment paper. Initially, you may find it little difficult to roll because of the chilled dough.It will soften as you go along.
Roll the disc using a floured rolling-pin into a sheet about 1/4″ thk.
Using a floured cookie cutter cut the cookies from the rolled dough.
Using a floured thin spatula, transfer the cookies to the lined cookie sheet.Note: Picking up the cookies with fingers will deshape them.
Preheat the oven to 350F
Chill the cut cookies again for 15 minutes.
Once chilled, bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until the sides start turning brown.
Cool completely on a cooling rack.
Tip in the blueberries, water and sugar to a small sauce pan.Cook it on low heat until the blueberries are soft and mushy.Transfer to a blender.Blend on high to form a puree.Dissolve cornstarch into lemon juice.Transfer the puree to sauce pan again and add cornstarch mix.Cook on very low heat for about 5-8 minutes until you get a thick paste.Cool completely before adding to the cream.
Blueberry Cream Filling:
Make the filling by beating the cream cheese & butter with an electric mixer. Mix in powdered sugar until smooth.Add 2 tbsp of the cooled blueberry paste above to make a smooth mix.
Pipe or spread 1-2 tablespoons of blueberry filling in the center of a cookie. Top with a second cookie and press together until the filling reaches the edges of the cookies.Store in an air tight box for up to 3 days.
Use any kind of berries or fruits to make the filling.The recipe remains the same.
I have mentioned the baking times on my oven.Since all ovens are different, please adjust the times as per your appliance.
You will need to adjust lime juice if your berries are really tart.
A reader successfully tried this cake.You can see the link here.Thank you so much for trying out.
Tuesday,8th March is our wedding anniversay.I wanted to make something to refresh memories of Pune,a bustling metropolis near Mumbai,India.I couldn’t think of anything else but Mava cake, a unique speciality from Pune/Mumbai bakeries to recapture the moments we spent there.City of Pune has always been special,it is the city from where my career took off with first job and then I met P there for the first time 7 years back.Also referred to as the “Oxford of the East”, Pune is a youthful city with pleasant weather all round the year and attracts a lot of foreign students.I lived in Pune for almost 2 years, and while I was there I got a chance to enjoy the cultural heritage of the city.Due to presence of Osho Ashram ,Pune is a haven for foreign tourists who come here to seek relaxation through meditation and simple, natural living.
The influence of cosmopolitan elements is quite explicit in the city’s culture and lifestyle.Thanks to influx of foreigners, the city has a plethora of world cuisine restaurants and bakeries to choose from. My two favorite bakeries from the city were Kayani Bakery on MG Road and German Bakery in Koregaon Park[den of the Osho Ashram]. A visit to German Bakery and you won’t feel you are in India.I usually frequented there to catch up with friends over Masala Chai.The place has less of a bakery feel but its more like a mini eatery serving some of the best cheese sandwiches, toasts and burgers.One of the highlight was that except for chai they don’t serve any indian food.
Anyhow, since we are talking Mava cakes here, I want to focus on Kayani Bakery, a reminiscent of Irani/Parsi Cafés specializing in some of the best milk cakes and biscuits [cookies].Wiki tells me that these Iranian cafés were first opened by Persian travellers to India in the 19th century.Iranian cafés used to be numerous and popular but competition from modern cafés and fast food restaurants have left them behind.One of the most popular eating places is the 102-year-old Kayani Café, a heritage landmark in south Mumbai.Though I m not sure but I think from the similarities between the setting and menu of both places that Kayani Bakery in Pune is an offshoot of the same legacy.The bakery is very ordinary looking, always packed with people, with crowds thronging to queue up as early as 6 or 7 in the morning to get their daily quota of fresh baked goodies. The bakery opens at 8 and by noon, they are out of most of their stuff.I have had the best and most unusual biscuits [cookies] and cakes of my life here.To name a few, if you get a chance to visit, you should not come back without Shrewsbury biscuits and wine [yes] biscuits.
The mention of Kayani bakery is incomplete without mention of Mava cake.Infact, mava cakes have been their shot to fame.A no-frill, milky cake, made with flour, eggs, butter, sugar, cardamom and mava.Mava or Khoya is nothing but solidified milk, quite comparable to ricotta but less moist.It is used in making most of the indian sweets and desserts. You take one bite of the mava cake and you can discern that unique flavor-dense,scrumptious and milky.It is difficult to describe the luscious mava tingling on your taste buds,the delectable lively aroma of sweet-smelling cardamom complete with a delightful sensation of the dense texture rendered by baked flour and butter.It a feeling you want to prolong.You want to take bite, sit back and enjoy without dunking it down with coffee or tea.Trust me it would be a sacrilege if you want to wash down the cake with a beverage.If you must, couple it with hot milk, it doubles the warmth. Mava cakes from Kayani Bakery are superb, unique, matchless, delicious – the best and freshest milky cake in the world.If you are looking for a fluffy, light cake, this cake is not for you.It is the dense and heavy texture along with exotic taste that leaves you with a full feeling when you eat it.
When I told P abt mava cake, I dont know from where he came up with this idea and suggested a twist with pistachios and saffron.He is totally saffron loving person but in this cake saffron did wonders.It made us feel at home 🙂 However, the authentic version is made with almonds/cashews and cardamom.You can replace these if you feel.I saw a lot of recipes on the internet, but I settled for this recipe from one of my favorite blogs, Tartelette.I used her cake recipe with my additions.For the mava, I used my own proportions.Though I stuck to using evaporated milk and cream for making mava as done by Helen, you can use whole milk to make it too.I do it many a times and there is not much of a difference in taste.But working with whole milk will take little more time to make mava.Below goes the recipe:
Ingredients [Makes 3 mini cakes of the size shown]
For the Mava/Khoya [Yield 1 cup ]
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cup evaporated full fat milk
For the Mini cakes [Makes 3 mini cakes of the size shown]
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder [use aluminium free]
1/2 tsp green cardamom powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup mava, softened at room temperature
7 tbsp unsalted butter,softened
1 cup white granulated sugar
6 tbsp whole milk
2 tsp saffron threads
1/2 cup fine chopped unsalted pistachios for mixing in cake batter
1/4 cup chopped unsalted pistachios for topping.
Mava making is basically a process involving low heat cooking of whole milk and/or cream till the moisture content of the milk is reduced and it becomes paste like.Once it is cooked for such a long time,the remaining milk solids and fats in the milk take a butterscotch/caramel color.This paste is then poured into moulds and cooled.Once cooled, mava can be cubed using a sharp knife or crumbled with fingers. First important thing to note while making mava at home is that you have to check on the mix quite regularly, scrape it down the sides and prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot.Second being that the last few minutes in the process are very important, because the paste can turn into a dry crumble within second so keep a watch. I recommend that if you plan to make this cake, prepare mava a day or two in advance because mava making takes about 1-1.5 hours alone and cooling time is separate.Mava can be refrigerated for up to 4-5 days and frozen for 1-2 months without losing taste and freshness.
Making Mava at home:
In a heavy bottomed, wide-mouthed and preferably non stick pan, pour in both evaporated milk and heavy cream.A non stick pan helps to avoid the milk & cream from getting burnt and sticking to bottom while cooking.Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.About 10 minutes.Once boiled, reduce the heat to medium on your burner. Cook with continuous stirring for about 15 minutes.The milk mix will start changing color slightly and start to thicken.At ths point,turn the heat to low on your stove and let cook with occasional cooking.The milk will keep on thickening and start turning into a sauce like consistency.Another 20 minutes.You have to stir the mix continuously now and scrape from the sides. At the end of 20 minutes, the mixture starts looking like a smooth caramel colored sauce.In some cases, it can turn grainy too.Continue cooking on low heat for another 10-15 minutes with continuous stirring.Cook down till there is very little moisture left in the mixture and its pasty, smooth and little shiny due to fats in the cream.At this point remove from heat.
What I do is to immediately measure out 1/2 cup paste and pour it into individual bowl.Such pre measured bowl are easy to use anytime.Just run a sharp knife all around the bowl.and unmould.Let the paste in the bowls cool down, cover with cling film and refrigerate. The whole process took me about 1.5 hours with the quantities I have mentioned.
Note: You can also get Mava/khoya at any of the indian stores easily.It can be used to make this cake.You will just need to measure out, soften it a bit in a pot on low heat for 5 minutes and use.
Night before: Let the butter, eggs and mava sit on the kitchen countertop to come to a room temperature.
Preparing before cake making :Preheat the oven to 350F.Grease thoroughly the sides of whatever baking pan, cupcake pan, spring foam pan you are using for making these cakes.
Heat up the milk for 20 seconds in microwave to luke warm.Add saffron strands to the milk and let dissolve.
Mix flour, salt, baking powder, cardamom powder thoroughly and set aside.
Making the cake: In a large mixing bowl, on medium speed beat the butter with softened mava and sugar until creamy and light brown in color.About 3 minutes.
Once creamy , add the eggs, one at a time and beat to combine well.About 2 minutes.
Next add the milk + saffron mixture and blend well on low-speed until a smooth mixture is formed.About 1 minute.
Add the flour mixture all at once to the wet ingredients and beat well on medium speed to make a smooth, creamy batter.About 2 minutes.
Fold in the fine chopped pistachios in the batter.
Divide the cake batter evenly into the pan to leaving some room for rising and top with more chopped pistachios.
Bake in oven for 22-25 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. Mine took 24 minutes exact.
Once baked, remove from oven, let sit for 10 minutes to cool and then unmould.
Let cool completely before slicing.
The quality of mava plays and important role in the texture of this cake.Generally, the store bought mava has less oil content so if using one u ll need to adjust the amount of butter so that the cake does not turn dry.I recommend making mava at home to best use the proportions given above.
The cake sits fresh for upto two days unrefrigerated.
Any kind of nuts : almonds, cashews etc can be used in place of pistachios.
This recipe was featured on 100 ways to use Strawberries at Endless Simmer.
Another reader successfully tried this recipe.See here.The blog is in a non-english language so I could not read it but the picture says it all.Thank you LILLA!
These cookies were tried by 3 people I know of who came back and told me about their experience.I m linking them hereandhere. One of the bakers, Mindy commented on the post herself that they turned out good for her. But for Rachelle, it didnt work out fine.I am adding these feedbacks to help those people who want to try out this recipe.Thanks everyone.Your suggestions are always welcome.
What I need: [Makes 22 cookies of the size shown][updated]
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tbsp unsalted butter [softened]
7 tbsp granulated white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp baking powder [use aluminium free]
pinch of salt
3 tbsp thick crushed fresh strawberry mix [homemade by crushing strawberries with 1 tsp of milk [if required]+2 drops of red food color] [the quantity of strawberry mix will vary depending upon the consistency,please be judgemental]
Nutella [for filling]
How I did it:
Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together in a bowl.Set aside.
In another bowl, cream the softened butter and sugar using a hand-held mixer for about 4 minutes.
Add the vanilla extract and crushed strawberry to the bowl and combine well with the butter mixture using a whisk.
Fold in the flour mixture with the butter mixture gently to form a dough.The dough will be soft and a little sticky but not loose.Do not over mix. You might need to oil your hands and bring the dough together.
Once combined, cover the dough with a plastic cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C.
Line your cookie sheet with a parchment paper.
Take out the refrigerated dough,lightly oil your palms and make small balls with it.Put the balls on the cookies sheet and press down slightly to flatten out.
With the help of your thumb or back of a tea-spoon make a small hole in the middle of the cookies where u ll fill the nutella after baking.
If at this point you feel that the butter in the cookies is melting, refrigerate again for about 15 minutes.
Bake the cookies in the oven for about 8-12 minutes or untill the bottom starts turning brown. Mine took 10 minutes exact.Do not bake them beyond 12 mins.These will continue to cook after you take them out of the oven.
Take out the cookie sheet from the oven and using the teaspoon again press out the hole in the cookies.You will not be able to do this after the cookies have cooled.
Once the cookies have cooled, fill in the nutella in the little holes in the cookies.
Serve with cold milk.
I have adjusted these from a basic recipe here .Notes:
The consistency of strawberry mix is of real importance.Make a thick, almost paste like mix in your processor/blender.If some bits remain, it does not matter but the mix should not be runny or watery.
The color of cookies/dough can differ depending on how red your strawberries are.I chopped off the white portions and used red part only.
I made my cookies less sweet because with nutella filling they could be very overwhelming.
The dough can be slightly difficult to work with,but refrigerate and it will be manageable.
Since every oven is different, the time of baking may vary from appliance to appliance.
You can fill in the cookies with any jam or melted chocolate chips too.