Thursday, November 29, 2007


My Aai made nankatai quite often (it definitely is nankatai and not nankhatai at least for us). Technically she didn't bake them, rather they were baked for us by a local bakery. We provided the raw material in the correct amounts (sometime even the prepared dough) and they did the rest. This happy errand was always mine. After handing over the ingredients/ dough, the clever thing to do was to arrive at the bakery a few minutes ahead of the pickup time. As more often than not, the baker would offer something right out of the oven. It could be a waati-cake (literally cake baked in a katori), a plain bun, or a khari biscuit. Bliss!

Since Aai's nankatai was made with Dalda (as was the nankatai made by my mother-in-law), I never thought of making nankatai any other way.
Recently I tasted nankatai made using butter. What a difference! It was so decadent.
The difference was not only in the taste, but in the texture as well. The vegetable shortening nankatai seemed much lighter and finer in texture than it's makhan counterpart.

Shortening is not the healthiest thing to use, but I don't worry about that too much as I make nankatai just a couple of times a year. Also, this is the only thing I prepare using vegetable shortening.

I especially like the texture of the vegetable shortening nankatai because of the associated childhood food memories and so continue to make it that way.
Though the the shortening contributes to the texture and general appearance, it does very little in the flavour department. Nothing a pinch of keshar and elaichi cannot fix. For even more flavour, I add some powdered almonds.

My kids just absolutely love this nankatai. Even more than chocolate-chip cookies, so that is saying something. It makes me happy to share my childhood foods and the memories that go with them. To see them enjoy such foods while (hopefully) forming memories of their own makes me uncharacteristically sappy!

1 cup sugar
1 stick (1 cup) vegetable shortening (I usually use Crisco)
a pinch of saffron, soaked in a little water
elaichi powder, to taste
3-4 tbsp ground almonds (optional)
1 ½-2 cups all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350F.
Grease a cookie sheet and set aside.
Cream together the shortening and sugar till the mixture is light and fluffy. A hand mixer works best for this task.
Add the saffron, elaichi, and almonds if using.
Add &frac12 cup all purpose flour. Using your hands knead this dough slightly.
Add more flour as you go along. You want a dough that is soft, moist, and smooth. Do not add more than 2½ times the quantity of the shortening used.
Use your finger tips to pull off a piece of the dough, or you could use a melon-baller. Roll in between your palms to form a ball.
Place the cookies on the sheet, about 2 inches apart. Sometimes I press each cookie with the tines of a fork.
Bake for about 15 minutes (oven times may vary).
After 10 minutes, keep a close eye on the cookie.
Take them out of the oven at the first sign of any browning around the edges.
Let them cool slightly before using letting anyone steal them for taste-testing purposes.

A generous batch of the nankatai goes to Suganya's Vegan Ventures .
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