The house smells amazing! There are cookies being baked, coconut candy being stirred, murukkus being fried, mutton curry simmering over the stove top, fresh flowers being arranged and oil lamps being lit. Yup, Deepavali is just the corner!
Known as the Hindu Festival of Lights, Deepavali, or Diwali, is a celebration of good over evil and light over darkness. There are many beliefs behind this celebration, with some attributing this day to honoring the return of Lord Rama from his exile upon vanquishing the demon Ravana, or the union of Lord Vishnu and Lakshmi, among others. Whichever it is, it is a time for family and friends, for food and for merry-making. It’s glorious!
This year, as part of our contribution to the family’s Deepavali cookie stash, we decided to jazz up the classic Nan Khatai, or eggless Indian shortbread cookies. Cardamom and orange blossom add fresh, sweet twist to these bite-sized pale, flaky, buttery goodness, while flecks of orange zest makes them look oh, so pretty. Can you say #meltinyourmouth?
It’s Deepavali, so let’s feast!
- 1 cup + 2 tbsp all purpose flour, sifted
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
- 1/2 cup room temperature ghee [clarified butter]
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp orange blossom water
- 6 cardamom pods, shells removed and seeds crushed to coarse powder
- Zest of 1 medium orange
- Pinch of salt
- Cream the ghee and sugar for 3 to 4 minutes on medium speed, until the mixture turns pale and fluffy,
- Quickly fold in the orange zest, orange blossom water and cardamom.
- Fold in the salt, baking soda into the ghee mixture and, adding a little flour at a time (reserving the 2 tbsp flour), start lightly kneading the mixture with your fingertips until it forms a dough. If the mixture is too wet, add the reserved flour, starting with just 1 tbsp.
- Roll the dough into a log and cut into equal-sized pieces, about 18 - 24. Roll each piece into a ball and flatten to 1cm-thick discs with your palm [Alternately you could roll out the dough and use a cookie cutter]. Use a knife to score an 'x' on each piece.
- Chill the cookies for at least an hour.
- Preheat the airfryer to 160°C and bake the cookies in batches for 8 minutes per batch. This cookies are meant to come out a shy yet beautifully even pale yellow hue, like creamed butter. You could, of course, always allow an extra minute baking if you really can't have anything other than golden cookies with your tea.
You can use fine granulated or caster sugar in place of powdered, which will result in biscuits which are slightly crunchier but just as delicious. For a richer taste, you can always substitute the ghee with unsalted butter.
We used the airfryer for this one, although this is one of those rare times when we feel the conventional oven may be better suited for the task, albeit with a slightly longer baking time. But if you are using the airfryer, don’t fret. The nan khatai dough really is very delicate, and so just take care to weigh down the corners of the baking paper with baking stones or something, so that the circulating air does not cause the corners of the baking paper to rise and press the dough, resulting in oddly-shaped cookies. Still great for eating but not for presentation.
As these little babies are quite sweet, pair them with some black tea, like Ceylon, or blend which incorporates orange. Just dunk the cookies in and bite. Afternoons to remember, really.