Timeless goodies

Talk about cookies, and all the classic cookie brands will come to your mind. Chocolate cookies, flavoured cookies with a layer of cream or jam in-between them, sugar sprinkled cookies, so on and so forth. It isn’t surprising that some of us, who used to love our old-style basic atta biscuits, tend to forget about them completely when shopping at a departmental store.

Back home in Surat, we love to eat our dry and crumbly biscuits that are light to digest called Nankhatai. We get them from our local Parsi bakery called Dotivala Bakers. My mum usually gifts a box of them to our family members living outside Gujarat. It’s a heart-warming feeling to enter the Parsi bakery and see the hardworking boys packing fresh breads and biscuits for their customers. The bakery is simple and clean with a quick service, and now you know why Dotivala is iconic and has history behind them. Ever since I got married and settled outside the state, I have been getting a box of it once or twice a year, thanks to my mum’s endless love.

When my husband was a kid, my mother-in-law got atta biscuits from a local baker in Hisar, Haryana. “We handed over some atta, ghee and sugar to the baker in a peepa (a huge square-shaped steel container),” she says. My husband loves them so much so that whenever I visit my mother-in-law’s place, she keeps a fresh batch of atta biscuits ready for him. You must’ve guessed by now that I’m from Gujarat and my husband is from Haryana, dear readers.

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When I visited Daryaganj in Delhi, three years ago, I saw a local hawker selling hot batches of baked cookies. I was there at the Sunday Book Market, and after buying some books, I hopped on near the cart. The man who was selling it had his own coal kadai on the cart. His biscuits were flaky and of a perfect mouthful size. I was fascinated to see this. It’s a pity our lavish lifestyles don’t allow us to see such street bakers in our urban localities.

That reminds me, I have to buy a tandoor that my mum uses to make baati. It’s a marwadi dish, made with wheat flour and served with dal. I could make atta cookies in a tandoor, just like the cart wala, right? Another must-buy item for my weekend shopping list. Hope you’re reading this, dear husband. INA Market would be the perfect place to buy it!

When I came back to Gurgaon from my early morning Delhi trip, all I wanted to do was bake some cookies in my Morphy Richards OTG.  And guess what? I ended up burning most of them. What was my lesson? The key to well-cooked biscuits is the time you set to bake them. It took exactly eight minutes to bake my atta biscuits, and during this time, I had to keep a check on them. What I made didn’t taste anywhere close to what the local baker in Delhi or what the Dotivala guys are known for. But the reward was satisfactory.

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Recipe: Atte ke Biscuit or Whole-Wheat Shortbread Cookies

In a bowl, mix together a cup of whole wheat flour, half a cup of granulated sugar (you can also use desi khaand), a teaspoon of cardamom powder, and a quarter cup of ghee. Try not to over-mix it. I also added a spoon of ground almond powder.

Take a baking tray and grease and powder it a bit with a sprinkle of flour. Take a spoonful of our mixture and spread it like in a round shape. It’d be best if you use those cookie cutters, but I had none at that moment. Garnish them with sliced almonds.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven. Bake these biscuits for about 6-8 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius.

Note: Open the oven and check the cookies after five minutes. It’s easy to get a golden glow on the top but the crust can burn in seconds. So, start with a small batch of cookies. Once you know what works with your oven, try another batch accordingly.

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