Withered Pride

I very proudly walked into the India Dukaan one evening to get a few ingredients, and casually let drop that I had just made a batch of Nan Khatai, a very delicate and not-too-sweet Indian shortbread cookie.

I go often to the dukaan (Hindi for shop) for ingredients, not only because they have all the Indian ingredients I need, but because the staff is the best ever.

If you need a traditional recipe, they can help you. I have gotten so much assistance from them - much like we get from teachers - that I wanted to go in, brag a little, and have them be proud of me for my success.

"How did you make them?" The owner asked. I repeated all the steps and ingredients, and all was going well… until I mentioned nutmeg. He practically laughed and said, "No, there is no nutmeg in Nan Khatai."

He proceeded to walk me to the cookie aisle with maybe a half dozen different brands of ready-made Nan Khatai. We looked at the ingredients on each package. Like mine, all of them had cardamom, but no nutmeg.

It had me questioning the source of the recipe. Let's just call it "The Internet." I neglected to do my usual research of looking at 5-7 different recipes for the same dish before feeling that I had located a truly authentic recipe.

My guess is that the one I originally found was made by someone who's mother or grandmother made them for her, and (just for fun, or to be perverse) she added nutmeg.

Well, here now is the traditional recipe for Nan Khatai, without the offending spice. My tarnished pride is restored.

~ David

Nan Khatai

1 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons semolina flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt
1/2 cup ghee or butter at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder
milk, if needed
chopped pistachios, for garnishing

Whisk together the flour, semolina, baking soda, and a pinch of salt in a medium mixing bowl.

In a large bowl, cream the ghee and sugar with a hand-held mixer. The mixture should become smooth, light, and creamy. Add the cardamom and beat again.

Add the dry ingredients and gently knead to make a smooth dough. If the dough looks dry, add a little milk while kneading.

Divide dough into 16 pieces. Roll each piece evenly in your palms. Slightly flatten them – they should still keep some of their spherical shape. Press a few pieces of pistachio gently on the tops of each. Place the cookies in a baking tray, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F while cookies are chilling. Bake cookies for 10-15 minutes till they are lightly golden. Remove and place them on wire racks.

When cooled, store the nan khatai in an airtight container.

Makes 16.

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