Indian cookies and belated Diwali wishes!
Diwali has come and gone in a flurry. And as usual, I was meh about it all, because living alone, means being wrenched out of the festivity that comes with family, friends and togetherness. The kind of festivity I have known for all my life, and taken completely for granted until I moved out. So as always, I had the see-saw tug in my heart, the to-do-or-not-to-do feeling, being torn between wanting to do something, but never quite knowing what. How. Or with whom.
This year was no different, until precisely 24 hours before. When all of a sudden I decided that for the first time in three years I was free from work, and actually have people to celebrate with, and I mustn’t pass up the opportunity. So I pushed myself into overdrive and decided I must do something festive. Of course, in my world that begins with cleaning up. So an entire morning was spent in turning things upside down, rearranging them, getting into the nooks and crannies that lie ignored for months on end. Then the lights went up, the desi touch was added and of course something sweet had to be made.
I had bookmarked this recipe for an Indian take on a cookie long before I even bought my oven, because just reading about it made the aroma of saffron, nuts and ghee waft through my mind, and I was flooded with memories of rushing to a local Iyengar bakery at 4 pm in the evening, just to catch the fresh batch of nankatais, sponge loaves, and cupcakes.
Diwali seemed like a fitting occasion to make these. Sweet, saffron-infused, with nuts and ghee, it was desi enough, and yet they veer ever so slightly from the regular mithais that we are already ODing on around this time of year. Since I had left all my Diwali-related zest and enthusiasm to kick in so late in the day, I didn’t have the time to go out and shop for everything I needed. So I decided to improvise and make do with almonds instead of pistachios. And it worked out just fine.
I hope your Diwali was as festive as you hoped it would be. I hope you gorged on sweets and snacks. I hope you went all out and celebrated the new year in style. And if you’re suffering a Diwali hangover and want something to allay the withdrawal symptoms, this might just be the best thing.
What I used (adapted very slightly from Anushruthi’s recipe)
1/4 tsp saffron strands
2 tsp milk warmed slightly
6 cardamom pods
3 tablespoons slivered almonds, chopped roughly
1.5 cups flour (I used whole wheat, as usual, and even though it dulled the saffron colour, they tasted fabulously wholesome)
1/2 cup castor sugar
1/2 cup ghee (I used fresh homemade ghee and I think this made all the difference)
A few drops of milk to bind the dough (only if required)
How I made them
I warmed the milk just slightly, in the microwave and dropped the saffron into it. I let it sit for a while before I gently crushed the strands into the milk, until the milk turned a deep yellow.
Next, using my mortar and pestle I crushed the cardamom and nutmeg to a coarse dust and set it aside.I then chopped up the almonds, which was easy to do since they were already slivered and brittle.In a mixing bowl, I measured out the ghee and added the castor sugar to it. I would have loved to use cane sugar here, but in a pinch I had to make do with regular refined sugar. The travails of being unprepared! However, I am tempted to try this with jaggery next time I repeat this!Then, I poured in the saffron infused milk and the crushed cardamom and nutmeg. Tipping the flour in next, I mixed it all up.Using my hands, I kneaded it all together to make a tight-ish ball. At this point, I added a few tablespoons of milk to help it bring better. Since the dough is heavy on ghee, it might feel strange to knead by hand, but you just need to get it all together, without worrying about kneading it like bread dough.I set it aside to rest and preheated the oven to 170 degrees C, for 15-20 minutes.
Then, I halved the dough and rolled it out evenly, without worrying too much about the shape. I then sprinkled the almond crumbled almonds all over and gently rolled over them to embed the almonds into the dough slightly.Next, with my cookie mould, I cut the cookies out and assembled them on a lined (with parchment paper) baking tray.Since the cookies don’t swell or expand too much, I was able to place them fairly close. When the tray was filled, I baked them for for 15 minutes. The cookies began to be done at around the 13th minute and next time I will pull them out a touch sooner, but this is what they looked like when done. Slightly overdone and browned on the sides.I cooled them completely, and did not succeed in controlling the urges to bite into them. They smelt divine, and brought home all the Diwali-associated fragrances into my kitchen that afternoon. I couldn’t help myself.I packed them away in an air tight container, and I suspect they will be consumed sooner than I can test how long they can keep.