Growing up in Kenya, my mom would often make Indian shortbread cookies. They were our favourite. In fact, I did not know there was something called the English shortbread cookie till I was almost a teenager. A family friend travelled to the UK and brought some English shortbread back for us. I fell in love with it, but whenever I want the comfort of my childhood, I go back to the making and having the Indian shortbread. This recipe is inspired by my moms traditional naankhatai recipe.
Indian shortbread is traditionally made with all purpose flour, and has very few other ingredients. Since my shortbread is gluten free, I use 1 cup of gluten free flour in place of the regular all purpose flour. I prefer to make my own gluten free flour by combining 3/4 cups of brown rice flour and 1/4 cup of tapioca flour. But, you can use store bought gluten free flour if you prefer.
In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of the gluten free flour, 1/2 cup chick pea flour, 2 tablespoons of corn meal, 1 teaspoon of cardamom powder and a pinch of salt. Sift 1/2 cup of icing sugar into the bowl and combine all the dry ingredients together.
To the bowl, add 3/4 cup of clarified butter (ghee). If you are unfamiliar with ghee, here is a link to the Wikipedia page that describes it.
Make your own clarified butter (ghee)
If you don’t have any ghee at home, fret not. It’s easy to make it yourself. Melt some butter in a pot until it starts to boil. Remove it from the heat and let it cool down completely.
Once it cools down completely, the milk solids will separate leaving behind a puddle of white liquid (buttermilk). The milk solids are what you are looking for. That is your ghee. 1 cup of butter will generally make about 3/4 cup of ghee. You can discard the buttermilk and use the ghee.
Mix the 3/4 cup of ghee with the dry ingredients to form a dough. The dough will be crumbly, but soft.
Making the Indian shortbread
Using your entire hand, squeeze about two tablespoons worth of dough into a ball shape. Using both your palms, flatten the ball shape a slight bit to form an approximately 1 inch diameter cookie. It will take a little bit of effort to get them to be round and not crumble.
Place a whole almond into the centre of the cookie and press down slightly to ensure that it sticks. Don’t push too hard or the cookie will crumble and you will need to start over.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and line a 9 x 13 inch baking tray with parchment paper. Place the shortbread on the tray. Place them about half an inch apart from each other. They will expand as they cook. Bake them for about 15 mins. After 15 mins check on them to ensure the they are just starting to brown from the sides. You don’t want them to brown completely. That will mean the shortbread has burnt. The colour of the cooked shortbread is very similar to uncooked shortbread.
Remove from the oven and let the shortbread cool completely on the baking tray. They will be very soft and if you try to move them to a cookie rack, they will crumble right away.
The shortbread will crack as it cools. But that’s expected and it’s part of the charm of the Indian shortbread. Indian shortbread can be stored in an air tight container for up to a week.
Gluten Free Indian Shortbread (Nanakhatai)Course: DessertCuisine: IndianDifficulty: Easy
This melt in your mouth sweet treat is perfectly spiced with cardamom and topped with almonds. It requires no leavening agents or eggs and is perfectly addictive.
1/2 cup icing sugar
3/4 cups rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour (or arrowroot flour)
1/2 cup chick pea flour
2 tablespoons corn meal (yellow or white)
1 teaspoons finely ground cardamom powder
a pinch of salt
3/4 cups clarified butter (ghee) – see note
20 whole almonds
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- Sift the icing sugar into a large mixing bowl.
- Add the rice flour, tapioca flour, chick pea flour, corn meal and cardamom powder and salt to the bowl. Mix all the dry ingredients well.
- Bring the clarified butter to room temperature and add it to the dry ingredients.
- Mix everything well and form a dough. The dough will be crumbly.
- Using your entire hand, squeeze about two tablespoons worth of dough into a ball shape. Using both your palms, flatten the ball shape a slight bit to form an approximately 1 inch diameter cookie.
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper and place the cookie on it. Place a whole almond in the centre of the cookie and press down lightly to ensure that the almond sticks.
- Repeat step 6 till you have used up all dough.
- Bake the cookies for about 15 mins – or till they are just starting to brown. Do not over cook.
- Remove from the oven and let cool completely on the baking tray. The cookies will be very soft and will fall apart if you try to lift them.
- Once cooled enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea.
- – If you don’t have clarified butter at home, make your own. See the method above with pictures.
– The cookie colour will not change much when cooked.
– Cookies will stay fresh in an air tight container for up to a week.
– Check out other Dessert recipes here.