I’m placing the pies on the side right now because it’s really time to focus on baking cookies and cakes. I love Christmas for the food and desserts but also because it has always been one of my favorite holidays of the year. Every year around this time, my mom would get together with her mother and sisters to prepare loads of holiday sweets. This is something they took very seriously and still do so much so that I know my mother would take time off from her job to bake and prepare tons of holiday desserts.
We also had another tradition, where we’d take sweets to our neighbors and friends. This is something, I was never a big fan of and I always preferred sharing the sweets that were at the lower end of my “dessert-love scale”. My mom on the other hand would reevalute the contents of the gift basket and undo all my hardwork, so the good stuff went back in. I am really not sure who benefited from this exercise but it clearly wasn’t me!
These days, I make holiday desserts that I really, really love and make enough to gift to friends and family while keep enough to last us for a few weeks. These cookies are fall into this special category of holiday desserts that I must make every year. They bring back nostalgic childhood memories of baking with my mother and her family, memories laced with sugar, flour and above all things, love. Indian “
as these cookies are commonly known, are crispy and eggless. You will love them, the cookies are crisp all-throughout with a deep dark cocoa flavor with a hint of black pepper and cinnamon that will warm you up. The center of each cookie is topped with a generous sprinkling of sea salt crystals that will shock your tastebuds with a delicious amalgam of sensory wonder.
If you like the combination sea salt and chocolate, you will love my
. They are a great addition to your breakfast table at Christmas.
This recipe calls for the use of Indian ghee or clarified butter. Ghee is super easy to make and has a wonderful fragrance and taste. You simply melt unsalted butter in a thick bottomed stock pot until all the fat has melted and the milk solids have separated. The butter is melted and cooked on a low flame to prevent burning of the solids (this is different from browned butter where you want to use the browned milk solids for flavor) but not boiled. The melted fat is then passed through a sieve lined with several layers of muslin/cheese cloth to filter out the separated solids. The resultant fat that is collected is ghee and stored in the refrigerator. It solidifies as it cools. I’ve been finding ghee in most grocery stores these days but if you need to prepare it at home, start with 3-31/2 sticks of butter to get around 2 cups of ghee using the instructions I just described.
cocoa cinnamon sea salt cookies “nankhatais”
approximately 2 dozen 2 inch cookies
4 cups ( 1lb 3/8 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (2 ounces) dark cocoa, unsweetened
1 teaspoon instant dark roast coffee
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, freshly ground
1 3/4 cups raw dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cup (12 ounces) ghee/clarified unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 to 3 tablespoons sea salt crystals
1. Whisk all the dry ingredients from the flour to the sugar in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer.
2. Add the ghee to the dry ingredients and mix on medium-high speed until combined. The mixture should acquire a fine crumb-like texture. Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate for at least two hours.
There is no need to bring the dough together to form one large ball, just store the dough in the crumb-like phase.
3. Before baking the cookies, remove the bowl from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 350F and place the baking rack in the middle section of the oven. Take some of the mix in your hands and press and mold together to form small one inch balls. The warmth from your hands will soften the ghee and help to bring the cookies together. Flatten the ball into discs that are about 2 inches in diameter. The cookie discs might crack a little on the edges so press and mold them gently. If they do crack a little, just push the cracked ends closer to seal the gap. (Personally, I don’t mind a few minor cracked edges). Sprinkle a pinch of the sea-salt crystals over each cookie.
5. Place the cookie balls on cookie/baking sheet pre lined with parchment paper and bake for 15-20 minutes until the edges start to get crisp and appear a little darker than the color of the cocoa. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely and store in air-tight container for up to two weeks.