Thursday, 16 February 2012

Better than shortbread...Naan Khatai :-)

If you've ever been to Mombasa- The coastal city in East Africa where I am from, you would most definitely have heard about Hussaini Bakery. It is the most popular bakery that makes all types of biscuits, cookies and stuff. The most popular item that they make is the HB naan khataai.
Its like a hundred times better tasting than shortbread biscuits. I'm not even exaggerating!!!

I can remember these cookies existing ever since I was old enough to understand what cookies are. Which is pretty young!
They are large, golden coloured, circlular shaped, buttery, crispy, crumbly, buttery pieces of yumminess. (Yes I mentioned buttery twice!!!)
These are without a doubt the most famous biscuits available in Mombasa, and what you find in almost every household. My grandparents courier us entire boxes when we lived in Nairobi. Not by flight, but by a long 8 hour bus ride. They always survived the journey- but didn't last very long once they reached home!
Whenever people travel back home to Mombasa, they are sure to wrap dozens of packs in their suitcases and bring them back here. Its funny, but whenever anyone is going back there, they almost always bring some of these HB naan khatai back here- if not for themselves then for people who have asked them to bring some for them.
They are precious goods- and if you ever are lucky enough to taste them, then consider yourself highly priviledged!! :-)

My Dad is the absolute king of these. They have been his absolute favourite since forever and he was pretty pleased with the results of my home baked ones.
He told me to make more. That means it was good right?? :-D

Recently, Fauzia (who I have mentioned here many times) came up with a recipe for these cookies. I was so excited that I baked them as soon as I got a chance- which was yesterday.  I have to say, these are really really close to tasting like the Original HB bakery's Naan Khatai. Of course I don't think anyone can get it exactly like theirs but its a really close rendition.

The result? Golden, butter, yummy, crumbly cookies.
Definitely worth making and enjoying with a cuppa.
Fauzia, Thanks for the recipe. You are a genius and you have saved the lives of all the HB loving East Africans who live far far away from the amazing Bakery in Mombasa!

Here's the recipe:
250gm room temperature butter
three-quarter cup castor/grinded sugar 
1 egg, lightly beaten and at room temperature
1 and a half tsp baking powder
4 tbsp custard powder (plain/vanilla flavour)
few drops of yellow colour
2 cups all-purpose flour 
4 tbsp fine sooji/semolina
1 tsp vanilla essence
half tsp salt

First, mix the flour, custard powder, semolina, salt and baking powder together in a bowl and set it aside.

In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar, add the drops of colour. Beat in the egg and vanilla until fluffy. 

Now gradually add in the dry ingredients and mix until the dough comes together. Do not over-mix as that will ruin the crumbly consistency. Only mix enough for everything to get well-combined.

TIP: If you feel that the dough needs a bit more flour, add a tbsp at a time. Do not over-knead the mixture. Keep in mind that the dough will be chilled before shaping and baking, so it will stiffen up some more later, so don't add more flour than you absolutely need to. 

Transfer the dough into a piece of cling film and wrap it up tight. Refrigerate for about an hour.

Place some greaseproof paper on your baking sheets. Divide the dough into about 20-21 equal balls. Shape them into big circles of about 3" each, using the palms of your hand, like how we make burger patties. Place them on the tray and flatten/level them slightly and gently. Remember to leave enough room around them as they will expand slightly during baking. You can make imprints on them at this point, I used my heart shaped cookie cutters to make little heart shapes on my cookies.

Once all are shaped, place the trays again into the refrigerator for another half an hour to chill. 

In the meantime, pre-heat the oven at 160 C. These cookies are normally large, so we need a lower temperature in order to get them to crisp up properly without getting brown.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes. When they are half-way done, turn the trays around so that the cookies get evenly baked, and if at any time you feel they are starting to take too much colour, lower the heat some more.

Once they are ready, remove them onto a wire-rack to cool completely. When they come out of the oven they will be slightly soft, but don't worry as they will crisp up as they cool. 

TIP: After they've cooled COMPLETELY and if you feel they are still not quite crisp enough, just pop them back into the oven on low temperature of about 120-140 C and bake them for another 10 minutes until you are satisfied with the results.

Store them in an airtight container. 

Enjoy the baking AND the results!!!

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