Finger foods / Fun Food / Sweet & Payasams

Project Shortbread for a Sweet Comeback

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While cleaning up the bookshelf a couple of days ago, I chanced upon a booklet that contains only cookie recipes. An aunt of mine had given it to me when I’d just started experimenting with baking. Those were the days of disastrous results (not that it is much better now!), with cakes often turning out like puddings and cookies that were more difficult to crush than stones!

But I’d never tried any recipe from this little book. One of the reasons being, of the 30 recipes in the book, there are just about 8 that are eggless and most include ingredients that one would have to hunt around for in Chennai. But mind you, no plain-vanilla chocolate cookies here – these are all high-end bakery-style stuffed and multi-layer ones.

So, when I came across Sweet Treats (that’s the name of the booklet) the day before, I thought I really must put to use my new oven (well, not new really, but a one loaded with features that I got from my co-sis a few months ago). As usual, I settled on a chocolate-based recipe, temptingly titled Irresistible Black Forest Bars – a bar with a chocolate cookie base, a blackberry jam centre, topped with a cocoa crumble.

The base was quite easy to whip up and took not more than 20 mins and the dough was yummy. Since I wanted to play it safe, I halved quantities. But what I forgot was to halve the cooking time while popping it into the oven. And what I ended up with was a batch of burnt cookies, sigh.

Not to be outdone, I mustered up courage again the next day. This time I chose a not-so-exciting sounding Almond Shortbread Cookies because I wanted to make some sort of thing I hadn’t tried before. I like shortbread cookies, they remind me of the nan-khatai available inDelhi– eggless light crisp cookies that are Pakistani in origin. You can buy them at local bakeries, but the best ones are those baked fresh and sold on pushcarts. I can never forget the ones my dad used to buy from some bakery inNehru Place (in Delhi) when I was a kid. Nor the ones my friend Aparna got for me from the nan-khatai wallah stationed outside the Pioneer (newspaper) office inDelhi, while she was interning there.

Invigorated by the nostalgia trip and armed with wisdom thanks to the burnt experience the previous day I launched with optimism into Project Shortbread. Light and crisp, the shortbread cookies turned out beautiful and left me beaming with happiness and satisfaction. I hope you like them too. Tell me about your favourite cookie/biscuit memories!

Almond Shortbread Cookies

(Makes 40 cookies, each the size of small round salt biscuits, remember Krack Jack?)

Ingredients:

Butter – ½ cup

Almond paste – ¼ cup (I soaked a handful of almonds and cashewnuts in some milk along with 2 green cardamoms and ground them together into a fine paste)

Granulated sugar – 1/3 cup (no need to grind it)

Refined flour – 1.5 cups

Salt – a big pinch

Broken almonds – for garnishing

Method:

Beat butter and almond paste

Add sugar and salt and beat till fluffy

Add flour and mix with a wooden spoon (no need to knead with hands. The dough will be lighter than your standard poori dough but a little more greasy to the touch)

Pat into shapes of your choice in a oven-proof plate or cake pan

Press bits of broken almonds on each of the cookies

Bake for around 20 mins at 150 deg C

Cool completely and store in an air-tight container

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