It’s been almost a month since my last post and I was truly beginning to think that I had lost my way. Drama aside, it’s been a hectic few weeks involving a fair amount of traveling for wedding shoots. It’s the season, after all. And I never thought I would say this, but the few days spent at home trying to re-group, putting the house back in order, day-to-day work between shoots and much more left me no time to regain my momentum or enthusiasm.
I actually began each of the past 3 days by thinking “Today is the day. I’m going to bake something blog-able.” But by the time I caught up with pending work, most of the day was lost. By last night, I knew what I was going to bake next, so that was a step closer, if not more!
I remembered a request from a friend a few weeks ago for an Atta Biscuit recipe. I would think that all those born in India in the 80s or earlier would have fond memories of these biscuits – bought in unbranded packets from the local bakery or grocer, or from a tea stall, as an accompaniment to hot milky tea. To my mind, no other (branded) biscuit, except maybe the Parle G/ Tiger variety, could ever epitomise the chai-and-biscuit combination. These humble, rustic, crumbly, wholesome biscuits have a unique but simple flavour, more about the texture than the look. Often baked on street carts in a portable wood-fired oven, they’re an absolute pleasure to bite into.
The friend who requested the recipe, though, had a different reason than a tea accompaniment. She has an (almost) 1 year old daughter who has recently progressed to solid food. She makes a great effort to make wholesome and interesting food at home for her, specially when she wants to introduce her to a new food type. Her pediatrician suggested Atta Biscuits as a snack for her daughter and she wanted to bake them for her at home. So she reached out to me and asked me to help her with a recipe. I did a fair amount of research online and kept a few options ready to mix-and-match for the final recipe, which we were to bake together! Sadly, we never got around to that baking date, but it was a good recipe to start this blogging spurt with. Adapted from here, here and here.
Here’s what I used (for 16 large biscuits):
1-1/2 cups atta (whole wheat flour)
1/4 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup powdered sugar
10 cardamoms, peeled and seeds powdered
100 gms or 1/2 cup unsalted white butter, cubed and chilled
Pinch of salt (not required if you end up using salted butter)
Cold milk to knead (I used about 5-6 tbsp)
Cashew halves to garnish – 16
Here’s how I made them:
First, I pre-heated the oven to 170 C and lined 2 cookie sheets with butter paper – you can use parchment paper or a silpat if you like.
Then I counted out the cashews and halved them. I took a few extra in case I broke a few while halving them.
I powdered the cardamoms..
I added the milk, a tablespoon at a time, just until the dough came together. This shouldn’t be overworked, just knead until it comes together.
(Now you can very well roll out all the dough and use cookie cutters but I find that oh-so-tedious).
Because my cookie sheets fit almost exactly inside my oven, often the cookies in the back brown faster than the ones in front, so I like to rotate the sheet halfway through the baking time. But if you have a nice big fancy oven, you need not!
I pulled them out of the oven, let them cool on the sheet for 5 mins and then transferred them to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Once cool, store them in an airtight container. Consume within 3-5 days. If you can hold off that long, that is. AK finished 2 before I even finished taking the pictures! Despite some serious threats. I think that will last as long as he doesn’t read this and figure out they’re whole-wheat+bran = healthier than the usual processed+junky ones he usually consumes.
Ha! I live for such small victories!
On a Serious Note:
The biscuits tasted great but didn’t match up to the crumbly texture of the original bakery atta biscuits. But I’m sure I’ll get there in another try or two, maybe increase the bran and add a little baking powder. But more on that later!
- 1-1/2 cups atta (whole wheat flour)
- ¼ cup wheat bran
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- 10 cardamoms, peeled and seeds powdered
- ½ cup unsalted white butter, cubed and chilled
- Pinch of salt (not required if you use salted butter)
- Cold milk to knead, as desired (approx 5-6 tbsp)
- Cashew halves to garnish - 16
- Cookie Trays
- Silpat / Parchment Paper
- Cooling Rack
- Pre-heat the oven to 170 C and place the rack in the middle of the oven. Line the baking cookie trays with the Silpat or parchment paper and keep aside.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together - the atta, the bran, salt, sugar and cardamom powder.
- Add the cubed and chilled butter to the dry ingredients and use your fingertips or a pastry cutter to rub the butter into the dry ingredients until it becomes a coarse, crumbly mixture. Chill this for 5 mins.
- Add the milk, 1 tbsp at a time and mix just until the dough comes together. Don't over mix or add too much liquid.
- Divide the dough into 16 approx equal portions, roll them into a ball and flatten into round biscuits approx ¼" in thickness.
- Arrange these on the baking trays, keeping about a 1" distance between each, and press a cashew half into the centre of each. Chill the trays for at least 5 minutes.
- Bake each batch for about 20-22 minutes, rotating the tray halfway, until the biscuits are golden and lightly browned around the edges.
- While the first batch is baking, let the second one rest in the fridge else the butter will become melty and the biscuits will be less crumbly/ flaky.
- Let them cool in the tray for 5 minutes before transferring them onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for 3-5 days.
- Enjoy these as a filling snack along with a cup of strong tea/coffee. They're brilliant when dipped into the tea, old-school!
This recipe has also been featured in Archana’s Kitchen.
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