Masala Biscuits (Spicy Savoury Indian Cookies): Daring Bakers Challenge August 2013 (A Cake & Two Cookies Part 3)
This August I’ve had the pleasure of hosting my second Daring Bakers challenge. Since we madeTiramisu from scratch the first time I hosted the challenge, this time I wanted to present some uniquely Indian recipes for my fellow Daring Bakers to try out. I decided to put up three different recipes. The first two were a Mawa Cakewhich is a speciality of the Irani community in India and the second one was Portuguese influenced Goan biscuits/ cookies called Bolinhas de Coco
For the third recipe, I chose something that’s savoury, a little spicy and full of Indian flavours and spices – Masala Biscuits/ Cookies. As I have mentioned before, having been a former British colony, we in India call biscuits what the Americans would say are cookies.
The word “Masala” means “spice mix” and Masala Biscuits/ cookies are a savoury and spicy Indian tea/ coffee-time snack that are quite popular in some of the Southern Indian states. I remember seeing these stacked in huge glass jars at the small local bakeries in my childhood, and they seem to be less common these days.
The Masala Biscuits/ Cookies of my childhood also had quite a bit of “heat” from the chilli peppers that went into them, making them more of an adult treat. In fact, I remember my father, who had a love for very spicy food, bringing this home often, from the local bakery. Those biscuits/ cookies would be full of chopped green chillies, seeds and all, and to mind seemed more of chilli than biscuit/ cookie.
Much as I enjoy savoury, crunchy and spicy biscuits/ cookies, my memories of those Masala Biscuits/ Cookies seem to be tied up with watering eyes and a mouth on fire! Many Indians like a lot of “fire” in their food and I’m not one of them, though I do like a bit of spice. I can promise my recipe is definitely on the milder side, but feel free to make adjustments or reduce the “spicier” spices on the ingredient list to suit your taste.
The recipe below is something I have come up with while trying to capture the flavours in my memory. These are thinner in size and not as “hot” as the originals, but please feel free to tweak the flavours to suit your taste. These Biscuits/ Cookies should be crisp/ crunchy on the outside and flaky on the inside.
Indian Masala Biscuits
- You can do this by hand also, but I prefer to use my food processor. The advantage with using the processor is that the warmth of one’s palms/ fingers doesn’t warm up the dough and melt the butter.
- Put both flours, salt, baking powder and baking soda into the bowl and add the pieces of chilled butter. Pulse until the mixture takes on the texture of breadcrumbs.
- Now add the chopped green chillies, finely grated ginger, crushed peppercorn and cumin, sugar, the chopped curry leaves and coriander leaves. Pulse a couple of times to mix well.
- Then add 2 tablespoons of yogurt and pulse again. Add one more tbsp of yogurt (or two, as much as needed), and pulse again until the dough just comes together and clumps together. You want a moist dough, not a wet one – somewhat like pie dough.
- Do not over process or knead. The dough should be just moist enough for you to use your hands and bring everything together to shape into a ball. Flatten it into a disc and cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least hour. You can also leave it overnight (up to about 24 hours) and work on it the next day.
- Pre-heat your oven to 180C (350F) and line your baking trays with parchment or grease them with oil. Lightly dust your working surface and roll out the dough to 1/8”(3 mm) thickness, not more or your biscuits/ cookies will not be crisp. Sprinkle the sesame seeds uniformly over the dough and use your rolling pin, very lightly, to press them in.
- Using cutters of your choice (about 2-1/4 inch (55 mm) to 2½ inch (65 mm) in size), cut out biscuits/ cookies and place them on lightly greased baking trays. Brush a very thin coat of oil over them. This will help them brown while baking.
- Bake them in a preheated moderate oven for about 20 to 25 minutes or till they’re done and golden brown on the top. Remember the baking time will depend on the thickness and shape of your biscuits/ cookies. Let them cool on the trays for about 5 minutes and then cool them on racks. Once they’re completely cool, they should be a bit crunchy and not chewy.
- Store them in airtight containers. They should keep for about 4 to 5 days at room temperature in a cool place.
The measurements given for the spices in the recipes are a guideline and not absolute. These result in a mildly spicy biscuit/ cookie, but feel free to adjust quantities to suit your taste.
The baking time would depend on the how thin you roll out your dough and the size of your cookies.
The other recipes that are a part of this Daring Bakers challenge: