In India it is customary to accompany every cup of chai you serve with some biscuits. Mind you, an Indian biscuit is different from the American one. While an American refers to a savory quick bread as a biscuit, in India and I guess, in every country where the British have left their mark, a biscuit is a hard, dunk-able cookie somewhat like a shortbread... but necessarily buttery, that accompanies a common man's cup of chai. Here, no one really thinks much about the pairing of tea-and-biscuits... its just one of the legacies of the British rule that we Indians have adopted as part of our daily life.
Since I started baking my own cakes and cookies while we were in US, I never really tried my hands at "biscuits." While I baked cookies... you know the soft-delicious-chewy kind, we bought our biscuits from the stores and the trend continued even when we returned to India. But the other day when my aunt asked me if I had tried tweaking the cookie-recipes to make biscuits at home I wondered how that would work, until I tried a few combinations and finally hit the jackpot with these Toasted Coconut Biscuits.
If you too have been smitten by Deb Perelman's culinary skills you probably have guessed by now where the inspiration of these biscuits came from. Yes. Its her Toasted Coconut Shortbread. That and The Bristish Larder's Milk Shortbread. I combined the two recipes then tweaked it a bit and viola I had the most delicious biscuits ever ... At least that is what my friends thought and friends of my son thought and my husband and son seemed to agree with all of them.. Just to make sure that I do not document anything short of perfection I tried the recipe a couple of times and I think the present version is near perfect...
Toasted Coconut Biscuits
Prep time: 25 minutes + at least 1 hour chilling time
Cook time: 13 minutes
Yield: 34-36 1.15×2 inch rectangles
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 cup freshly grated coconut
- 3 tablespoons milk powder
- ⅓ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar, ground
- 100 grams salted butter, cold
- 3 tablespoons cold milk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla essence
- If you are using fresh coconut, preheat the oven to 325 ° F. Spread about 1 cup freshly grated coconut in a rimmed baking tray and bake it for 12-15 minutes or until a nice aroma comes out and part of the grated coconut (mostly the part near the edges of the tray) has become golden brown.
- Let the baked coconut cool completely. Then grind it to a powder. After the baking and the grinding you will most likely end up with ⅔ cups of coconut flour. (So in case you are trying the recipe with coconut flour instead of freshly grated coconut, you will probably need to bake ⅔ cups of the coconut flour for the recipe.)
- Once the coconut flour is ready, add the whole wheat flour, sugar and milk powder to the coconut flour and mix well. Then add bits of the cold butter to the flour mixture and mix well until the flour mixture becomes crumbly.
- Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the cold milk and the vanilla essence over the flour mixture and knead it till the dough comes together. Finally sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of the milk on the dough and knead to incorporate the milk into the dough.
- The dough will now be sticky and that is alright. Gather the dough into a ball, wrap it in a plastic cling wrap and transfer it to the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour. (The dough can be prepared 2 days in advance and kept chilled until ready to bake.)
- Once the dough is chilled and you are ready to bake, remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and allow it to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes or until the dough has softened slightly. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350 ° F and line a baking tray with parchment paper .
- Place the chilled dough between two plastic sheets and using a rolling pin roll it into a thin rectangular sheet ( about 1/4-1/6 inches thick). Then remove the sheet on top and using a ruler and a pizza cutter cut out 1.2×2 inch rectangular pieces of the dough and transfer the rectangular cut outs into the prepared tray spacing them ½ inch apart. If you like you can lightly press a design on top using a cookie cutter and also poke it at places using a knife. (In case the dough softens too much, put the sheet with cut out rectangular pieces on a flat tray(I use my chopping board for this) and chill it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. Chilling the dough once more makes it easier to transfer the rectangle cut-outs into the prepared baking tray.)
- Bake the biscuits in the preheated oven until they look uniformly golden. Depending upon the thickness this might take 12 to 18 minutes. Keep a close watch and make sure that they do not become a dull brown. Cool the biscuits on the baking trays before transferring them into air-tight containers.
- Gather the dough scraps and re-roll it and repeat steps 6 and 7 with the additional dough till all of it has been used up.
- The baked biscuits stay well in air-tight containers for 5-6 days.
If you decide to try these out (and I insist that you must) let me know how they fared with your family and friends...
Until next time...