Friday, September 2, 2011

Masala Biscuits / Khara Biscuits

Iyengar bakeries in Karnataka are something you will find in almost every other street. You enter a typical Iyengar bakery and the serious but very respectable looking proprietor at the counter with 'South-Indian' written all over will greet you with a nod. He has photographs of God adorned with flowers and a lamp lit near him. Close by hanging on the wall is a paper which displays the list of other non- bakery 'items' they sell like puliogare powder, rasam powder, sambhar powder, bisibele bhat powder etc. You wait for your stuff and hover nosily for a couple of minutes (checking the piping designs, the finish ) and he will command in his authoritative 'owner' tone that 'Madam's' parcel is getting late,  making sure we ladies specially do not have to wait for long for our packages.  But he will not humor you if you want to buy err... some whipped cream or canned cherries or want to know where to buy baking things. The other next 'main' guy will be helpful here :)). This has been my experience when I have bought whipped cream for my first couple of frosted cakes and eventually gathered some info about baking supplies and sources in Bangalore.. Thanks to my neighborhood Iyengar bakeries!
Sweet things popular here are butter cream laden cakes in a riot of colors, anarkali, dil - pasand (wonder how and why these were named so!), honey cake, benne biscuits, raagi biscuits, coconut biscuits,  fruit bread, milk bread etc. Festival or not, neatly packed obbattus, kodbale etc line the counter. Come Christmas & New Year and you will find stacks of butter cream frosted cakes, spilling literally onto the pavement, in all colors and price ranges to please every prospective customer. Some of their most popular savory baked stuff include nippattu, potato buns, onion toasts, puffs (which are sometimes amusingly called as 'pups'!), khara buns, khara biscuits or masala biscuits, bread sticks with ajwain, sev, spicy groundnuts and cashew, chips among the savory fare. Fresh loaves of bread with a wonderful golden crust which are sliced right before your eyes, making you marvel at the skill of the guy at the task.

I prefer their savory stuff to the sweet, favs are khara buns, toast and congress kadale-kayi. Unbelievably, I have not eaten the khara biscuits in years, though I vaguely recall that they are like the benne biscuits in texture, very buttery and spicy. As I have said before, I don't love my food or sweets very buttery. And when I came across this recipe for the very tempting looking Masala Biscuits on Divya's Easy Cooking, I very definitely wanted to try them out for a home-made less buttery yet tasty version. And I am glad I did! They turned out very tasty, quite flaky and light, making it dangerous to have them on hand! 

Here is the recipe, you can find Divya's recipe here. The only changes I made was a slight reduction in the salt and the addition of mint and cumin.

All purpose Flour / Maida - 1 cup / 130 grams
Butter, soft at room temperature - 75 grams
Powdered sugar - 2 teaspoon (refer note)
Salt - 3/4 teaspoon ( Divya has used 1 teaspoon)
Baking powder - 3/4 teaspoon
Yogurt - 2 tablespoons
Cumin / jeera, roasted dry - 1 teaspoon
Coriander leaves, chopped fine - 1 tablespoon
Mint leaves, chopped fine - 2 tablespoons
Grated fresh ginger - 1/4 teaspoon
Green chillies - 2-3, chopped fine ( you could use more)

Procedure : Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Keep aside. Using a wooden spoon, cream the butter till smooth, for about 2-3 minutes. (You could use fine grained sugar in place of the powdered sugar, and cream it with the butter, I will try this next time). Add in the yogurt, beat till incorporated. Mix in the cut chillies, mint, coriander, cumin, grated ginger and yogurt. Slowly mix in the flour, a little at a time. Knead lightly to form a smooth dough. The dough will be quite soft.

Cover and refrigerate the dough for about 1/2 an hour. I chilled it for about 2 hours as it was more convenient to me. Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees C (Divya has baked at 150 degrees). Line your baking tray or sheet with baking parchment. The best and neatest way to do this as Divya says, is to put the dough in a large zip-lock bag, seal it and roll the dough evenly to all the sides of the bag. Rip open the bag, cut the dough into squares ( a greased scale and pizza cutter are handy if are clumsy like me and you want decent looking squares). I have divided the dough into 2 portions and rolled it about 2 mm thick. If dividing the dough, refrigerate the other unused portion till you roll.
Transfer the pieces to the lined tray. You don't need space them wide apart as they do not spread much. Bake for 23-25 minutes. The biscuits will not change color on top (not much sugar here to get caramelized) but the bottom of the biscuits will be a light golden brown. Yes, my biscuits are placed upside down in the pics, they look better that way :-).
And as always, I would suggest baking a small test batch in case of doubt and to determine the baking time for the level of crunch you would prefer. But be careful not to over-bake and burn them! I have baked almost 25 minutes. Transfer the biscuits to a rack, cool completely and store in an airtight container.

These are really tasty, so you may want to double the recipe and bake. The recipe above gave me about 30 small biscuits ( I really don't know the correct number as we kept testing and tasting them as they baked :). You could use dried herbs or fresh herbs like thyme, and chilli flakes or pepper. Or just cumin, salt and pepper. I am thinking of a garlicky version with dried Italian herbs and chilli flakes next time.
The biscuits are light, flaky, crisp, though not crunchy crisp and are DELICIOUS!! Thanks so much Divya for this keeper of a recipe!!


Hari Chandana P said...

Woww.. looks absolutely perfect and tempting.. awesome pictures too :)
Indian Cuisine

Smita Srivastava said...

Wow ..what a lovely homemade version !!!

Aarthi said...

That looks yummy and perfect..I love this….Should give it a try soon…Thank you so much for the recipe...

Sum said...

Lovely looking biscuits...

Radhika said...

so perfect looking biscuits. Bookmarked.

zareena.b said...

mmm.... looks very tempting and delicious. I too love Iyengar bakery cakes and savories. Thanks for sharing this. You rock dear.

Priya Suresh said...

Looks scrumptious and quite addictive..

Hamaree Rasoi said...

I completely agree with you that the bakery items of Iyengar's are very delicious and reasonably priced. Khara biscuits look wonderful.

Hamaree Rasoi

divya said...

Makes me drool,feel like having some..

notyet100 said...

Brought bck memories:)biscuit looks yum

Archana said...

These look so good !! I love the khara buns and the aloo buns...Iyengar bakeries are a class of their own !! Great recipe...hope to try this soon...

Unknown said...

Looks SO yummy! Perfect tea time snack! bookmarking to try : ) cheers, priya

Unknown said...

Crispy flavourful n yummy biscuits

alpana said...

I am a any kind of cookie fan too. Love these salty cookies. Thanks for sharing.
Visit me at

Divya Kudua said...

Oooh,they look perfect!

Mehjabeen Arif said...

looks super delicious.. perfect for tea time ..

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Bharathi said...

Hi Suma,
I tried this recipe today. Biscuits are very tasty. My Hubby liked it a lot.Thanks a lot for wonderful information and recipe.

Anonymous said...

Haha! Just had a aloo bun from my neighborhood Iyengar bakery..was eyeing the biscuits and here they are!! Perfect looking ones too!