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The 150-year-old bakery that invented the famous 'Nankhatai'

Source: Supplied

Did you know the crunchy butter-rich Nankhatais that Indians love have a Dutch touch? SBS Hindi brings you the tale of this 150-year-old bakery that invented the famous nankhatais.

One of India's most-loved cookies, the Nankhatai, the crunchy butter-rich cookies were invented in a bakery in Surat, Gujarat established by the Dutch, during their reign in India. 

During their in reign India, the Dutch established a warehouse on the Dutch Road in Surat which employed five Parsi men to make bread.

When they left India at the end of their rule they handed over their ovens to one Mr Faramji Pestonji Dotivala.

Faramji continued to supply bread to the remaining colonials and grew the business which today is one of the most well-known names in the town. 

"I am the sixth generation running this bakery which has been a Dutch legacy. A Dutch merchant named Pieter Venden Broecke established a warehouse in 1620 on Dutch Road to bake bread. The bakery employed five Parsi men. When they left, they handed their ovens to my forefather Faramji Pestonji Dotivala. That is how our bakery started in 1861," says Cyrus Dotivala, the current proprietor of Surat's Dotivala Bakery.

The 150-year-old bakery that invented the famous 'Nankhatai'
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Cyrus Dotivala
Supplied

In the early days, bread was not consumed by Indians, so when the colonists left India, the consumption for bread dropped dramatically and it started drying out but did not go stale because they used toddy (palm wine) as a natural fermenting agent.

The dry bread was then sold cheap and it's demand grew because it was light and easily digestible. This resulted in drying bread out in an oven and it became a form of popular biscuit known as Irani Biscuit or Sada biscuit.

The Dotivalas gave it their special touch by adding the flavour of cumin seeds.

Nankhatais
Supplied

As for the Nankhatai, it was derived from a Gujarati mithai (sweet) called Dal.

"Due to the unavailability of the modern day margarine, we made it with pure Ghee. We also added nutmeg and cardamom powder and sprinkled it with slivered almonds or cashews and baked it in the oven,' Cyrus tells SBS Hindi.

That's how the delicious Nankhatais were invented.

Khari
Supplied

"As for Kharee biscuit, it originates from the French. It uses the technique of rolling and folding thin layers of puff pastry using lamination, and that's your kharee biscuit. We have added different flavours according to the taste of the consumers," Mr Dotivala says. 

The original ovens used by the Dotivalas used firewood until 1994. Thereafter, natural gas was used as fuel and now they use rotary rack ovens. 

Today their bakery produces a range of products, from cakes to biscuits, bread to buns.

Make Nankhatais the 'Dotivala-way' at home:

  • 500 gms pure ghee
  • 500 gms sugar
  • 1 kg white flour (maida)
  • 5 gms nutmeg powder
  • 3 gms cardamom powder
  • 1 tsp caramel colour

Method:

  • Beat the ghee and sugar till it turns smooth and white.
  • Add in the nutmeg, cardamom, and caramel and mix very well.
  • Slowly fold in the white flour till you get a soft dough like consistency.
  • Make small balls of about 25 gms each sprinkle bits of almonds or cashews on top.
  • Press the ball between the palms of your hands.
  • Bake in the oven for 25 minutes at a temperature of 180 degrees.

Don't forget your cup of masala chai! 

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