Freshly baked homemade cookies are not considered Indian. Commercial cookies, called locally biscuits, are everywhere in this sweet loving predominately vegetarian country. This post is about the local Indian cookies found in bustling footpaths of Indian capital, Delhi.
Although Indians (read women) spend a lifetime in kitchens, there are no warm freshly baked cookies. In the United States, baking is often an initiation to cooking, teaching kids that a self-cooked fresh mediocre cookies (meals) are always better than anything out of a wrapper. The absence of home baked cookies in Indian kitchens is due to lack of baking oven. Still today, even small convection ovens are considered a kitchen luxury, akin to an espresso machine in American kitchens. So, how do you bake without an oven?
Out of all places, I found freshly baked sugar cookies in a bakery on wheels on footpaths of Delhi. I found the foodcart in a haath bazaar, Indian version of weekly farmers’ market. This foodcart was similar to any vendor carts found across footpath of India, a wooden table on wheels without electricity or fancy equipment. On this cart, cookies were baked without an oven. The baker made a simple oven by putting charcoals on the bottom and the top of a big iron pot. The iron put surrounded by hot charcoal served as the oven for the cookies.
Cookies were simple, made with maida (Indian all-purpose flour), besan (graham flour), suji (semolina), sugar, ghee, and baking power.
Those freshly baked cookies were bit over baked but were as delicious as any warm cookies. Most importantly, it was fun to watch the baking process. It reminded me of an old cliché; where there’s a will, there’s a way. Perhaps, I don’t need that expensive espresso machine to make a perfect cup of latte.
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