This recipe for Chocolate Cashew Cookies made with ghee is a rare gem from India’s bakery tradition.
It happens to be one of my husband’s favorite cookies. He just loves cashews for some reason. Oh, and he famously loves chocolate too! Who doesn’t?
When he wanted to buy these cookies from the store, I told him I would make them for him. Since I do not bake very often, I thought it would be a nice Valentine’s treat.
In India, people distinguish between bakery sweets and home sweets, because most homes are not equipped with ovens. For them, bakery cookies are store-bought, and baked in an oven.
Indian bakery sweets are distinguished by their characteristic baked crunch. I desperately wanted to get this crunch just right in my cookie, and since the cookie doesn’t require rising, I decided to start with unconventional non-wheat flours.
The cookie recipe proved more challenging to create, but in the end I am very happy with the result. These Chocolate Cashew Cookies include a number of unique features that I think will interest you.
Wheat-Free Barley And Rice Flours
I have always loved baking with barley flour. I used to make fig bars and apple tarts with barley flour. Millet flour has a milder flavor than wheat. It is more similar to oats, and it is low in gluten, so it feels clean in the body.
Most importantly, barley as a whole grain doesn’t show up in most people’s diets very often, so baking with barley flour felt like a good way to bring the grain into the diet.
I paired barley flour with rice flour, just to get a different texture in the cookie. The rice flour, when used in baking, tends to confer crunch, and this cookie is delightfully crunchy.
I am thinking now if you want to make this cookie entirely wheat-free, you could definitely try substituting all the flour with a packaged gluten-free flour. These flours tend to contain a lot of rice.
You can buy barley flour and rice flour from Bob’s Red Mill and other sources online and in specialty grocery stores. I have included some Amazon options below for your convenience.
You can also buy these speciality flours from any Indian store. You may be interested to know that an Indian grocery store is generally stocked with well over a dozen types of flour. Diversity is integral to Indian cuisine.
Baking With Ghee
Another staple of Indian sweets is ghee. Ghee is a special type of clarified butter, that has a beautifully rich, nutty flavor that comes from the gentle browning of butter’s milk solids in the process of making ghee.
While we tend to use butter in most of our baking, Indians use ghee.
While I love good quality butter and think it is pretty special, ghee made with quality butter is super special. The properties of butter are altered (in a good way) when making ghee.
The butter transforms and becomes highly digestible, so much so that people with dairy sensitivities find they can eat ghee. This can be attributed to the fact that the milk protein allergens contained in the milk solids are removed when making ghee.
If you are not familiar with ghee, you may think ghee is just like oil then? It isn’t. Unlike oil, ghee is still solid at room temperature. Its texture is more comparable to coconut oil.
So ghee is a unique type of cooking fat. It is considered a healthy fat, and it is certainly tasty. With these Chocolate Cashew Cookies, I think the inclusion of ghee is transformative.
I have written a number of posts on ghee. For more information, visit:
How to Identify Quality Ghee, and Ghee-buying Tips
10 Healing Benefits of Ghee
Homemade Ghee, the Spiritual Way
Third Time’s A Charm
This recipe was my third attempt. In my first attempt, I used butter. All I tasted was the butter, and the chocolate flavor was muddy. I really didn’t enjoy the butter flavor, so I make some adjustments and understood that I should use ghee.
The second attempt was better with ghee, but the flavors and textures weren’t balanced. The third try was definitely a charm. I feel so proud of this recipe invention.
Imagine what caramelized butter tastes like with chocolate. Now, imagine caramelized butter with cashews.
And then imagine cashews roasted in ghee with cinnamon and sugar, so each bite of cashew in the cookie is coated in sweet goodness. I hope this sounds good to you, and that you will give it a try.Imagine what caramelized butter tastes like with chocolate. Now, imagine caramelized butter with cashews. And then imagine cashews roasted in ghee with cinnamon and sugar.Click To Tweet
These Chocolate Cashew Cookies also have cardamom, which is another Indian sweets staple that pairs beautifully with the richness of ghee.
Tiny Pots And Pans
Since I used them for this recipe, I am going to take this opportunity to introduce you to a couple of my favorite cooking tools: tiny skillets, and tiny saucepans.
I used my tiny saucepan to heat up my ghee with the honey, and I used my tiny skillet to roast my cashews in ghee and cinnamon-sugar.
Had I tried to use a regular sized implement it would have worked for sure, but it wouldn’t have been as fun.
In Indian cooking, there are a lot of tiny spice preparations involved, so these tools come in handy.
I also use them for heating up small amounts of tea, coffee, and dinner leftovers, and they are super handy. There is less food residue that goes to waste, and less to wash.
I highly recommend these tiny cooking pieces, so I am going to share my favorites from Amazon for you to see.
These are affiliate links, so I get a small commission if you click. I set up this program because I really think it adds value. I hope you think so too!
Recipe for Wheat-Free Chocolate Cashew Cookies
- ½ cup organic castor sugar, or regular sugar blended finely (see method)
- ½ cup + 1 tablespoon ghee
- ½ cup raw cashews
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 cup barley flour
- ½ cup rice flour
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon cardamom powder
Prepare the ingredients
- Prepare your sugar: It is important to use the right sugar for this recipe. In India, a very fine sugar is widely available. What they use is similar to what we would call castor sugar, baker’s sugar, or superfine. Castor sugar is used for almost everything in the UK, but unfortunately, it is not readily available in the U.S., and what is available is expensive, especially if you want organic sugar. To work around this problem, process raw sugar in a food processor or blender until fine, somewhere in between regular sugar and powdered sugar.
- Prepare the cashews: Heat a tablespoon of ghee in a tiny skillet on low heat and add your cashews, a pinch of salt, ½ teaspoon of fine sugar, and ½ teaspoon cinnamon powder. Combine well, and heat until cashews just start turning brown. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Chop the cashews, reserving 2 tablespoons for the cookie topping. The rest will go into the chocolate cashew cookies.
- Prepare the wet ingredients: In a tiny saucepan, gently heat the half cup of ghee to melt, but do not boil it. Add honey and stir well to mix.
Make the cookies
- In a mixing bowl, add sugar, barley flour, rice flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and cardamom powder, and mix well.
- Add in the prepared sweetened ghee, and use a wooden spoon or your fingers to mix until it forms into a thick dough. Mix in chopped cashews, reserving 2 tablespoons for the topping.
- Shape the dough into a thick rectangle, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes so the dough is more firm when you roll it out. (You can also refrigerate it overnight, but it will take time to warm the next day before you can roll it. I did this, and ended up warming my dough in the preheating oven for a couple minutes to soften it.)
- When you are ready to make the cookies, sprinkle a work surface with a bit of rice flour. Place the dough in the middle of the surface. Push the dough down with your fingers and palms, and then use a rolling pin to lightly roll the dough. Use your fingers to push in the edges until you have a rectangle sized 7x9 inches, and about a third of an inch thick. Press in the reserved cashew topping with your hands.
- Use a cookie cutter or knife to create 12 equally-sized 2-inch square cookies. (Use the leftover rectangle edges to create “sample” cookies for the cook.)
- Place on a non-stick or oiled cookie sheet, or on a parchment paper-lined sheet. Bake in a preheated oven for 20 mins at 325 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have a convection setting on your oven, use it, and reduce the cooking time by 5 minutes. You will know the cookies are done when the cashews on top have started to turn light golden brown.
- Serve Chocolate Cashew Cookies with sweetened masala chai, or regular black tea.