Monday, 15 September 2014

Batasa

Batasa

Simple tea biscuits which have a long history and a wonderful legendary story.

The Dutch had left the shores of the West Port City of Surat, India in the 1700's where a flourishing bakery was handed over to Faramji Dotivala. This baker continued to produce the breads for the local British community left behind. Once the Brits too lessened in numbers, the bread's popularity diminished and the wasted bread was soon distributed to the local poor. Having the advantage of being fermented with an ingredient called Toddy, there was little chance of the bread ever catching fungus, prolonging the life of this staple yet making it harder to eat. One thing led to another and the local doctors suggested that this stale bread be given as a convalescent food to patients as it was easy to digest and filled their stomachs. Dotivala started producing smaller specially dried bread buns, and ' batasas' were soon produced using the same toddy, flour and water! They were round balls of dough made to be eaten with a cup of sweet tea. They were hard enough to be dunked into the tea and not fall apart.
Years later, the Batasa was changed to a richer version with an addition of butter and or ghee/clarified butter. With alcohol prohibition taking place, Toddy was replaced with yeast or even completely omitted in the recipe.
Besides the cities of Surat, Navsari and Pune where Batasas are rivalled to be called their own, it was and still is a staple sold in Irani Tea Houses in Mumbai and until recently in Karachi. Sadly it is all dwindling down in numbers as many of the owners and bakers have moved to other pastures. Let's hope we can soon walk through the doors of the first wonderful Chai House in North America!

Current day situation:
Made from few ingredients, some like their batasa crisp while others like them flaky. There is also an amazing cheese batasa now popular among Canadians. The option to add cumin or caraway seeds; toasted slivered almonds still remains the same. Happily the shape continues to be mainly round like the original buns!



Batasa


4 cups sifted all purpose flour

1 tbsp semolina
3 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt

1 cup soft  butter 8 ozs/ 226gms


8 tbsp cold water

 In a bowl mix the dry ingredients
Add the softened butter in little pieces. With the tip of your fingers crumble the mixture till it resembles little beads. You can alternately use two butter knives or place all of it in a food processor using the pulse button. Add the cold water 1 tbsp at a time until it all comes together.
Do not over knead.
Roll out into a long even sausage on a lightly dusted floured surface. 
Cut this into 48-60 pieces.
Roll each one very lightly into a ball. Place this on a baking sheet.
Preheat the oven to 325F/165C. Cook for 30 minutes. Lower the temperature to  275F/135C and cook for 30 minutes. Now lower the oven temperature to 225F/105C and cook until it cooks and dries from the inside which will be another hour plus. 
Leave to cool and store in an airtight box. 

Tips

If you have a cake beater use the 'k beater' attachment to mix. If you have a food processor it will take less than 5 minutes to put this together. Overturn cut into 2 or 4 equal pieces and work with one at a time. It is more even and quicker.
Keep the baking trays ready with grease proof paper or grease the tray lightly with butter. You will need two large cookie sheets to fit all of them.  
The trick is to dry the batasas from the inside and so the heat variation is very important. 
Batasas should have a light pinky colour and not be white.
Try to keep them all even. 
Optionally add either 
2 ozs toasted slivered peeled almonds
1 tsp cardamom powder
2 tsp caraway or cumin seeds
I like mine plain and simple.
Yeast gives them a definitive aroma and taste which I am not too fond off and so do not use it in my batasa. 



For more Parsi recipes including batasa, kumas, nankhatai, ravo and much more click

The Art of Parsi Cooking;reviving an ancient cuisine.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HBSBLI4

Niloufer's Kitchen:Quick and Easy

For any help downloading an e-book click https://read.amazon.com


Readers Comment:
December 14th 2014


Batasa /makhaniya /jeera butter...
many names..best chaitime biscuit
A perfect recipe from Niloufer's Kitchen..


This was posted today March 18th 2015. How wonderful to see a piece of history relived. Feeling excited!!

At the famous Dotiwala Bakery in Surat. Cyrus Dotiwala gave us a special access tour of the back of house bakery operations. And a gift hamper to all of the Fellows. Thank you Dotiwala Family for being gracious hosts and welcoming us to your bakery ‪#‎RTR2015‬

April 2015


Great recipe Niloufer. My batasas are a bit "knobbly" but taste YUM!


4 comments:

  1. SUPERB NOTES NILOUFER. WISH WE CAN GET THESE BATASA IN BOMBAY

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  2. Thank you so much Anand.
    I believe Cyrus Dotivala has mentioned on face book that B Merwan in Mumbai stocks his bakery products. Good Luck.

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  3. I was looking for a recipe from Surat, when I was a child you could buy it from lary that sold tuti fruti rusk as well. It is called "chai biscuit" and it is very hard and looks like a dried out bun and the inside texture is similar to a bun.

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    Replies
    1. Thank youfor leaving your note. I am glad you were able to connect with the batasa. Enjoy!

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