These are Indian shortbread cookies called nankhatai. A nankhatai is a simple eggless cookie with butter, flour, and sugar as the main ingredients. Some spice is added to give the cookies an extra zing. I used a mixture of besan (chickpea flour), all-purpose flour, and semolina as the base. Black pepper adds warmth to these sweet, buttery cookies and a little bit of fruity jam or almond on top gives these thumbprint cookies their last finishing touch. You can use any kind of nut or jam of choice.
In a bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar. Beat until light and pale yellow in color and set aside.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flours, semolina, salt, pepper, and baking powder. Add the flour mixture into the sugar-butter mixture, a little at a time until everything is mixed well together to form soft dough.
Knead the dough for 2-3 minutes to form a smooth big ball. (If it’s a little sticky, wrap it in a plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes. After about 30 minutes, take the dough out of the refrigerator and knead again for 2-3 minutes. The warmth of your hands will soften the butter in the dough slightly.)
Now divide the dough into equal parts; make about 30-35 smooth balls. (Because of the butter, the cookies flatten and crack when baked so make sure your dough balls are smooth with no cracks in order to make pretty cookies.)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place the dough balls on the sheet and bake until the bottom of cookies are golden in color, about 20-22 minutes. Remove from the oven and top ½ of the cookies with the almonds and the other ½ with jam. Enjoy warm cookies with chai or store them in airtight containers for several weeks.