Pune has always been the retreat of Bombaywalas. For the weekend, for the races, to party and to 'chill'. And anyone who goes away, must come back, most importantly, bearing gifts in hand.
Almost all visitors who come to Pune from Bombay have to take back gifts of one of it's specialities....and what could be more special than Shrewsbury biscuits from Kayani Bakery.
Packed in familiar ,square, patterned, carboard boxes they are sold out in a few minutes everyday.People fight over them, there are near stampedes in the anxiety to get hold of at least one of those precious boxes.If you pass by at that critical time when the batch comes out of the oven you will wonder what event has occured to create such excitement.
Kayani Bakery was started by Hormuz and Khodayar Irani in 1955.They had emigrated from Iran before 1947, along with a group of people, many of whom settled in Pune and began the business of bakeries.
Kayani still makes a sourdough bread, with a starter made from hops. The yeast, even now, is produced in large wooden vats, and the bread is baked in a huge, wood fired, brick oven. The firewood is from the babul tree, a quick growing, almost weed like tree, and its unique characteristic is that it is smokeless during burning, This makes it a natural choice, for cooking on open stoves, by both city and country dwellers many of whom have no access togas or electricity.
The famous shrewsbury biscuits are also baked in this oven, morning and evening , one loading being 40 large baking trays. Parvez Irani tells me they make around 200 kilos of these biscuits a day and they are almost always sold out!
Well, quite understandably, they wouldn't share the recipe with me but here is a good recipe for Shewsbury biscuits that will make between 40-4 dozen .
- 250 gms butter
- 300 gms caster sugar
- 3-4 egg yolks
- 450 gms flour
- Grated rind of two lemons (not used in the Kayani type)
Strain the flour through a fine mesh twice.
Cream the butter and sugar with a whisk until the yellow of the butter becomes off white and the mixture is fluffy.
Beat the egg yolks till runny, add to the butter mixture and mix well.
Add the flour and grated lemon rind and stir in with a spoon till it makes a firm but not stiff dough.
Flour a surface and knead the dough gently for a minute or so. Roll out to 1/4" thick . Using a cookie cutter (I use a glass of the right size if I dont have one) cut out circles of 2 diameter.
Place on a greased and floured baking sheet. Bake at Mark 4 or 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes till very lightly browned.
Kayani's biscuits are a pale yellow and are very buttery and very sweet. I like to use a bit more of the grated rind of lemon to reduce the sweetness.