I made jowar cookies because I wanted to try whole grain cookies using some kind of millet flour. These sweet little discs could also go by lemon cookies. Now, traditional baked goods with lemon are always made using butter and all-purpose flour because together they create tender (cakes), crisp (cookies) and light, buttery textures. By making lemon-flavored jowar (sorghum) cookies using oil, my aim was to cut a few calories by trading-off flakiness for chewiness. The lemony taste and scent remains unchanged.
Why jowar/sorghum flour?
White wholewheat flour would’ve been ideal for this lemon cookie but it’s not available here in India. I did not want to use regular wholewheat flour since it has a mildly bitter aftertaste; the flavour of lemons is delicate and I wanted that to come through clearly (I have a weakness for tart and lemony desserts). Sorghum or jowar flour has a naturally sweet taste and has a light, almost white appearance and texture. But since it is gluten-free and does not puff up like regular flour, I thought it best to use a combination of all-purpose and sorghum flours. If you prefer, you could substitute wholewheat flour for regular or go with 100% wholewheat. My flour combination resulted in jowar cookies that turned out crisp on the outside but chewy within. Sorghum flour browns quickly so keep an eye on the cookies to ensure they don’t burn once they’re done.
Sunflower oil instead of butter
Nothing like butter to infuse that sunshiny butteriness into baked goods but that taste comes at the cost of gaining hundreds of unnecessary calories and cholesterol from saturated fats. We’re watching our heart health at home so while an occasional indulgence is fine, I’m always looking for healthier alternatives without making too much compromise on taste. In this case I used sunflower oil in place of butter. Sunflower oil is closest to canola oil (not available here) in that it’s suited to the high temperatures of baking because it has a high smoking point. This means that, when heated, it starts smoking at a higher compared to oils used in baked goods such as coconut. Plus, it has a neutral taste that doesn’t mask other flavours and it contains polyunsaturated fats (that our bodies need) and zero cholesterol. These jowar cookies were not greasy or oily smelling.
To chill or not to chill
The debate but chilling vs not chilling cookie dough is never ending. I have read perfectly plausible arguments for both cases and have ended up thoroughly confused. So now I just follow the recipe. That said, in this case, I decided to bake these jowar cookies without chilling. Allow me to list the reasons:
Chilling tends to dry out the dough because the flours slowly absorb the moisture during this resting period. This works to concentrate the flavour and makes the dough less sticky and easy to roll out. It can yield a crisper cookie. My millet-based dough if chilled would’ve dried out and resulted it a harder cookie and as for the flavours, I wanted the fresh lemon to stay fresh. This is why I chose to bake my cookies right away.
- When butter-based cookies are chilled, it prevents them from spreading while baking and thus helps retain their shape. My jowar cookie dough was sticky but easy to roll into balls and shape. I made smaller balls allowing for a little spread, which happened but resulted in the right size.
- If you’re in the mood to experiment and chill this dough, go ahead chill them for anywhere between 30 minutes and a couple of hours (any longer and they may end up very dry). Do let me know the result.
Anyway, the science of the cookie aside, these little roundels of lemony deliciousness turned out great and we enjoyed them over a few evening cups of tea. What I like the most about these cookies is the strong lemon that comes through with a good balance of sour and sweet. Next time I plan to bake these with wholewheat flour and see if the flavours and textures are any better.
- 90 g jowar or sorghum flour
- 90 g all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 140 g white, granulated sugar
- 3 tbsp sunflower or canola oil
- 1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 tbsp milk
- Line a baking tray with parchment and heat the oven to 176°C
- Sift the dry ingredient – both flours, salt and baking powder in a bowl.
- In a separate, larger bowl, beat the oil, sugar, lemon zest and juice together for a minute.
- Gently mix the dry ingredients into the liquid mixture. You will have a crumbly dough.
- Now add the milk, and mix the sticky mixture.
- Lightly grease your palms, pinch a walnut-sized amount of mixture and roll into a ball. place the ball on the lightly greased parchment. Use up all the mixture to make similar sized balls.
- The using a fork, gently flatten the balls into discs. Make sure there's at least an inch or 2 between discs to allow the cookie to expand a little.
- Bake the jowar cookies for 15-17 minutes until the tops are golden. Gently place the warm cookies on a wire rack and cool completely before storing in an airtight tin.