Salted egg yolk cookies for Chinese New Year

I have admittedly not been posting anything on the blog for a while. Since June 2015, to be exact! Rest assured that I have continued to cook, bake and eat, but have just not gotten around to getting the recipes onto the blog – they do make it onto my instagram feed/stories though.

I first started the blog as a way to keep all my recipes in one place, mainly because I would otherwise forget what I put into a particular dish.  I have now fallen into the same habit, which is when I figured that I should start blogging again.

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The salted egg yolk craze has been taking over recently – salted egg potato chips, fish skin, cookies etc. I’ve only tried the fish skin and potato chips (I prefer the former!), and can totally see why so many people have gone crazy over them. I have never actually tried salted egg yolk cookies, so actually had no idea what I was aiming for when I made these. I used a recipe I found online as a base, and went from there.

This recipe makes a slightly crunchy cookie, with a nice hint of salted egg yolk. I personally think it could do with a bit more of salted egg yolk, so may increase the ratio of yolk:flour next time. I’ll definitely also be trying to make a more ‘melty’ cookie to see which texture is better!

salted egg yolk cookie 1

Salted egg yolk cookies

  • 150g salted butter, softened
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 6 cooked salted egg yolks, mashed
  • 300g flour
  • 15g cornflour
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten (for egg wash)
  • Sesame seeds (for garnish, optional)
  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy
  2. Add the mashed salted yolks, and mix until just combined.
  3. Add the flour/cornflour mix in 2 additions, again mixing until just combined. The mix should form a cohesive dough. You can test this by trying to form a ball from the dough – if it is too crumbly, add a any flavourless oil (corn oil, vegetable oil etc) 1 teaspoon at a time until the dough can be formed into a ball.
  4. Roll the dough into rounds, and place on a parchment/silpat lined baking tray.
  5. Preheat the oven to 165’C (fan assisted).
  6. Gently brush the beaten egg onto the top of each cookie, and top with sesame seeds if you wish.
  7. Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for 10-12 mins, until the cookies are just golden.
  8. Leave to cool, then eat!
salted egg yolk cookie 2

 

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Revisited: Chinese New Year Pineapple ‘nastar’ tarts

Ah, it’s that time of year again. The time of year where the baking madness begins.

Pineapple tarts are, to me, synonymous with Chinese New Year. It simply is not Chinese New Year without them. Having said that, they are one of the more time consuming treats to bake, when compared to something like almond or peanut cookies. Cooking the pineapple jam took almost 3.5 hours! (It’s worth taking the time to cook out the jam though, as there was one year where I had a lazy moment – leading to wet jam, and thus a perfect environment for mould…)

chinese new year pineapple cookies 5

I thought I’d try a new recipe this year, and found a recipe from Sonia of Nasi Lemak Lover. It had rave reviews, so I tweaked it marginally, and went with it. They turned out well, and I love the fact that it utilises one of my favourite ingredients: condensed milk! They do not end up milky or too sweet, so fear not.

I’ve learnt a lot since my first attempt at making these, and my tips for making pineapple nastar tarts are as follows:
– Roll out your jam into rolls beforehand.
– Pipe out rolls of pastry beforehand.
– Have your pastry at room temperature as it is easier to pipe/push room temperature dough through the nastar mould. (This may be different in a humid environment, but in a cold country/during winter I definitely recommend room temperature pastry.)
– Do not let your nastar mould get oily. You will totally lose your grip if this happens, and things will rapidly become more difficult.
– Be gentle with your pastry, as you do not want to destroy the beautiful zigzag nastar design on the pastry.

chinese new year pineapple tarts 1

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Chinese New Year Pineapple nastar tarts
Based on a recipe from Nasi Lemak Lover
Makes 80 large tarts (you may get more if you make smaller ones)
 
For the pastry:
  • 350g salted butter, at room temperature\
  • 100g condensed milk
  • 470g plain flour
  • 40g cornflour
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 700-750g pineapple jam (I used 2 1/2 large pineapples)
    • roll into individual balls/logs, approx 3/4 tsp each
For egg wash:
  • 1 egg yolk + 1 tbsp milk (gently beaten)
Method:
1. Place the butter and condensed milk in the bowl of your stand mixer. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Alternatively, you can use a spatula or a hand held mixer.
2. Add the egg yolks, and mix until just combined.
3. Add the plain flour and corn flour to the butter/condensed milk mixture in 2 additions, mix until just combined. The mixture should just come together to form a dough, and should not crumble when you roll it into a ball. If it crumbles, it is too dry – add some liquid. If it seems too sticky, add a little flour. This will change depending on climate( but not by very much).
4. Pipe out the pastry dough using your nastar mould, into 3 inch strips. If you do not have a nastar mould, you can wrap the dough up into the ‘enclosed’ version of pineapple tarts.
5. Place a ball of pineapple jam onto the pastry strip, and roll it up. Place on a silpat/parchment lined tray.
6. Repeat with all the remaining pastry and jam.
7. Brush the tarts lightly with the egg wash.
8. Bake in a 165’C oven (fan) for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.

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Are these time consuming? Yes. But are they worth the effort? Definitely.

Happy baking!

Chinese braised nuts

Most Chinese restaurants always serve a little ‘snack’ the moment you sit down at the table. These Chinese braised nuts (groundnuts) are a common feature, and I personally think they are a fabulous appetiser. Being in London means I don’t get to eat this as often as I’d like – which means there was only one solution: make it myself.

chinese braised peanuts

I’ve tweaked the recipe over my last few attempts, and I am finally happy enough to post the recipe. It is a very simple recipe, but does need a prolonged cooking time to ensure the flavours absorb into the nuts.

chinese braised peanuts

Chinese braised nuts
  • 500g raw peanuts/groundnuts (I prefer skinless ones)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tsp five spice powder
  • 5 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 5 tbsp kicap manis (alternatively, use dark soy sauce + 1 tsp sugar)
  • 3 star anise
  • 60g rock sugar (any other white sugar is fine)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • orange peel from one orange (optional)
  • 5 cups water (you may need a few extra cups of water, see below)
  1. Wash the peanuts, drain, and place in a slow cooker/heavy bottomed pot.
  2. Add all the other ingredients to the pot.
  3. Cook on low heat (covered) for 2-3 hours, until the nuts are cooked through. Gently stir the mixture every 30 minutes. You may need to add in extra water as you go along – do not let the liquid dry out, as this will cause the peanuts to burn.
  4. Eat warm, or leave to cool and eat at room temperature.
On another note, here’s wishing all my Chinese readers a very Happy Chinese New Year! 恭喜发财, 万事如意! 
I leave you with a photo of us tossing ‘yee sang/yu sheng’ (Chinese New Year salad). Essentially, the higher you toss, the more luck you get!
yee sang
May the year of the Horse bring much joy, good health, prosperity, and good food!

Chinese New Year: Almond cookies, with crunch!

Most Malaysians equate Chinese New Year with a few important things = family, friends, FOOD, and well, food. And let’s face it, it wouldn’t be Chinese New Year without all those typical CNY cookies – pineapple tarts, peanut cookies… and so forth.

I made some almond cookies last year, but wasn’t altogether pleased with their texture. You see, to me almond cookies should have a slight crunch, yet be slightly melty. My version from last year tasted good enough, but it didn’t have much of that ‘crunch factor’. I know I’m being pedantic, but if you’re going to stuff yourself with cookies, it might as well be ones you love!

chinese new year almond cookies 3

I found this recipe in one of the cookbooks I bought in Penang (oh yes, I totally buy local cookbooks whenever I go home – then lug them all back to London), and thought it looked promising. And it did deliver!

These cookies have a nice crunchy/firm exterior, with a slight melty interior. If you have never tasted such almond cookies, you must think I am completely bonkers. I know it sounds mad, but it works. Remarkably well, might I add.

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As always, I managed to eat 5 cookies in the first hour post-baking. I then had to take fairly drastic action to keep them all away in a sealed container, so I can’t get to them before Chinese New Year comes along! Yes, I am THAT lazy. If it’s sealed/hard to get to, I rather not eat it. Ha!

If you prefer a soft/completely ‘melt in the mouth’ almond cookie, you’ll prefer my recipe from last year. But if you prefer one with a slight crunch, try this one. I think you’ll like it!

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Chinese New Year Almond Cookies
Adapted from My Secret Recipe Series: New Year Cookies by Alan Ooi
Makes approximately 50-60 cookies, depending on size

  • 100g ground almonds
  • 150g plain flour
  • 100g caster sugar (I might cut down the sugar to 75g next time, as I prefer a less-sweet cookie)
  • 3/4tsp baking powder
  • 3/4tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 100ml corn oil, or other flavourless oil (you may need a little more/less oil depending on the climate you are in)
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten

1. Sieve the flour, caster sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt into bowl of your stand mixer.
2. Add the ground almonds to the flour/sugar mixture.
3. With your mixer on medium speed (with the beater attachment),* slowly trickle in the corn oil into the bowl containing the flour/sugar/almonds. Mix until a cohesive dough forms. You may need more or less oil depending on the humidity/moisture levels – the aim is to reach a dough which is just able to hold it’s shape (and doesn’t crumble) when you attempt to roll it into a ball. It’s rather dry here in London at the moment, so I had to use an extra 10ml of oil before the dough came together.
4. Heat the oven to 180’C.
5. Roll the dough into ~2.5cm balls, and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper/a silpat mat. Repeat until all the dough is used up.
6. Using a pastry brush, lightly glaze the tops of the cookie balls with the beaten egg yolk.
7. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the cookies become slightly golden.
8. Leave to cool on a wire rack, then tuck in.

* You don’t need a stand mixer to do this, you can use a handheld mixer/food processor/a spatula. I use my stand mixer because it’s permanently out on the counter, which makes it the easiest option. I told you I was lazy.

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Almond London cookies (Biskut almond London)

One of the worst things about being away from home is missing out on the various celebrations we have in Malaysia. Chinese New Year, Hari Raya (Eid), Deepavali… sigh. I even miss the cheesy music!

Unsurprisingly, food is one of the highlights of any celebration in Malaysia (we love our food!) – which meant that the only way I could feel a little festive was to bake/cook something Raya-related. But of course! 🙂

I decided on these “Almond London cookies” for several reasons: 1) I’d never made them before; 2) I like eating them; 2) I liked how it had the word “London” in it. I have no idea how the name came about, because I am fairly certain it did not originate in London – if anyone knows the origins behind the name of this cookie, please do share as I’d love to know.

The biscuit is made up of 3 main parts – a whole toasted almond, covered in a crispy biscuit, and coated with chocolate. They’re usually topped with chopped almonds, but other toppings that are commonly use include sprinkles (any type!) or white chocolate.

The recipe is actually very simple, with minimal ingredients needed. I did slightly underestimate how tedious it was going to be though – individually wrapping the dough around each almond took a lot longer than I’d imagined! I always say that you never truly appreciate how much work goes into Malaysian celebration cookies, and I think these are a good example. Having said that, these were easier to make than pinapple nastar tarts!

Nevertheless, I still enjoyed making these, and now I have a small stash in my fridge for times of need/greed. 🙂 Plus it feels a little like home!

Almond London cookies / Biskut Almond London
Adapted from this recipe by Amy Beh
Makes approximately 80 cookies

  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 75g icing sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 200g plain flour
  • 25g rice flour
  • 300 toasted whole almonds (toasting is optional!)
  • 100g chopped nuts (I used hazelnuts as I had some to hand. You may also use sprinkles or melted white chocolate to decorate the biscuits if you prefer.)
  • 400g dark/milk chocolate

1. Sift the plain flour and rice flour into a medium sized bowl. Set aside.
2. Place butter and icing sugar in the bowl of your stand mixer (or use a hand-held mixer). Cream the butter/sugar mixture at medium speed (I use the K beater) until it turns pale and fluffy.
3. Add the egg yolk, and mix until just combined.
4. Add the sifted flour mixture in two parts, mixing well after each addition. You should now have a cohesive dough.
5. Take a small piece of dough (approximately the size of a marble (~1.5cm diameter)) and flatten it slightly. Wrap the dough around the almond, then form it into a cylinder. Alternatively, you may prefer to form it into a round ball.
6. Place the wrapped almond on a baking tray lined with baking paper/a Silpat.
7. Repeat with the remaining dough and almonds, until all the dough is used up. You may end up with some extra almonds, you can either snack on these or chop them up to use as a topping.
8. Bake in a 175’C preheated oven for 20 minutes, until slightly golden. I would advise only preheating your oven when you’re halfway through wrapping the almonds in the dough, to save on electricity. Cool the baked cookies on a wire rack.
9. Once cooled, place each cookie in a small paper case.
10. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (I use a Pyrex bowl over a pot of simmering water). Take care to ensure that the chocolate does not come into contact with any water, as this will cause the chocolate to seize.
11. Using a teaspoon, spoon the melted chocolate over each cookie. Try to ensure the chocolate goes up to the edges of the paper cases, as it makes for a prettier cookie.
12. Sprinkle the tops of each cookie with chopped nuts/sprinkles/melted white chocolate.
13. Once the chocolate has set – eat! You may prefer to place the cookies in the refrigerator to speed up the setting process if you’re impatient like me/if you live in hot climates.

Happy Eid/Selamat Hari Raya everyone!

Chinese New Year: Kuih bangkit (coconut biscuits)

One of the integral things about Chinese New Year are the cookies that come along with it. Ask any Chinese person, and they’ll have their favourite Chinese New Year cookies/snacks. My top 3 are: groundnut/peanut cookiesarrowroot chips, and pineapple tarts.

Kuih bangkit is a Nyonya/Malaysian Chinese New Year cookie made from coconut milk, tapoica flour, sugar and eggs. It has a very characteristic texture: crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside – in fact they should melt in your mouth once you get past the crispy exterior. (And yes, ‘melt in the mouth’ seems to be a must for most Chinese New Year cookies!) Mum & dad aren’t huge fans of kuih bangkit, so I never ate much of it growing up. Not compared to groundnut cookies anyway! 😉

The other characteristic of kuih bangkit is the lovely designs you get when you use traditional kuih bangkit molds. The original molds are made from wood (and all hand-carved), whereas you can get plastic ones nowadays.

I’d heard from countless people that kuih bangkit are tricky little morsels to make, as whilst they look fairly simple, it’s not easy to get the right texture of crispy outsides/melty insides. I always like a challenge, so I thought – why not? Plus I would get a chance to use freshly squeezed coconut milk (“santan”), which is nigh impossible to find in London.

The most time consuming bit of making these is the cooking of the flour… the aim is (I believe) to get rid of the ‘raw’ taste of flour. Cooking the flour takes anything from 60-90 minutes. But it’s not the cooking/stirring that is the problem, it’s the fact that tapoica flour sends minute particles of flour all over your kitchen each time you stir it. I kid you not when I say there was a thin layer of flour over all the kitchen counters! (For those of you who haven’t worked with tapoica flour before, it’s similar to corn flour, i.e. lets out puffs of ‘flour dust’.)

Whilst the taste of these little babies were great, I wasn’t altogether happy with their texture, as they weren’t crispy enough on the outside. Plus they cracked a little, meaning the lovely intricate designs on the kuih became less pronounced. I’m hearing conflicting things when it comes to kuih bangkit – are they supposed to crack, or not? If any of you know, please do let me know, as it would be good to know err.. what to aim for. 😛

I won’t be sharing the recipe for these kuih bangkit, as I don’t want to post a recipe I’m not happy with. Rest assured though that I will be making this again to try perfecting the recipe for next year!

Till then, Happy Chinese New Year to all of you! May the Year of the Dragon bring you happiness, good health, and good food. 😀

Almond cookies for Chinese New Year

I’ve always believed that it’s not really Chinese New Year without the following things: 1) family + the people you love (and who love you!), 2) cookies, and 3) cheesy Chinese ‘tong tong chiang’ type music.

I made my first ever batch of Chinese New Year peanut cookies and pineapple tarts last year, and really enjoyed the whole process. I’m not sure why it took me so long to do it, but I suspect that it was something to do with the fact that I usually have a supply of cookies from home…

But anyhow, back to the cookies. I wanted to try making something different this year, primarily because I’ll be back home for Chinese New Year this time around (yay!) and therefore have no immediate need to bake my favourite peanut cookies. 🙂 So I decided on almond cookies, which are one of the more popular cookies during the festive period.

I modified the peanut cookie recipe I used last year as it was rather simple and non-finicky, and replaced the peanuts with almonds. I also decided to use lard in the cookies instead of oil – I’ve always been told that lard is the secret to perfect ‘melt in your mouth’ cookies, and I wanted to see if this was true.

So what did I think? Well, first of all I was a little alarmed when the cookies were in the oven, as they smelt EXACTLY like pork crackling. Though truth be told, little bites of pork crackling isn’t the worst thing in the world.. in fact it would be an excellent snack! 😉 They didn’t smell of pork once they’d cooled though – thankfully. On the ‘melt in the mouth’ scale, I felt that they were a little ‘meltier’ compared to the cookies I made last year. However (I don’t believe I’m saying this), I feel that that extra little bit of ‘melt in your mouth-ness’ doesn’t justify the unhealthiness of lard… so I think I’ll stick with oil in the future. This must be a sign of ageing.

Almond cookies typically have a piece of silvered almond on their tops – I had run out of these so decided to stick to the tried and true method of making an indentation instead. I used a chopstick to do this, some people like to use a (clean) pen cover or straw.

Am planning to make a few more types of cookies, and I promise to blog about them promptly if I do!

Chinese New Year almond cookies
Makes approximately 50-60 cookies, depending on size

  • 2 cups ground almonds
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 3/4 cup icing sugar (alternatively, use castor sugar)
  • 220g lard (alternatively, use 1 cup corn oil)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg, beaten

1. Dry fry the ground almonds in a wide non-stick pan (over medium heat), until they start to become fragrant and lightly browned. Take care to make sure you do not burn the almonds, as it will impart an unpleasant burnt taste to your cookies.
If you don’t have ground almonds, you can use whole almonds (without skins), and pulse them into a fine powder after dry frying.
2. Place the ground almonds, flour, sugar and salt in a bowl, and mix with a spatula until well combined.
3. Using a pastry blender, incorporate the lard into the almond/flour mix, until you form a cohesive dough. A good guide is to try forming a ball from the dough – it should not crumble. You may need more or less oil/lard depending on the weather.
Alternatively, you can use a food processor for this step: place the almond/flour mix in the food processor bowl, add chopped cubes of lard, and pulse until it forms a cohesive dough. If using oil, trickle the oil in slowly whilst pulsing.
4. Heat the oven to 180′C.
5. Form the dough into 2cm balls, and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Press down lightly with a chopstick (or a straw or a clean pen cover), this forms the indentation you see in the cookie.
Alternatively, place a piece of slivered almond on the top of the cookie (after eggwashing though!).
7. Glaze lightly with the beaten egg.
8. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until they turn a lovely shade of golden brown.