Chocolate and matcha sable cookies

This is something I’ve made a few times now, but I have never gotten around to posting the recipe. The photos are also a few years old… Better late than never though!

These sable cookies do require some refrigeration time to allow for easy shaping/slicing, but I promise that they are not too fiddly, and are completely worth it. I loved the extra crunch from the granulated sugar, but R isn’t a fan and prefers it without (he says it is too sweet with the extra sugar).

Chocolate & Matcha sable cookies
Makes 40 cookies
Recipe from Okashi (Sweet treats made with love)

  • 40g silvered almonds
  • 130g plain flour
  • 20g corn flour
  • 20g cocoa powder (or matcha powder)
  • 120g unsalted butter, softened
  • 70g icing sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Granulated white sugar, for dusting (I use Demerara sugar) – optional
  1.  Sieve plain flour, corn flour, and cocoa powder (or matcha powder) into a bowl.
  2. Beat butter, icing sugar and salt in a mixing bowl on medium speed, until well combined.
  3. Add egg yolk, and mix until just combined.
  4. In two additions, fold the dry flour mixture into the butter mixture, till the dough is homogenous and well combined.
  5. Add the silvered almonds, and mix through.
  6. Roll the dough into two logs, wrap with clingfilm, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  7. Preheat your oven to 160’C (fan assisted).
  8. Slice the cookie dough log into 8mm slices. Roll the cookie sides in granulated sugar, if you wish to do this.
  9. Place the cookies on parchment/Silpat lined baking trays.
  10. Bake for 20 minutes, till just firm to touch.
  11. Leave to cool on a wire rack, and eat when cooled. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 10-14 days.

 

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Matcha & vanilla mini doughnuts (with a chocolate glaze!)

When looking through my previous posts, I realised that I’ve never blogged anything Valentine’s Day themed before… so I am here now to rectify this. Most Valentine’s themed desserts nowadays usually have one (if not both) of chocolate, or red velvet. I did toy with the idea of making something like a chocolate fondant (I made these for Valentine’s a few years ago and loved them), but decided to make something I’d never done before instead.

So… I decided to make mini doughnuts, partly because I had a 6 month old mini doughnut tin which had yet to be used. Tin, you say? Why yes. These are baked doughnuts, you see. I doubt I would ever make ‘proper’ deep fried doughnuts, because the amount of oil needed and the subsequent oily kitchen floor really is not something I want to deal with. But baked ones – yes please! [P.S. I LOVE fried doughnuts, I just don’t love making them myself.]

There were a number of different recipes around, some with ‘cake like’ ingredients (i.e. without yeast), and some with ‘bread like’ ingredients (i.e. with yeast). Because I haven’t made these before, I decided to go with a recipe from Heather of Sprinkle Bakes – I’ve tried a few of her recipes before and they’ve turned out well, so I knew I could trust her recipe.

I initially planned on making vanilla doughnuts, but changed my mind at the last minute and went for vanilla and matcha instead. What can I say, I’m fickle. I’m really glad I added in the matcha though, as it added a lovely flavour to the teeny little doughnuts. Plus, if there is matcha in these, they qualify as health food… right? 😛


Doughnut tic-tac-toe, anyone? 😉

These doughnuts turned out really well, and I had a lot of fun decorating them with sprinkles! The decorating actually took longer than the actual baking of the doughnuts, believe it or not. It’s a testament to my pure OCD-esque-ism. They taste best on the day of baking, but become slightly hard the next day. I discovered a little trick to re-soften the doughnuts though: zing the doughnut(s) on HIGH for 10 seconds in the microwave… and voila! Slightly warm, soft doughnut with a melty chocolate glaze. Total win/win situation. In fact, this is what I always do with my beloved Krispy Kreme doughnuts – they just taste so much better warm!

Whilst these aren’t your typical Valentine’s dessert, I can assure you they are the perfect sweet treat for a “pick me up”. And even if you don’t really celebrate it – who needs a reason to eat mini doughnuts?

Matcha & vanilla mini doughnuts
Adapted from this recipe on Sprinkle Bakes
Makes approximately 36 mini doughnuts

For the doughnuts:

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar (use 1/3 cup if you prefer a sweeter doughnut)
  • 2 tbsp matcha powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste (optional)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted and cooled

For the chocolate glaze:

  • 100g milk or dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
  • sprinkles of your choice

1. Preheat oven to 210°C. Oil your doughnut tin with oil or melted butter (or cooking spray, if you have it).
2. In the bowl of your stand mixer (or a mixing bowl), sift together the flour, sugar, matcha powder, baking powder and salt.
3. Add the buttermilk, egg, vanilla extract, vanilla bean paste (if using) and butter to the mixing bowl. Beat with the paddle attachment on medium high speed, until the ingredients are just combined.
4. Fill doughnut batter into a piping bag, and pipe the dough into the doughnut tin cavities. Don’t overfill the tin, as the doughnuts will puff up and look more like muffins than doughnuts – aim to fill to just under 3/4 its capacity. Alternatively, you can try spooning in the batter, but piping it is much easier (and neater!).
5. Bake for 5-8 minutes, until the top of the doughnuts spring back when touched with your finger. Let cool in pan for 2-3 minutes before removing to a wire rack.
6. Whilst the doughnuts are cooling, melt the chocolate in a double boiler, or in the microwave.
7. Dip the cooled doughnuts into the melted chocolate, and top with sprinkles. Repeat. Then eat! (If you find that your chocolate is too thick, add 1-2 tbsp of milk to the chocolate which will help to make it a little more liquid and dip-able.)

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! And regardless of whether or not you plan to celebrate it, remember that there is ALWAYS a reason to eat some chocolate. Or cake. Or mini doughnuts.

More Chinese New Year cookies: Pineapple “nastar” tarts

I’ve always had a thing for pineapple tarts. After my beloved peanut cookies, pineapple tarts are next on my “must overindulge in” list during Chinese New Year. My favourite pineapple tarts to date are the ones my mum buys from a Malay lady – melt in the mouth yet crumbly pastry encasing a lovely round of pineapple jam = perfection.

I must say one thing though – pineapple tarts are MUCH more time consuming compared to peanut cookies. I mean, in comparison those peanut cookies were an absolute doddle. Thankfully Catty dropped by to help me make these, and you know what – I could not have done it without her help! She initially thought that she would be “providing the chatter” and “taste testing”… little did she know how much work she would have to do… 😉

There are a few reasons why these are time consuming. 1) The pastry dough has to be “piped” out using a special mould – this is not dissimilar to cookie presses, and gives you the typical scalloped lines you see on the face of the pineapple tarts. The piping process was the hardest part of all. In the end, we decided that the best way to approach it was to have the mould filled with pastry dough at all times – and even then, it was very unpredictable. Push/pipe too slowly and you get breaks in the dough, which essentially means it then cannot be used.

2) The cookie dough is VERY fragile. Very. Even when you get a perfect strip of piped dough – you then are faced with the challenge of not destroying it. We found that the easiest way was for Catty to pipe the strip of dough directly onto my palm. I then placed a ball of pineapple jam ball on it and wrapped it up. Piping the dough onto a baking tray is also an option… but believe me when I say it is very hard to lift it off the tray without destroying it somewhat. So yes, much easier if one person does the piping, and someone else wraps. Trust me on this one.

Because I made too little pineapple jam (I saved half a pineapple to err.. eat with rojak sauce), we had some leftover pastry dough. So we made some matcha tartelettes (from some leftover white chocolate & matcha ganache that I had from baking the day before) and some mini blueberry pies. And you know what, those matcha tartelettes were amazing. If you eat them when they are warm, the filling oozes out whilst the delicate pastry melts in your mouth. Definitely a keeper.

But back to the pineapple tarts. These actually turned out pretty well. The pastry was light yet crumbly, and had that essential “melt in the mouth” texture. I did feel that the pastry lacked “fat”, and this is probably because I used a mixture of butter and oil in the recipe. I also thought the pastry could do with being slightly sweeter. The jam was also delicious – you can adjust the sugar content according to your personal tastes, and to the sweetness/tartness of your pineapples. I thought the jam was too sweet, R thought it wasn’t sweet enough, and Catty thought it was fine.

And before I get to the recipe, just a note to say that I had to add an extra 40-50ml of corn oil to the dough as it was originally too crumbly, and wasn’t forming a cohesive dough. I have incorporated this into the recipe below by increasing the amount of butter used.

Chinese New Year pineapple “nastar” tarts (Tat nenas)
For the jam:

  • 2 pineapples (my pineapples weighed approximately 600g each)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (you may need more or less depending on personal taste, and the sweetness of your pineapples)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 cloves
  • 3 tbsp liquid glucose
  • 2 tbsp wheat starch (alternatively, use plain flour)

1. Grate the pineapples, and drain off any excess pineapple juice.
2. Place the grated pineapples, sugar, cinnamon stick and cloves in a pot, and cook over medium high heat. Stir the jam mixture every few minutes to ensure it does not burn.
3. When the mixture starts to dry out (this can take up to 1 hour), add the liquid glucose and wheat starch. This helps to make the jam more cohesive and therefore easier to roll into balls. Cook for a further 5-10 minutes until the jam is dry and sticky enough to be rolled into balls.
5. Cool the pineapple jam, then roll into 2cm diameter balls. You may prefer to do this the day before you make the actual tarts.

For the pastry:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tbsp cornflour
  • 3 tbsp custard powder
  • 2 tbsp milk powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 280g butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk

For the glaze:

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp water

1. Sieve the flour, cornflour, custard powder, milk powder, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
2. Cream the butter and icing sugar in a bowl of a stand mixer, until it turns pale and fluffy.
3. Add the vanilla extract and egg yolk, and mix until just combined.
4. Add the sieved flour mixture into the butter/sugar/egg mixture, and mix until it forms a cohesive dough. If it is too crumbly, add some corn oil to the mixture (slowly) until it forms a nice ball of pastry dough.
5. Pipe out a 3 inch strip of pastry using the nastar mould.
6. Place a ball of pineapple jam onto the pastry strip, and roll it up. Repeat with the remaining pastry and jam.
7. Mix the egg yolk and water together, and use this to lightly glaze the tarts.
8. Bake in a 170’C oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Here’s wishing everyone a very happy and prosperous year of the Rabbit. Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Discovering the joys of tea

I used to be one of those people that rarely drank any tea or coffee. I remember wondering why my parents were such avid fans of coffee and tea, and how people could go through countless cups of coffee or tea each day.

Then one day I tried the most amazing cup of tea that my aunt had brought back from China. Prior to this, I’d only tried those cheap-ish stuff you get in Chinese restaurants/kopitiams (coffee shops), and as such had never really taken to tea. That’s probably when I realised that there are good teas out there (you’d think I’d have realised it sooner)… and since then, there’s been no turning back.

This curiosity about tea (and the power of google) is what led me to discover JING Tea. JING is a fairly new tea company run by Edward Eisler and his team. They pride themselves on offering definitive examples of Asia’s greatest teas, which are sourced from the world’s finest tea farmers in China, India, Sri Lanka, Japan and Taiwan. Their entire range of teas are skilfully hand-processed and then vacuum-packed at its source to ensure freshness.

It was initially the simple yet effective design of the site that drew me to JING (because let’s face it, first impressions always count). Then I tried their teas… and I was hooked. At time of typing, I think I have at least ten gold packages of various JING teas sitting in my cupboards. What can I say? I like variety. (This problem also extends to things like cereal. And instant noodles. And preserves. Okay maybe I have issues.)

Lishan tea farm in Taiwan – one of the premier tea regions in Taiwan where JING sources their tea.

The quality of JING is undeniable – even Heston agrees as he uses their tea in the Fat Duck (for that mind boggling hot & cold tea of his). JING also supplies tea to The Lanesborough, Harrods, Brown’s hotels, and the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Lounges.

So when David asked if I would like to review their Tea Explorer set, it was a no brainer really. A chance to further expand my JING tea collection? Yes, please!

The JING Tea Explorer is specially designed with the new tea drinker in mind – whether it is you or a friend who is new to tea (with no clue if you would prefer white/black/green/yellow tea), the Explorer is perfect for you. Why? Because the Explorer covers every type of tea they stock, from fresh spring green teas, to rich oolongs, and delicate white teas. Thinking back, I really wish I had this set at the start of my whole tea “discovering”, as it certainly would have given me a good overview of what is available. And of course which types of tea I prefer.

My favourite tea in the Explorer is the jasmine pearls green tea. This was one of the first teas I tried from JING, and it has remained a firm favourite. They come in “pearls” (as their name suggests) – each of these pearls are actually handmade, believe it or not! Each green tea leaf is hand rolled into a pearl, and then wrapped into paper to help maintain its shape. The pearls are then unwapped, dried, and scented with aromatic jasmine flowers.

And the magic happens when you infuse the pearls – they unravel and release the most divine sweet jasmine aroma, with hints of green tea. Green tea can sometimes be slightly overwhelming and too strong, but this tea is surprisingly mild, and I daresay it would appeal to most palates. It’s also one of their most popular teas, so I can’t be too far off!

One of my other favourites in the set is the yellow gold oolong. I’ve always been a fan of “tie guan yin“(Iron Goddess of Mercy tea), which is also a variety of oolong tea. Comparatively, the yellow gold oolong is less intense – the best way I can think of describing it is “tangy with a hint of sweetness”. I’m sure it’s not the best way to describe it, but I was never one for words. My food vocabulary is rather limited, unfortunately!

The moment you crack open the bag containing the blackcurrant and hibiscus herbal infusion, you are hit with the floral scent of hibiscus. It’s almost impossible to not want to brew it when you smell it, because it reminds you of those lovely sunny days where you sit on the patio sipping tea and eating scones. Well, for me anyway. 😉 It is made from whole (dried) blackcurrants, berries and cracked hibiscus – when infused, it becomes a refreshing fruity infusion. I like drinking it with a splash of honey, as I personally feel this enhances the flavours of the berries.

I also wanted to specifically mention their mini (cooked) pu erh tea. Pu erh tea is well known in China for it’s health benefits, and is strongly believed to help lower cholestrol and have anti-ageing properties. Now of course, I have no idea how true this is but hey, it’s a good excuse to drink pu erh. These mini cakes are known as tuo – and according to Wiki, this name is believed to have originated from the old tea shipping and trading route of the Tuo jiang river. When brewed, these mini tuo’s give rise to an extremely soothing tea, which has a delicate sweetness reminiscent of Japanese plum. Truly one of the best pu erh teas I’ve drunk so far.

I’m not going to review the other teas individually, as I suspect I’ve already bored a large number of readers who may not be as tea-mad as me. So very briefly: The other teas in the Explorer are Organic Dragon Well (a complex flavoured tea which reminds me of spring – if only it WAS spring and not so cold!), Silver Needle (a very light and mellow tea which is low in caffeine), Darjeeling Supreme, Japanese Sencha (you get a sweet yet slightly bitter aftertaste with this), JING Ceylon, and Huo ShanYellow Buds (this one has a slight grassy taste to it, but not so much as to make you feel like you’re actually well… eating grass).

What I also liked about the Explorer was the tea infuser mug (or as JING calls it, Tea-iere) that came with it. I had been bemoaning the fact that I didn’t have a way to drink my (loose) tea at work, and guess what – I now can. It holds approximately 400ml of water, and the fine wire mesh ensures all the tea stays within the mug itself.

If the teas in the Explorer don’t appeal to you, you can check out JING Tea’s entire range of tea sets and gifts here. I’m itching to get my hands on their double walled tea cups, but have refrained thus far as I’m fast running out of cupboard space in the kitchen. And whilst I’m talking about things I want – I also want to try their matcha, which is supposed to be very good.

And thanks to the lovely people at JING, I am able to offer all Bread et Butter readers a 10% discount off all JING Tea products! All you have to do is to enter the promotion code Bread3TButter at the checkout to enjoy the discount. It’s valid for a 10% discount for one order per customer on the site, and is valid until 20th December 2010. (They ship internationally, and at reasonable rates!)

I think I might just have to buy those double walled tea cups now….

* Non-watermarked photos are courtesy of JING Tea and David Hepburn

Coffee & matcha “Mexican” Rotiboy buns

One of the things I enjoy most about blogging is how it opens my eyes to a whole range of foods I would never have known about otherwise. It not only introduces me to ingredients that were previously foreign to me, but also introduces me to new places to eat in. I’m not sure if I’d have discovered some of my favourite places to eat (Byrons, Pearl Liang, Koya) if not for the blogosphere. Which is why I’ve been hesitant to blog about these buns.

If you’re Malaysian, chances are that you’ll know what these are. For anyone else, you’re probably thinking what on earth “Mexican buns” are. Well, I must admit that I have no idea why these are called Mexican buns – I don’t know much about Mexican food, but I’m pretty sure these buns don’t originate from Mexico. But when the buns taste as good as they do, frankly, I don’t really mind what they’re called. They’re basically a soft and fluffy bun, with a crunchy coffee crust and a melting buttery filling. Utter perfection, especially when eaten warm.

I still remember when these Mexican buns first burst onto the bakery scene back home, and how much I used to love eating them. The most “famous” buns were sold by a company called Rotiboy (where “roti” = bread, “boy” =  boy), which is why these buns are also known as “Rotiboy”. This company seems to have been founded in my hometown of Bukit Mertajam, Penang. I must say I never knew this, as I didn’t know of any Rotiboy outlets in BM or Penang at the start of the Mexican bun craze. We even used to buy a whole lot of buns from KL (that’s Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia) when we were there, and would freeze them for err… times of need. And now I find out they were founded in BM?! Ah well, nevermind.

But I was talking about how I had been hesitant to blog about these. Why? Well, I learnt how to make these in a baking class. As such, I didn’t feel that it was polite to share the recipe for the buns on the blog. And so these photos sat languishing in my backlog pile, whilst I tried to decide if I wanted to blog about them sans recipe. In the end, I emailed the lady who teaches the classes, who said that I could share the recipe for these buns via email (but not on the blog as her other students might get upset!). Which I felt was a fair request.

As always, I made some minor changes to the recipe. Instead of making only the “traditional” bun with a coffee crust and buttery filling, I made some with a matcha/green tea crust and a black sesame filling. The matcha version turned out well, but I must say that my loyalty still lies with the original coffee/butter combination.

These buns are made with a “sponge and dough” method, which consists of two stages. The first stage is the making of the “sponge” which is left in the fridge to slowly ferment/rise overnight. The second stage is when the “sponge” is added to all the other ingredients = forming the “dough”. Having made bread and buns with both the normal straight dough method (which is the conventional method you see in many recipes) and the “sponge and dough” method, I find that the latter produces softer and fluffier bread. An added plus is how the bread stays softer for longer.

These buns also freeze well, and it’s always nice to have a stash in your freezer for a quick fix when a craving hits! All you need to do is to heat it up in a hot oven (I usually use 180°C) for about 10 minutes until it’s heated through. Yummy buns that are freezable. See what I mean by perfection?

If you’re interested in giving these Mexican buns/Rotiboys a try, drop me an email and I’ll send the recipe to you.

You can also head towards Bee’s site Rasa Malaysia for an alternative recipe for these Mexican (Rotiboy) buns.

Matcha sablé cookies

Matcha has seen a huge increase in popularity in the recent years. I’ve seen it been incorporated into a whole range of foods – soba, mochi, breads, cookies, cakes, frapuccinos etc. And why not really? It has a wide range of health benefits, increases metabolism and energy levels, and is packed with antioxidants. Plus it gives a beautiful green tinge to food – in my books, that’s a definite win.

Catty (who is by far, one of the most matcha mad people out there) decided that it was time that the world joined her in her love for matcha. And so Matcha Madness! month was born. The concept is simple: make anything with matcha in it, and two best recipes (as determined by Catty & Teapigs) will win a tin of matcha each.

It took me a while to decide what I wanted to make. As I mentioned, matcha is incredibly versatile…. and I am incredibly fickle. Possibilities included matcha semifreddo, matcha marshmallows, matcha opera cake and matcha biscuits. My original plan was to make the marshmallows, but I decided against them at the last minute because it’s been so humid lately that I was worried that my marshmallows would not fare very well. Having said that, it’s definitely something I’m going to make when it gets cooler as homemade marshmallows are so, so much better than storebought ones. Unless you’re buying them from Pierre Marcolini.

I’d previously seen these cookies on Y’s blog, and was intrigued by them. She’s an excellent baker , and when she said these were the best matcha cookies she’d ever tasted, I immediately bookmarked the recipe. And you know what, I agree with her. I’ve not eaten many matcha cookies, but of the ones I have – I think these are my favourite to date.

Sablé is a French shortbread biscuit that originated in the Normandy province. The word “sablé” means “sand”, and is rather appropriate as these cookies have a sandy and crumbly texture. The sandiness comes from the the cookie itself, as well as the sugar that coats the edges of each biscuit. As always, I cut down on the sugar content of the cookies – which I think may have made the matcha flavour more intense. Not that I’m complaining though! Although they’re meant to be similar to shortbread, they’re less rich compared to normal shortbread… which means you can eat more at one go and not feel *as* guilty about it. Perfect, no?

I brought these to work, and everyone loved them (even people who hated green tea!). So if you’re a fan of matcha and shortbread-type cookies, do try making these. I promise you will love it.

Matcha sablé cookies
Ever so slightly adapted from this recipe on Lemonpi (who got the recipe from Okashi by Keiko Ishida)

  • 240g cake flour* (chilled)
  • 15g matcha powder (green tea powder)
  • 150g butter (at room temperature)
  • 90g icing sugar (note: the original recipe calls for 130g icing sugar)
  • pinch salt
  • 2 egg yolks

1. Sift chilled cake flour and matcha powder twice. Set aside.
2. Beat butter, sugar and salt in a stand mixer (or in a bowl with a hand mixer) until the mixture becomes soft and creamy.
3. Add in the egg yolks one at a time, mixing well after the addition of each yolk.
4. Fold in the flour/green tea powder mix with a spatula. I folded it in in 2 batches, simply because I would have sent a lot of flour flying all over my kitchen if I had attempted to do it all in one go.
5. Cover dough with clingfilm, and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. This step helps the dough firm up so you can form them into logs in the next step.
6. Divide dough into two portions. Place both portions on two pieces of parchment paper of clingfilm, and shape them into logs of about 2.5 cm diameter. Wrap the logs up and refrigerate until firm (I left them for about 2 hours). The cookie dough can be frozen in the freezer for later use if you wish, and can be kept for up to 2 months.
7. Preheat the oven to 150°C.
8. Take the logs out of the refrigerator, and roll them in demerara sugar or granulated sugar. Cut logs into 7mm thick rounds, and place the sliced cookie dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
9. Bake for 20-25 minutes (until the cookies start to brown slightly), then remove and leave to cook on a wire rack before serving. Cookies can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 10 days.

* If you don’t have any cake flour, you can make your own quite easily. Add 2 tablespoons corn starch to each cup of plain flour used. Sift twice, and measure out the amount needed in the recipe from the sieved mixture. Voila, cake flour!