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Sunday, January 17, 2010
It has been a while since I last baked something. As Chinese New Year approaches, everyone gets ready to churn out the best house recipes. The staple Chinese New Year treats would include the Pineapple Tart - buttery short bread cookie base topped with moist,sweet delicious pineapple jam, the Love Letters,- a crispy paper thin coconut flavoured egg roll rolled into the shape of a cigar, the Kuih Bangkit-a small, dry cookie made with sago flour that neverthless still melts in the mouth to release an explosion of fragrant coconut. I will be tempted to try my hands at these traditional treats but deep down for most of us, we know that we will never dare to pitch these against e.g 3rd Aunty's eagerly awaited Love Letters or The Mother-In-Law's 'Le Pineapple Tart'. When you are up against these time tested family heirloom recipes, you adopt a low profile and let the Patriachs Of The Family Kitchen shine.
So what can we do to get that nod of approval? What can we bring to the table that is different and tasty enough to get people interested? For the ones who are bold enough to try new things, who are thick skinned enough to brace the shoot downs, there will always be options - limited only by one's ability to think out of the box.
I choose today to with work with a Polvorone recipe. A Polvorone is really a traditional Spanish cookie. Somewhat like a short bread but compared with the pineapple tart, it has very much less butter but supringsingly still melts beautifully in the mouth. Usually almond based, many variations have been produced using e.g. Cashew Nuts (somewhat of a specialty in the Philippinnes now) , Pecan nuts etc.
I found a nice recipe in Keiko Ishida's Okashi, yet again. My eyes lit up when I saw her recommendation to vary it with Kinako powder( Soya Bean powder). Though traditionally presented as a round ball or cut into discs using cookie cutter, I wanted to play with a set of traditional wooden molds I bought in China for S$3. These work a little like the Ang Gu Kueh molds or to the people in the West, you can imagine it to be somewhat of a Springlere mold. With a mold with beautiful imprints like these, one needs to select the recipe carefully to ensure that the carved patterns stay clear and sharp. I needed to find a cookie recipe that will not spread too much in the oven, something that contains less fat and holds its shape. I did consider using a Springlere cookie recipe but that, I feel will not suit the palate expectation for this traditional Chinese festive season.
Working with the mold, is quite exasperating, though. Some motives seem to work better with the recipe that the others. I had wanted to get more cookies in the 'bird' motive but it tends to break off very easily at the tail joint. It was relatively easier to knock the cookie dough out of the Lotus flower and the flower basket motive.I was happy that the imprints remained sharp and clear after baking.
The taste of the cookie is fragrant with the soya bean powder and I like the melt in the mouth texture. It reminds me a little of the Green Bean cake (绿豆糕）- not as dry and crunchy as the Macau Specialty and neither is it as soft and cake-like as the oilier Taiwanese version. I am now motivated to play with Sesame powder and ground cashew nuts.
Recipe (adapted from Keiko Ishida's Okashi) :
110g All purpose flour
100g Unsalted butter
40g Icing sugar
70g Soy Bean Powder (Kinako)
1. Preheat oven to 150C.
2. Sift flour onto a parchment paper lined baking tray. Bake the flour at 150C for 25mins, stirring the flour a couple of times during the baking process.
3. Remove the flour from the oven and cool down to room temperature.
4. In a mixing bowl, beat butter and icing sugar with the paddle fixture until soft. Add the soy bean powder and mix well.
5. Add the flour and mix well with a spatula.
6. On a lightly floured board, roll out dough to a thickness of 1cm. Cut with your favourtie cookie cutter.
(for me, I had rolled the dough into a ball, inserted it in the floured wooden mold before pressing it into the mold. The mold is then given a firm knock against the table and the cookie will drop out of the mold.)
7. Dust with a mixture of powder sugar and Kinako powder.