Tham Jiak means in some way "love to eat" in Hokkien. I am a Malaysian Hokkien and truly love to eat.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bribing with Cookies

I cannot believe it! Tomorrow is the last day of the Chinese Lunar calendar! I am going to leave for my dearest hometown wee early tomorrow morning along with aunty and cousins, and I can’t wait. Though counting up to tomorrow have been anxious, then turn to stress, then turn to excitement and then now anticipation. I can’t wait to drink my Pho Pho’s heart-stopping duck soup and wrap pieces after pieces after pieces after pieces of lettuce around my all-time-favourite Pho Pho’s jiu hu char. I can't wait to toss the Yee Sang with everyone up so high half of it end up on the table. I can’t wait to casually walk into my Lai Ma’s house again and mention casually that I haven’t had lunch, I hope the same trick works again, but then again, I don’t need a trick to have my Lai Ma pushing food to me. Moreover this year I am armed with New Year cookies for her as well! Hah! It does sound like I am bringing a container of cookies in exchange for a mouth-watering feast, I would say this is such a good deal, agree?

I have baked more goodies after my initial kick-off Chinese New Year baking and finally chosen to remake Green Pea cookies in batches for giveaways because it was oh-so-tasty and not too tedious to make. I mentioned that Peanut cookies seemed like a new cookie for Chinese New Year but oh boy was I wrong, Lily reminisced making these with her grandmother, only that the original called for lard! I stand corrected but I might try again to say these Green Pea cookies should be newer in generation, as I could not recall it before the appearance of Peanut cookies during Chinese New Year, and some even claimed that it was a variation of the traditional Peanut cookies. Correct me if I am wrong again! I do not know what the Green Pea cookies represent in Chinese in comparison to other more obvious cookies, if anyone does know, do let me know too!

As for now, pardon the short post, I need to get ready, pack my bag and head north to celebrate in gluttony. By the way, Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Green Pea Cookies

When I made my first batch, I found that it was too sweet, and so I went about researching on more recipes around the wonderful blogosphere and came about to my own measurement below. Also, on the first time I bought the green peas, it was the Jusco selection packet, that comes in 180g and it seem the green peas do look slightly smaller than the usual snack ones. The cookie came out so fragrant, I bought the same packets for my subsequent bakes! Note that these came salted so I omit the salt in the recipe. Also make sure you grind the green pea fine enough for the melt-in-mouth cookies. Similarly to the Peanut cookies, you should add the oil bit by bit until the dough comes together. This time I was a bit lazy and skipped the egg glazing steps, thus my cookies look pale but it still taste oh-so-good. This time I also learnt from the Peanut cookies bakes and used 1 teaspoon to shape my cookies and it came out just the right size to pop into the mouth.

180g ground green pea cookies
180g all-purpose flour (sifted)
80g icing sugar
80 - 100g oil
1/4 tsp salt (omit if green peas are salted)

1 egg lightly beaten for glaze (optional)

Mix the ground green peas, sifted flour, icing sugar and salt (if using) together till well combined
Slowly add in the oil and mix till a pliable dough is formed
Shape them into balls or use a 1 teaspoon to shape it, and then line it on a tray
Brush egg wash on top of each cookie (optional)
Bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes

Make approximately 84 cookies

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Finally, Initially

Way long ago initially, I wanted to blog about my gastronomic adventure in Japan I haven’t. Then initially I wanted to do a roundup of the blog for 2008, and that did not happen either. Than it reminds me that initially I wanted to make many things for 1984 and friends’ Christmas Eve party but that did not happen either, though I did manage to make hummus and cupcakes, blog entry to follow, wish I hope would indeed happen on day. So all that initially aside, they have to wait, as I am going to make way for a more appropriate post at hand – Chinese New year bakes, which I had way way long ago initially, I’m talking about few years back here, wanted to bake which now I finally did!

To me the new year has yet to actually start, due to the impending Chinese New Year, it still feel like I am in the counting down mode to wrap up the year-has-been, please tell me I am not the only one, at least not the only Chinese. At first CNY still seemed pretty far away to me, but when I started to plan out some CNY bakes, it dawned onto me that it was only about 2 weeks away. Ah, so much to do, rather so much to bake yet so little time.

Anyway, what brought me into finally baking cookies for this important Chinese festival? That question brings to the story of a dear friend, M. She messaged me one day on a link to a mixer which she was contemplating to purchase in order to do some CNY baking; she chose to ask me because she knew I was a sort-of-baking-and-cooking aficionado, which then renewed the interest in me. I have always, wanted to bake for CNY but have not kick my lazy butt hard enough to really do it as because (insert overused excuses here) so this time thanks to M, I seized the opportunity and proposed to her to have a baking session together! Aha, that would bring this lazy tham jiak to really stick to the plan; she has a baking date to stick to!

So fast forward to the following weekend, I was lugging two big bags of ka-chang (Cantonese dialect’s multi-purpose word for utensils/equipments/anything that you use to do something), to M’s home and then we got started on our project. There were two bakes that day as each of us chose one recipe to attempt.

M chose her many-attempts-since-last-year Dragon Cookies, which she had not yet manage to achieve her ultimate one, which were supposed to be creamy , slightly soft, melt in your mouth yet having a bit of a crunch on first bite kind, if I understood her correctly. I can’t help but to mention here that the batch she baked the day before which she added banana essence due to one recipe which called for it, and a word of advice from both of us here, do not attempt to put banana essence in your Dragon Cookies! It is not a banana cookie, end of explanation. I guess I was her lucky star as finally, that very day that I am there with her baking the cookies she finally achieved her ultimate Dragon Cookie!

M’s Ultimate Dragon Cookies

Note that for this recipe, you would need a cookie press to shape it. Also M had noted that she had tried before with plastic press which has less desirable results especially if the dough is not soft enough, therefore she prefer the metal one that she is using now.

One important thing to understand about making these cookies is the balance between the baking time and the oven temperature. Our first batch was slightly over-baked and really puffed up. After tasting we found that it had a texture of similarity to kuih bangkit, where we even joked we had made a fusion of them, but ah that is not what we want for the ultimate Dragon Cookies, do we? So for the next batch we decided to bake in shorter time, about 10 minutes, and it came out perfect! The next next batch was slightly under-baked though, where we need to put in for few minutes more. Take note that we had the oven on slightly higher temperature due to its nature. Therefore we can only conclude that, the secret here in making the ultimate dragon cookies is to find the balance of time and temperature, also good recipe is a must, we would not want another banana essence case do we? Just remember that the cookies are suppose to be pale white even after baked. Good luck in trying, M tried since last year, so be like her, don’t give up! Also, we are now giving you a tried and true recipe below, so I bet it would save you at least a year, no?

150g butter (room temperature)
150g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
1 egg white
350g corn flour
30g milk powder
60g plain flour

Beat butter, icing sugar, egg yolks and egg white until creamy
Sift flour and milk powder together
Add flour mixture to the batter and mix till fully incorporated
Fill batter into cookie press and press out a line and then shape it (M shaped to S which to me is a sleeping Dragon, there are other who made a flying Dragon - curly long line)on a baking tray
Bake at 160-180C for 10-15 mins


Yields 120 cookies

As for me, I chose to make Peanut Cookies, which not too long ago, I would say about maybe 10 years back that in Malaysia here, it became a must-have for Chinese New Year. If anyone new since when these cookies got into the list please let me know. As a peanut fan myself, I just had to make it, even though I knew it is not going to be easy, as we would first need to dry fry the peanuts patiently and then remove the skins patiently. Preparation is bit tedious, some experience on how the dough should be like would be good, but other than that it is a fairly simple recipe, calling for minimal ingredients.

Peanut Cookies
Adapted from Do What I Like

First dry fry the peanuts over medium heat, remember to stir it religiously. Do not try to take shortcut by frying over high heat as it would result in the peanuts got burnt pretty quickly on the outside but has yet to fully cook on the inside. Then you have to take de-skin them, I do this by rubbing them against a basket, this would also need some work if you have not mastered the skill which enables you to do this in a jiffy. After that the peanuts is ready to be grind till fine.

But simple as the recipe may seem, it also requires some experience in understanding the dough. I added in all the oil and still found my mixture on the dry side but I tried by pressing them together and mould it into a 1/2 tablespoon for shape and it did work, but later noted to self that it seem a bit too big and might use a smaller one next round. But if you want an easier task where you can roll them into balls, you might need more oil to form the dough first. After researching and reading other’s experiences, it seemed that the quantity of oil needed depended also on how oily your peanuts were naturally. Therefore, slowly add in the oil until the dough is able to mould when pressed, or slightly more oil if you need to roll and shape them. These cookies came out with the melt-in-the-mouth texture, with some crunch due to the added chopped peanuts (I crushed them with a rolling pin; before that I tried to smash them against the counter which resulted in them flying everywhere, sorry M). I gave some to Q to try which she said that it tasted rich (even when I did not put enough oil) and she even asked if I have added peanut butter, ah, so it means I have achieved the creamy texture as well. Overall this is a good recipe, if you want full creamy kind then you might want to omit the chopped peanuts, and also remember to take note on the oil ratio.

200g ground peanut
200g flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
100g icing sugar
1/4 tsp salt
100g - 150g crushed peanuts
100g-150g peanut oil/corn oil

Egg wash:1 egg yolk lightly beaten with 1 tsp water

Put all the peanuts into a wok and dry fry over low heat till crunchy
Remove the skin then grind till fineSieve flour and baking powder together
Mix the flour mixture, ground peanut powder, icing sugar and salt together till well combined
Add in the crushed peanuts and mix well (if you are using)
Slowly add in the peanut oil and mix till a pliable dough is formed (see note above
Shape them into balls or like use a 1/2 tablespoon to shape it, and then line it on a tray
Brush egg wash on top of each cookie
Bake at 165C for 15-20 minutes or till golden brown

Yields 35 cookies (for the 1/2 tablespoon size)

I would say the project has been quite successful for Peanut Cookies first attempt and the achievement of the ultimate Dragon Cookies. I am even contemplating to do second round of Peanut Cookies with some tweaks that I have learnt, oh well, we shall see if this lazy tham jiak will get around to that (psst, which might be next CNY!). Still, I think I deserved a pat on the head for finally meeting one of my initially-s, that is baking for CNY! Not to forget one pat for M as well for her perseverance!

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