Monday, 23 January 2012

Festive Bakes

Here's the last installment of festive bakes, just in time to usher in the Lunar New Year!

I baked these Peanut Cookies on Saturday night, just a day before the lunar new year eve. These peanut cookies have been on my baking list every year. Not only they are simple to put together, it is also one my kids' favourite cookies.

I followed the same recipe from here. However, instead of grinding the peanuts, I bought ready-made peanut powder. I really like the creamy and slightly crunchy texture.

I have already lost count how many times I have baked these melt-in-mouth german cookies! I have made chocolate flavour, green tea flavour, duo or marbled version...and the latest, I added mini chocolate chips (I used 50g) into the batter. The cookies taste awesome! The semi-sweet chocolate chips greatly enhanced the taste of the cookies and the best thing is, the melt-in-the-mouth texture is not affected at all.

Here's wishing all of you a Happy Lunar New Year!


Saturday, 21 January 2012

Little effort yields great result

On my very first trip to the library once we came back from our trip, I zoomed in for books that are on Chinese New Year cookies or traditional asian type of cookies. I only managed to get hold of two books...and after going through the books back and forth, back and forth a few times, I could only settle on one single recipe...Cranberry Cornflakes Cookies, 蔓越莓酥饼. No, it is not the popular recipe among Chinese bloggers which originates from the book 孟老师的100道手工饼干. Rather, it is a book published by a Malaysian author, with the title,做小饼赚大钱.

Translated as Little Cookies Earn Big $, it is no wonder that the recipe yields so many cookies in just one batch. I got 77pcs of cookies out of half a block of butter. They are also very simple to put together, all you need is a mixing bowl and a manual whisk (I hardly use my old-enough-to-go-to-the-museum handheld electric whisk, as I find washing the paddles free of any oil/fat a taunting task!).

Making these cookies was really an uneventful affair, the steps are so straight forward that anyone can make them without batting an eyelid. The only highlight was, when I poured the crushed corn flakes into the mixing bowl, I was hit right in the face with this very very nice aroma. I am never a fan of cereals...I didn't grow up having a bowl of cereals with milk for breakfast. Believe it or not, I only got to taste my first bowl of cornflakes with milk in a business hotel when I first started travelling for work. This is the first time I baked something using corn flakes. I was pleasantly surprised that crushed cornflakes gives off such a nice fragrant...pardon my lousy expressions I can't describe it in words...but I thought there was even a hint of 'milky' aroma in the air. I couldn't help but to check the cereal box once I got everything done. I have never known that cornflakes are made with cornmeals! What can I say? But never a day has gone by without me learning something new!

Of course I doubt you will be able to earn big money if you were to sell them...what matters most is, a little effort could yield such great result. These little morsels have got a delicious buttery flavour...the cornflakes gives a nice crunch, and the cranberries provides a very nice sweet, tangy taste. Trust me, you won't be able to stop at just one. The only downside of this recipe is that it requires two egg yolks...but I have no problem with extra whites since I can save them for chiffon cakes. This is certainly going into my Chinese New Year cookies list, and I would make them anytime of the year :)

Cranberry Cornflakes Cookies

(makes 77~80 pcs)

120g Unsalted butter, cut into cubes, soften at room temperature
pinch of salt
50g icing sugar
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
135g plain flour
30g corn flour
100g plain corn flakes, coarsely crushed
80g dried cranberries, cut into smaller pieces

  1. Place corn flakes in a plastic bag. Crush them with your fingers into smaller pieces, do not crush too finely. Set aside.
  2. Cut dried cranberries into smaller pieces (I used a kitchen scissor). Set aside.
  3. Place unsalted butter, salt in a mixing bowl. Sift over the icing sugar (do not skip this step, this is to remove any lumps in the icing sugar). With a manual whisk or a wooden spoon (or an electric whisk), beat the butter, salt and icing sugar till the mixture turns pale.
  4. Whisk as you dribble in the egg yolks, whisk till combine.
  5. Sift over plain flour and corn flour. With a spatula, fold the mixture until the flour is incorporated.
  6. Add in cornflakes and dried cranberries. Mix with spatula (or use hand) till just combined.
  7. Arrange mini paper liners, evenly spaced, on a baking tray.
  8. Measure 7g doughs and place each into a mini paper liner. (Note: it is not necessary to shape the dough into a smooth round ball, just roughly gather it into a lump. These cookies can be baked without using paper liners, arrange them evenly spaced on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. They don't expand much upon baking.)
  9. Bake in preheated oven at 140degC for about 25 minutes until lightly golden. (Note: all ovens behave differently, do keep a close watch near 20mins of baking time to prevent the cookies from over browning. Turn the tray around half way, when necessary.)
  10. Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack, leave to cool completely before storing in air tight containers. (Note: when the cookies are still warm, the cornflakes may taste a little chewy/soft, but it will turn crispy upon cooling.)
Recipe Source: Little Cookies Earn Big $

Friday, 20 January 2012

for the love of making cookies...

I love baking cookies...but not so much in eating them. Chinese New Year is just about the only time of the year when I actually enjoy both baking and eating them ;)

The first runner up on my cookies-making marathon is none other than these Pineapple Tarts.

I have a love-hate relationship with these Chinese New Year must-haves. Only those who have made them from scratch, all done single-handedly, from cutting the pineapples to washing up, to eventually packed these priceless morsels into containers will fully understand what I mean. Ok, I didn't do every single bit by myself, my not-so-reliable kitchen assistant did stop by to help me with the final touches just minutes before the cookies went into the oven ;)

I was almost half-dead after making the pineapple jam, not forgetting the minor cuts on my fingers as a result of being over zealous when grating the pineapples! It took me about 45mins to an hour to cook the jam. The time taken would have been longer, but I stopped when the jam 'appeared' to be fully dried up. Actually the jam was quite would be better to continue to cook it longer, but I worried I would burnt the whole pot of jam. I rather work with soft jam than to jeopardise a whole afternoon's hard work!

After spending 2 hours working non-stop, I completed two trays of pineapple tarts, just a mere 40 tangerine style ones and 30 open tarts. I actually suffered from a bad headache after making them...and had to resort to panadol and a medicated rub on my shoulders before I crept into bed that night. If you were to ask me now, I will tell you, No, I am not going to make them again, never! I have already developed a pineapple tarts phobia!

I told my cyberfriend VB, if she ever wants to make these, do make them only for herself, or only give them to someone who has baking experience or at least someone who has made cookies from scratch. I believe they are the ones who are able to appreciate your labour of love. Seriously, when it comes to pineapple tarts, everyone has got their own preferences...some prefers melt in the mouth texture, some prefers the jam fibre to be coarse, not too sweet not too sour...some even asking for pastries that could hold up nicely that doesn't crumble in your hands but only in your mouth, blah, blah, blah. It is too difficult to please each and everyone's taste buds. I don't know about you, I will be very very moody, if I hear the slightest, undesired comments about the pineapple tarts I made...

I am lucky that I found a cake friend, she is the first person whom I have this "相逢恨晚" feelings (loosely translated's a regret that we met each other so late). These pineapple tarts are made especially for her as I suspected she doesn't make them, at least, she has never mentioned it to me.  I have wanted to tell her, only tell me if the pineapple tarts are nice, even if it doesn't suit her taste, I don't mind a white lie ;) But as usual, I forget about it when we started to engage in a hot topic...that is, about our kids' academic studies!

Anyway, I don't know whether it was a white lie, but my friend came back with good comments. It was certainly a pleasure to hear that she was able to mention things like..."there is no buttery aftertaste...did you use Lurpak? and I thought I tasted vanilla, did you add vanilla extract?" Even though I felt sheepish when she mentioned that she tasted some pineapple fibres, but she said it gets to show that everything is homemade from scratch (^^'). I guess for all homebakers, especially self taught ones, these are sincere comments that we treasure, it is through sharing that we would be able to improve our baking skills.

I hope you have also found yourself a cake friend, someone who can share your bakes and experience with each other :)

Pineapple Tarts

Pineapple Jam:
(yields about 450g jam)

2 half ripened pineapples (use Sarawak pineapples)
250g granulated sugar (use between 200g to 300g, adjust according to taste)
1 cinnamons stick (about 5cm)
4 cloves


  1. Remove the skin on the pineapples (choose half ripened ones as fully ripened pineapples will be difficult to grate and unripe ones will be too sour). Cut away the 'eyes'. Cut the pineapples (lengthwise) into 4 quarters. Grate the pineapples.
  2. Drain the grated pineapples, press out the juice with the back of a spoon. Reserve the pineapple juice.
  3. Place grated pineapples, cinnamon stick, cloves, and half the amount of sugar in a pot (I used a stainless steel pot with a heavy base). Bring to a boil. Turn to medium heat and let it continue to simmer. Stir occasionally. When the mixture starts to dry up, add in a few tablespoons of the reserved pineapple juice. Continue to let it simmer. Keep adding the pineapple juice as the mixture dries up. Continue till all the pineapple juice is used up.
  4. Add in the remaining sugar gradually (a few tablespoons at a time), and keep stirring as the mixture dries up. Adjust amount of sugar according to taste.
  5. Turn to LOW heat, keep stirring the mixture until the jam caramelised, becomes sticky and dry. Total cooking time is about 1 hour or longer. Leave to cool and place in air tight container and store in fridge. 
  6. When ready, roll pineapple jam into 6g balls (about 1 teaspoon). Store covered in fridge until ready to use. 

(portion is enough to make 70 tarts)

8oz (227g) Unsalted butter, cut into chunks, soften at room temperature
50g icing sugar
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used Nielsen-Massey pure vanilla extract)
14oz (396g) plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

  1. Place butter (I used unsalted Lurpak)  in a mixing bowl. Sift over the icing sugar. With an electric mixer, on medium speed, cream butter and icing sugar till the mixture turns pale. Add in salt, whisk to combine.
  2. Add in the vanilla extract and whisk to combine.
  3. Dribble in the egg yolks and continue to whisk the mixture till fully incorporated.
  4. Sift flour into the mixture. Mix the mixture with your hand and lightly knead for a couple of minutes till the flour is incorporated into the dough (do not over work the dough).
  5. Wrap the dough with cling wrap and chill in the fridge for about 30mins. (This will prevent the dough from spreading upon baking, and also makes it easier to handle.)
  6. For Tangerine style: Divide dough into 10g each. Flatten each dough into a small disc and wrap with a pineapple jam. Top with a clove. Place on baking tray lined with parchment paper. (Note: If the jam is too soft, it will be difficult to wrap. To overcome this problem, freeze the rolled jam balls in the freezer for about 30mins, or longer, before wrapping. Watch this video to learn the method to wrap the tarts.)
  7. For Open tarts: Roll out a portion of the dough (it is easier to work in smaller portions) between two plastic sheets to about 5~7mm thick. (The plastic sheets help to prevent dough from sticking to the rolling pin and work surface.) Cut out the dough with the tart mould and transfer to baking tray, lined with parchment paper. (To get very clear imprints, place both the outer ring and the inner piece of the mould on the roll out dough. Press the outer ring into the dough then push down the inner piece with some force. Lift up the mould and carefully remove the cut out dough which is stuck to the mould. Dust the mould with flour regularly for easy release.) Place pineapple jam balls on each cut out dough. To decorate, top it with a tiny ball of dough or cut out thin strips of dough and lay over the top of the pineapple paste. (Note: I omit the egg wash for both tangerine style and open tarts.)
  8. Bake in preheated oven at 170 degC for 15 mins. Leave to cool on baking tray for a few minutes before transferring to wire rack. Let cool before storing in air-tight containers.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Set the ball rolling

It is the time of the year again when I will go on a cookie baking frenzy!

I kicked start my Chinese New Year cookie baking marathon with a batch of green tea snowballs. Upon my cyberfriend, VB's recommendation (see her lovely creation here), I first attempted to make these snowball cookies following the recipe from Daily Delicious, one of my favourite food bloggers.

Before I actually made them, I causally mentioned it to my cake friend that I am planning to make some snowballs...just the name itself got her interested. I didn't even show her the link to the recipe, as my intention was to share baking tips with her only after I have tested it out. Yet she was inspired enough to google for the recipe ;)  She came back to inform me that she has found two similar recipes, one from Daily Delicious (who can miss her gorgeous Little Balls of Happiness?!) and one posted by Wendy of My Buttery Fingers. The main difference between the two recipes is, one uses egg white while the other doesn't. My cake friend decided to try out Wendy's recipe, just like me, she doesn't know what to do with a left over egg yolk. It was great news to me, as I could hear her reviews before deciding which recipe to go for. I suggested to her that may be she could add a pinch of baking powder since Wendy mentioned that her cookies flattened a little upon baking. Well, it seems that the baking powder didn't make much of a difference after all...

My attempt with Daily Delicious green tea snowballs was not an instant success. No, there is nothing wrong with the recipe, the only thing I did wrong was that I didn't keep a close watch over the cookies while they were baking in the oven. It turns out that my oven was too hot (I used the fan mode), and the cookies were overly browned even before the baking time was up :'(

I have actually planned to bake them for my friends, luckily it was a test batch!

So, back to the drawing board again...I struggled between going back to the same recipe and the one from My Buttery Fingers. In the end, I decided to try out Wendy's recipe as I don't want to have any left over egg yolk again. With the experience from the first batch of snowballs, I was diligent enough to keep a close guard while the cookies were more over browning, yeah!

Taste wise, both cookies are almost similar, but since more green tea powder is used in Wendy's recipe, the green tea fragrant is more prominent. The fragrance from the almond powder is another bonus! The chocolate version tastes good too, the extra icing sugar makes them less bitter since I used unsweetened cocoa powder. As for the texture, both doesn't melt in the mouth...rather they are in between crunchy and melt in the mouth. The cookies made with Wendy's recipe are softer, probably because there is no egg white used. If you were to ask me, both are good recipes, but I would stick to Wendy's recipe simply because it calls for less ingredients.

Besides the snowballs cookies, I have also made marbled Melt-in-the mouth German Cookies for my friends...whom I've known for the past 15~19 years.

My cookies were all packed inside these lovely milk cartoon gift boxes which I happened to chance upon them at a neighbourhood gift shop...

Of course, the cookies I made have a very short shelf life...but I believe our friendship does not come with an expiry date. I do hope my friends will like the cookies as much as I enjoy making them, for them :)

Green Tea and Chocolate Snowballs

(makes 35)

90g Unsalted butter, cut into cubes, soften at room temperature
a pinch of salt
30g icing sugar
50g ground almonds (almond powder)
100g cake flour
6g green tea/matcha powder
10g cocoa powder (I used unsweetened, Ghirardelli)

extra icing sugar, for dusting


  1. Toast almond powder at 100 degC for 10 mins. Stirring in between. Let cool completely before using.
  2. Place butter, salt in a mixing bowl. Sift over the icing sugar (do not skip this step, this is to remove any lumps in the icing sugar). With a manual whisk or a wooden spoon (or an electric whisk), beat the butter, salt and icing sugar till the mixture turns pale.
  3. Add almond powder, whisk to combine.
  4. Sift over the cake flour. With a spatula, fold the mixture until just combined.
  5. Divide the dough into two portions (about 125g per portion). Mix green tea powder into one portion, and cocoa powder into the other portion. (Note the dough will be quite soft and sticky.)
  6. Wrap the two doughs separately with cling wrap and leave to chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes. (Note: if left to chill for a longer time, the dough will turn hard. Leave it at room temperature for about 5~10mins to soften before working on it.)
  7. Working with one portion of the dough at a time, measure 8g of dough and shape into balls. Place shaped doughs evenly spaced on baking tray lined with parchment paper, avoid the edges  of the tray as they tend to brown too quickly. These cookies do not expand much upon baking. (Note: the dough soften easily especially in warm and humid weather, so work as quickly as possible. If there is space available, leave the tray of shaped balls to chill in the fridge before proceeding with the other portion. This is to help prevent the shaped doughs from flattening too much upon baking.)
  8. Repeat the same with the second portion of the dough.
  9. Bake in preheated oven at 170degC for about 20-25 minutes until lightly browned. (Note: all ovens behave differently, do keep a close watch near 15mins of baking time to prevent the cookies from over browning. Turn the tray around half way, when necessary. If your oven only allows baking one tray at a time, leave the other tray of shaped doughs in the fridge, or only start working with the second portion while the first tray is baking in the oven. This is to help prevent the shaped doughs from flattening too much upon baking.)
  10. Remove from oven. Let cool for a couple of minutes in the tray before transferring to a cooling rack. While the cookies are still warm, dust them with icing sugar. When thoroughly cool, dust again with icing sugar. (alternatively, leave the cookies to cool completely, coat the surface with icing sugar.) Store in air tight container.
Recipe Source: My Buttery Fingers

Thursday, 5 January 2012

A Recollection

It's that time of the year when I will reflect on what I've accomplished in my little world of baking and blogging, and, to wish my blog, a belated, blog anniversary!

It has been five years since I pen my very first blog post here. Since then, the number of posts per year has declined drastically...from a whopping 128 posts on the first year (I can't believe I was writing more than two posts a week back then), down to not more than 70 posts for the following years. Sad to say, I couldn't even make it to one post per week in 2011. My initial passion to blog about every single thing has long gone and the period between updates drags from days to weeks.  At the rate I am going, I wonder whether I am able to hit 30 posts by end of this year?

I still love baking. There are many recipes out there that I would like to explore. But, putting together a blog post goes beyond mixing ingredients and putting batter into oven. I am usually lost for words when it comes to the actual writing. Of course it is easy to write a post, but to be able to write a great post, with content and be able to engage the reader is something I have to struggle with every time I am on the 'draft' mode. Besides, I am probably too boring a person to be able to put up an interesting post every other day.

Nevertheless, I am proud of myself that I didn't deviate too much from the main aim of starting this blog five years ago...

"By starting this blog, I hope I am able to get ideas and suggestions from fellow home bakers to improve my baking skills. At the same time I hope my creations and little experiments would also inspire others, who are like me, to start baking as a hobby. "

I started off year 2011 with great inspirations...with the good intention of walking down my baking trail once again. Just like any other new year resolutions, I didn't accomplish much (^^'). Neither did I venture further from the simple was always the usual muffins, cookies and easy cakes. But I did attempt to try making traditional kuihs and local desserts, such as ondeh ondeh and tau suan. I hope I deserve a pat on the shoulder for that ;)

Here's a recollection of some of my favourite bakes and desserts for the past year...

Old Fashioned Banana Cake

Matcha Chiffon Cake

Melt-in-mouth German Cookies

Classic Chocolate Cake

Pandan Chiffon Cake

Apple Tart

Tau Suan

Traditional Mooncakes

Muah Chee

Cinnamon Rolls

Sweet Potato Ondeh Ondeh

Cranberries Scones

If you are interested in any one of them, just click on the images for the recipes.

I won't be making any new year resolutions...all I wish for is, this time next year, I am able to recollect more good memories than the past year.

Here's wishing all of you, a fruitful and prosperous year ahead!