Category Archives: Baking Recipes: Cookies/Biscuits

Christmas Is Here: Dark Chocolate & Coconut Cookies

Christmas is just around the corner. Are you busy wrapping up your work to prepare for a week’s worth of feasting and gifting? Well, for me, I have finished work for the year and aside from packing, tying up loose ends, spring cleaning and cooking for dinner parties, I’m mostly relaxing in the apartment, idling when I can and savouring some me-time and time with my husband.

For five years now, Christmas has mostly been rather quiet for us. If we’re not back in Singapore to celebrate the season with our families, we spend the holidays all wrapped up in the freezing cold, with each other in our cosy home. The shops are almost always closed during Christmas Eve and Day in Europe, and unlike Singapore, there’s nowhere to go during the holidays. At first, this came as a bit of a shock, because we didn’t know where to get groceries, or even a bottle of mineral water if we happen to be travelling. Over the years, however, we have come to appreciate the quiet time that is Christmas.

When there is nothing else to distract us, we focus on being with people. I’m not just talking about merry-making, but we catch up, talk about hopes and dreams for the new year, learn more about each other or about our friends and families, and most importantly, we appreciate and give thanks for the wonderful people in our lives. It is afterall the season of Joy and Love.

What better way to spend quality time with people whom you love than to sit around on the floor, huddled together under thick duvets by the drafty windows, laughing over mugs of hot chocolate? What better way to say thank you to your loved ones with a cosy dinner at your home? And what better way to send them home with good memories of the night, each with a bag of warm cookies in hand? I honestly can’t think of better ways to celebrate the season than with good food and good times together, but that’s just me.

Wherever you are, whatever you do and whoever you are with, I hope you enjoy the holidays. And I wish that the new year will bring you love, happiness and good health.

Happy Christmas, everyone!

Here’s the recipe for my Dark Chocolate & Coconut Cookies, if you’re interested:

Dark Chocolate & Coconut Cookies:
(adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)

230g unsalted butter, room temperature
300g soft light brown sugar
50g liquid glucose
2 medium eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
400g plain flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 and 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
200g 70% chocolate, roughly chopped (I used Lindt)
100g flaked coconut

1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius.

2. Beat butter, sugar and glucose on the stand mixer with a paddle attachment for about 8 minutes on medium speed till creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.

3. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat at medium speed till combined (scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula after each addition to incorporate the unmixed parts). Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the vanilla extract.

4. Add flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda and mix until just incorporated. Stir in the roughly chopped chocolate chunks and flaked coconut.

5. Arrange 6 tablespoon-sized drops of cookie dough on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Ensure that these drops are spaced well apart (more than 2 inches apart) to allow for expansion. Bake in the preheated oven for 8-9 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. At this point, the cookies will be quite flat, and frighteningly soft and pliable. Leave the cookies to cool slightly on the tray before transferring the cookies onto the cooling rack.

6. You can choose to eat them while they are warm (not hot!) and wash them  down with a glass of cold milk, or have them at room temperature. I like them warm. When the cookies have cooled completely, store them in an air-tight container. These cookies should remain slightly crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.

Enjoy!

*Updated: This post is featured on Foodgawker and Tastespotting. Check out my profiles on Foodgawker and Tastespotting to see my other featured posts!

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

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Fundraising for Japan – A Success, And Yes, We Have A Winner!

Thanks to your generous donations, The Pleasure Monger’s fundraising event for Japan was a success! We may have fell short of the £2000 target, but we did raise a whopping £1510, which amounts to 76% of our target! To be honest, I wasn’t sure if anyone would donate when I organised this, but a number of you did; the funds that we’ve raised together are so much more than I could ever give on my own. I’m grateful for your support and I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart.

The fundraising page that I’ve set up on JustGiving will run till 2016, so please continue to drop a pound or two to help the victims of the earthquake in Japan. I’m sure everyone knows that the people in Japan are still suffering from the aftermath. For people like us who can’t be there to deliver aid, we can help in other ways. Yesterday evening, I was just thinking how wonderful it would be if everyone who stops by this blog could give a pound or spare some change; we could very well raise £20000 in a month! And then we have other bloggers who are trying their best to raise funds (read the updates at the bottom of this post for more details on how you can get involved), bloggers who are way more popular, prolific and well-known than I am, and if every reader of theirs give a pound for every post they read, they could raise so much more. That £1 makes such little difference to us, but for the victims, every penny counts and the success of the fundraiser thus far proves that we can pool our resources together and make a HUGE difference. So please continue to give, within your means, to any of the avenues that are most accessible to you.

Now, let’s realise the promise I made. When I organised the fundraiser, I said that I would pledge a USD100 Amazon gift card to one lucky donor so long as he/she donates before 31 March 2011 (GMT2359h). So today, I used the random integer generator on random.org to pick a winner and the gift card goes to…….

SHIRLEY!

I’ll be in touch in the next few minutes with an Amazon email containing the gift card. Congratulations and thank you for your donation!

xx

 

Fundraising for Japan

Dear readers,

In light of the recent events that hit Japan, I have started a fundraising page on JustGiving to raise some money for the disaster relief efforts. My nominated charity is ShelterBox, which is rallying resources to help the people in Japan. Temporary shelters are getting increasingly overcrowded right now, and if you’ve read the news, many have died in the bitter cold. The Japanese authorities are requesting ShelterBox to deliver emergency shelter and lifesaving supplies to the north of Japan. Thousands of boxes of such supplies are either in Japan or ready to be mobilised now, and we can help to deliver to the needs of the homeless in Japan. Please, let’s not leave them out in the freezing temperatures, and let’s work to give them a home and some warmth, literally and figuratively.

Anyone can donate, you only need a debit or credit card to do so. I can’t make a difference on my own, so instead of donating the money directly to charity, I am pledging a USD100 Amazon gift card to this fundraising event. I will randomly select the gift card recipient (using http://www.random.org/) from the list of people who donate on my fundraising page before 31 March 2011 (2359h GMT). By giving a little incentive, I hope that this will boost numbers a little and make the event worthwhile.  The gift card can be used on Amazon.com and I will email it to you before 10 April 2011. I will also announce the winner on this blog.

Please note that whilst I am not allowed to publicise this gift card raffle on my JustGiving page (as I am bound by terms and conditions), anyone who donates on my page, with a valid email address, will be eligible for this raffle. In order for me to contact you, please make sure you make your email address available to me on the JustGiving fundraising page.

Thank you for your help. Please also spread the word around, the success of this fundraising event relies on our collective effort.

Updated: I would also like to bring your attention to other avenues of donation. Some of my food blogger friends have set up an initiative called Bento4Japan, they have very generously put up some bento-related items up for auction on eBay. Please visit this site and start bidding! Or you can visit meemalee’s kitchen to have a look, she has written a nice summary of how you can help the people in Japan. Chika of the very beautiful blog, She Who Eats, is also giving away sakura ingredients to raise funds for Japan.

P/S: The fundraising page will be active till 2016, but only donors who contributed to this page before 31 March 2011 (2359h GMT) will be considered for the raffle. I am doing this because I am trying to encourage as many people to donate soon as the relief efforts are ongoing and urgently needed – WE HAVE A WINNER!

 

Chinese New Year: Bake, Learn, Laugh and Eat

I’ve had the great fortune of meeting the lovely E of heavenwildfleur in person on a few occasions over the last couple of months and certainly feel very blessed to have made a wonderful and incredibly talented friend like her. When she invited me to her place for a bake day in the weekend leading to Chinese New Year, I couldn’t possibly say no, could I? So I kicked my books aside, packed my baking tools and some ingredients, and barged my way into her very lovely home. The rest was baking history, really.

We searched high and low for reliable recipes for two of the many Chinese New Year goodies that we wanted to snack on, the mandatory pineapple tarts and kueh bangkit, a coconut biscuit that crumbles pleasurably and melts in your mouth. Luckily for us, there are some very trustworthy Singaporean bloggers we can rely on, and we turned to The Little Teochew for pineapple tarts and Lily’s Wai Sek Hong for kueh bangkit.

We started off at about 11.30am with the pineapple tarts and soon I found myself bringing the tart dough together whilst E got on with cooking the tapioca flour for the kueh bangkit. It was a lot of fun, and very eye-opening too as it is the first time that I’ve baked with someone (so talented and knowledgeable to boot), so it was incredible (for me, not sure if it was the case for E….) to banter over bakes and cakes. I learnt a lot during this session and realised the value of discussing recipes. Most of the time, I bake on my own, mutter to myself when something goes wrong and try to rectify mistakes alone. Talking the recipes (and life) out with E really helped and lent a new dimension to the bits and bobs of baking! It was also very fun to think out of the box and brainstorm ways to shape the pineapple tarts and kueh bangkit without proper moulds. If you would like to know, we used standard cookie cutters for the tarts and made a depression in the middle for the pineapple jam using the end of a rolling pin. As for the kueh bangkit, we made gnocchi-like shapes, round ones, rectangle ones, curry puff-like ones (don’t ask) before settling on moulding the dough into ‘windmills’ and making the indents with tines of a fork. In a way, we took ‘hand-made’ to the next level with these goodies.

You would think that with all the discussion, two pairs of hands, one talented brain (E’s) and one puny putrefying lump of neurons (mine), we would have triumphed over the recipes and emerged with perfect trays of pineapple tarts and kueh bangkit. I kid you not but it took us 3 trays of tarts and 2 trays of kueh bangkit before we mastered the baking times and temperatures. My lump of neurons must have let E’s brain and the recipes down. Numerous attempts, tonnes of squatting down in front of the oven, lots of laughs and a bak kut teh lunch later, we dusted our hands at about 5pm with 100 pineapple tarts and 90 pieces of kueh bangkit. The sun had set by then and though two of us whipped out our ginormous DSLRs to capture our deeds (what did you expect when you put two food bloggers together?), I didn’t manage to get nice pictures of the trays of goodies laid out in their naked glory (E, post your pictures please….), so I packed some home for the shoot on the next day.

If you swung by to eavesdrop on how the recipes went, I can tell you that they were pretty reliable! The goodies didn’t taste like how we would have liked them to be on the day they were baked, but having let them ‘rest’, they were way better on the next day. We think they are probably like macarons, since they taste better after being rested. We have no idea why but are happy that our efforts didn’t go to waste. We did make some changes to (or would tweak) the recipes to make them work better in our hands. I had to add one more egg yolk to the pineapple tart dough to bring the crumbs together before letting the dough rest. E found that it might be better to remove the pandan leaves after the third round of cooking so they don’t burn and overpower the coconut flavour in the kueh bangkit. We also had to adjust the oven temperatures and baking times. As promised, the pastry for the pineapple tarts was crumbly and flaky (although I did think that it could do with a more buttery flavour) and the kueh bangkit had a pleasant texture to it, slightly crunchy on the outside and melt-in-the-mouth on the inside. These recipes are good templates to work on with future attempts. I think they are keepers, alongside with that for my clementine macarons, and I would certainly revisit them when I bake for Chinese New Year again!

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

 

 

I Made My Childhood Snack: Polvorons

When I was in primary school, my dad’s friends, Uncle E and Aunt V used to haul back goodies from their annual visit to the Philippines and present a good portion of the sweets to us. Of the delicacies they have kindly gifted us, I remember two rather fondly – silvana, a frozen creamy cookie coated with savoury-sweet cookie crumbs, made by sandwiching two cashew-meringue wafers on either side of the most heavenly layer of buttercream, and polvorons. As Uncle E’s business took him to China, we haven’t been so lucky on the goodies’ front for more than a decade, and that means that I have been craving silvanas and polvorons for more than ten painful years.

I searched high and low for the recipes of these two pastries without any success. A recent trip to San Sebastian intensified the cravings for polvorons when I spotted the Spanish version which is made of lard; I much preferred the Filipino version which is made from butter and milk powder. As luck would have it, I chanced upon a Filipino food blog soon after the trip and asked the author if he could share the recipe for Filipino polvorons. He obliged very quickly, I must say, complete with a post and pictures on how one could go about making these shortbread-like pastries.

Traditionally, these polvorons are made and wrapped in cellophane paper. They are eaten chilled, and if you like the buttery and milky versions of pineapple tart pastries or shortbread, you should like this. After I spilled my obsession to my sister, she went on a rather diligent search and found that the best brand for polvorons, Goldilocks (also the one I used to have), is currently sold at Lucky Plaza in Singapore. Seeing as to how I’m going to be back in Singapore soon, I would be indulging in the real thing rather excessively and will only need to revisit this recipe on rainy days instead. But I urge you to try making this anyway, it’s easy and the ingredients are cheap. If you don’t like it, you can give them away and I tell you, someone will like this. Someone like me.

Now, onto the recipe. I was very surprised to learn that polvorons are incredibly easy to make. The ingredients are not uncommon (perhaps with the exception of a certain rice grain called pinipig, but this can be replaced by nuts and other flavours we fancy) and the only thing you really have to get your hands on is a polvoron mould. I was in luck as I bought a mooncake mould not too long ago (the spring-loaded type) to make snowskin mooncakes for Mid-Autumn this year, and the mooncake mould is similar to that for polvorons. All I had to do was to pack the mould solidly with the pastry mixture, and press the plunger to stamp them out. If you can’t find such a mould, you can use little cups or containers instead. I didn’t have cellophane paper too, so I stored them between sheets of baking parchment in an air-tight container and left them in the fridge.

I loved the cookies that came out of this. No baking is required, just a little of toasting and lots of fun packing. With minimal effort, I made a whole tray of lovely, authentic polvorons in three different flavours (plain, matcha and Milo). I loved all of them, although the Milo ones turned out a little too sweet, so you might want to cut back on the sugar for those. The polvorons were buttery, milky, and once bitten, the cookies crumbled in the only legal way a shortbread should  be allowed to crumble. The bits melt in my mouth. I was suddenly a kid again, eagerly munching on Uncle E and Aunt V’s treats minus the silvanas.  I have to warn you though, do not speak once the polvoron gets in your mouth because you don’t want to be spewing crumbs at anyone…they are that delicate!

Now, all I have to do is to get my hands on a reliable silvanas recipe…..

Here’s the recipe:

Polvorons in Three Flavours
(adapted from Ang Sarap)
Makes 18 polvorons with a 4.5-cm mould

135g plain flour, sifted
65g full-cream milk powder, sifted
120g caster sugar, sifted
75g unsalted butter, melted to yield about 90ml of liquid butter
10g matcha powder
10g Milo (you might want to cut down on Milo, or reduce the caster sugar used for the Milo portions)

1. Mix caster sugar and milk powder together in a bowl. Set aside.
2. Fry plain flour in a non-stick pan till hot, then take pan off the hear and add the milk and sugar mixture. Mix well and divide this into three portions.
3. To the first portion, add 30ml melted butter while the flour mixture is still hot, mix well and add 1 and 1/2 heaped tablespoons of the mixture to the mould, compress with your thumb to form a solid pack, and push the plunger on the mould to release the polvoron. Refrigerate the polvorons when done.
4. Take a second portion of the flour mixture and heat it slightly (not for too long, you don’t want to melt the sugar in it!). Add the matcha powder and 30ml liquid butter. Again, mix well and make the polvorons.
5. Repeat this with the third portion, this time adding Milo and 30ml liquid butter.
6. Once they are chilled, the polvorons should hold the shape very well without crumbling apart if you try to pick them up. I would say bring them out of the fridge for about 5 minutes before serving. This way, they won’t be too hard, and they should be of the perfect crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth texture.

Enjoy!

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

 

Fruit in Baking: White Chocolate & Cranberry Cookies

I’m participating in the Monthly Mingle: Fruit in Baking this month. Monthly Mingle came into fruition with amazing Meeta from What’s For Lunch, Honey? and this month, it is hosted by lovely Deeba at Passionate About Baking!

White chocolate & cranberry cookies

 

I don’t usually bake with fruits, I use lots of chocolate, nuts in my recipes, you know the heavy stuff, and I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t worked with fruits recently except for my lychee mascarpone macarons. I thought this month’s Fruit in Baking would be perfect to get cracking on some dried fruits at home. I don’t always like to go out and buy all sorts of ingredients, just to tick the boxes on recipes; I do enjoy rummaging things from my pantry and putting them together, as I try to practise a waste-not approach. Besides, it’s more practical to finish up what’s left in the pantry before running out to get even more ingredients. You see, we don’t get very much kitchen (or any) space in London.

White chocolate & cranberry cookies

My in-laws came over to London in May this year, and they brought two giant packs of dried cranberries. They were meant as health foods for us, but we can only snack on that many dried cranberries when we’re feeling peckish, so I thought it would be nice to make some white chocolate and cranberry cookies with them.

White chocolate & cranberry cookies

 

I am actually very fond of these cookies as they bring back lots of memories. When I first moved to London in 2007, I was introduced to a whole new variety of baked goods here. Waffles, cookies, biscuits, cakes, breads are done in so many permutations, done so very well and extremely cheaply that I wonder why bakeries in Singapore resort to charging exorbitant prices for good ‘fancy’ (read: those containing more than mere chocolate chips) cookies. The cost price isn’t high, but it appears that Asian countries are selling a Westernised concept to consumers; a large white chocolate and cranberry cookie may cost us only £0.50 here or even less, but it can cost up to the equivalent of £2 in Singapore. As such, I behaved like a mad woman on the loose, buying cookies from every nook and cranny in London, feasting on them without a care in the world. White chocolate and cranberry cookies were one of the goodies that I particularly enjoyed.

 

White chocolate & cranberry cookies

I like soft cookies, so I have tweaked the recipe for my chocolate chunk and flaked coconut cookies to make way for white chocolate and dried cranberries. If you like crunchy cookies, just bake them for a minute or two longer, as long as they don’t burn (they shouldn’t) and they will harden once they are completely cooled. These were very popular with my friends, I made loads, but they were snapped up very quickly. I’ve been told that these weren’t too sweet, even with the white chocolate, and the flavours worked well together!

White chocolate & cranberry cookies

White chocolate & cranberry cookies

Here’s my recipe.

Chocolate Chunks and Flaked Coconut Cookies:
(adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)

225g unsalted butter, room temperature
130g soft light brown sugar
170g golden caster sugar
2 medium eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
400g plain flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 and 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100g white chocolate, roughly chopped
100g dried cranberries, roughly chopped

1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius.

2. Cream butter and sugar with a handheld electric whisk until light and fluffy.

3. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix well (scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula after each addition to incorporate the unmixed parts). Turn the mixer down to low speed and beat in the vanilla paste.

4. Add flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda and mix well until a smooth dough is formed. Stir in the roughly chopped white chocolate and cranberries.

5. Arrange 6 tablespoon-sized drops of cookie dough on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Ensure that these drops are spaced well apart to allow for expansion. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. At this point, the cookies will be quite flat, and frighteningly soft and pliable. Leave the cookies to cool slightly on the tray before transferring the cookies onto the cooling rack.

6. You can choose to eat them while they are warm (not hot!) and wash them  down with a glass of cold milk, or have them at room temperature (they will be harder than when it is warm). M and I love the cookies warm. When the cookies have cooled completely, keep them away from cookie monsters!

White chocolate & cranberry cookies

Enjoy!

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

 

Kampar Chicken Biscuits – Kai Zai Paeng


Kampar Chicken Biscuits aka Kai Zai Paeng

I have been craving for Kai Zai Paeng (鸡仔饼), otherwise known as Kampar Chicken Biscuits, for a while. These famous biscuits originate from Kampar, a town in the state of Perak in Malaysia, and boast a distinctive and aromatic flavour that can only belong to Kai Zai Paeng. Strange as it sounds, it is the intense flavour imparted by the salty and pungent fermented red beancurd (aka Nam Yee 南乳) that reels people in. Pungent = delicious? Ironic, I know, but it’s true! Nam Yee is often used in Chinese cooking, and the pungent smell of the fermented beancurd transforms into the most addictive aroma after cooking. It is also eaten as it is, as a wonderfully savoury condiment to plain Chinese-style porridge.

Kampar Chicken Biscuits aka Kai Zai Paeng

Since I had Nam Yee, and plenty of white sesame seeds in my pantry, I thought I’d whip up some Kai Zai Paeng. Even though these biscuits are called Kampar Chicken Biscuits, there isn’t any chicken in it, but the recipe I found calls for a touch of chicken stock to give additional flavour and new meaning to the name of this delectable snack.

Kampar Chicken Biscuits aka Kai Zai Paeng

Kampar Chicken Biscuits aka Kai Zai Paeng

The verdict? These biscuits turned out perfect. They taste just like the store-bought ones, and are very fragrant with a distinctive savouriness and aroma coming from the sesame seeds. They were thin, very crispy and too addictive! M and I keep reaching into the jar for more!

Kampar Chicken Biscuits aka Kai Zai Paeng

You would be happy to know that these are very easy to make. The recipe is laborious, in that you need to roll out the dough very, very thinly to get the perfect texture (my arms are still aching from the rolling and it’s been 2 days since I made these), but putting the dough together is ridiculously easy. I have tweaked the recipe as I don’t have all the ingredients, and replaced some (namely the candied winter melon) with similar flavours from things that can be commonly found in the average Asian pantry (kecap manis and more honey).

Here is the recipe.

Kampar Chicken Biscuits aka Kai Zai Paeng
(adapted from Little Corner of Mine)

Portion A:
295g self-raising flour
120g icing sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon chicken stock powder
1 teaspoon garlic, chopped very finely
80g white sesame seeds

Portion B:
1 medium egg
2 tablespoons honey
2 pieces Nam Yee, mashed to paste
1 tablespoon kecap manis (Indonesian thick and sweet soy sauce)
100ml sunflower oil

1. Mix all dry ingredients in Portion A. Mix all wet ingredients in Portion B.

2. Add Portion B to Portion A, and mix till the dough is combined. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

3. Roll out dough to 2mm thick between two pieces of baking parchment. Use a cookie cutter to punch out the shapes you want. I used 48mm diameter round cutters and made 131 biscuits from the dough. Place pieces of dough on baking tray that has been lined with baking parchment, ensuring a space of at least 1.5cm between the biscuits to allow for expansion (this is also the reason why you have to roll the dough thinly because they expand a little).

4. Bake in oven that has been preheated at 175 degrees Celsius, for about 6 minutes. The timing will differ with different ovens. As the biscuits contain honey and are pretty thin, they can burn very easily, so keep a watchful eye!

5. Cool biscuits on cooling rack, this will make them thin and crispy. Store in airtight container when completely cooled, and exercise some restrain when eating them, will ya?

Hope you enjoy making these biscuits and let me know if the recipe works out for you.

Check out what I have been baking in my own kitchen.

Also check out my other food adventures.

*Updated: This post is featured on Foodgawker and Photograzing. Check out my profile on Foodgawker and Photograzing to see my other featured posts!