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!