Thursday, October 22, 2009
SESAME SEED AND PEANUT FILLED COOKIES
Flat aluminium lids of aluminium pots were what I felt like baking these cookies on.
They are old school, plucked out from a time long ago, when cars had fans fixed onto dash boards instead of air conditioners or when tropical mornings were so dewy and cool you had to wear a cardigan to school or when primary school teachers were still lovely and patient and occasionally brought lessons outside when the weather was good, with school children reading their readers in unison or when Chicken Little was part of a school text, and most probably with a huge Flame of the Forest quivering and casting shadow beams on the grassy ground just outside the classroom. And, perhaps too, when tiny giggly school girls were dressed in little white tunics with little crimson belts, looking like miniature nurses, at the Penang Primary Girl's School.
Penang and Malacca were where the Straits Chinese lived mostly and where they developed their unique Nyonya cuisine.
Florence Tan is one such person. A Nyonya from Malacca and so proud of it. Can you tell? Terribly excitable, effervescent, and bursting and bubbling with life, ceaselessly it seems, that I sometimes don't quite know whether to beat her or to join her.
When I saw a photograph of these cookies in her "Rahsia Masakan Nyonya"/ Secrets of Nyonya Cooking cookbook I knew at once that I wanted to make them. I loved the sight of the glowing amber of its egg yolk sheen that is typical of old world Asian cookies and the seemingly intricate and time consuming work involved.
But it was a few weeks and days before I dragged myself to my swivel kitchen stool that waited at the edge of the kitchen table. Then I lost myself in cookie world. Rolling, stamping, filling, crimping and clipping at miniature curry puff-like cookies.
In the end they looked divine and were worth every crimp.
However, I did not use the sesame seeds called for as part of the filling. I only used a mixture of crushed peanuts and castor sugar. Perhaps it would have tasted much better with the sesame seeds. But I was happy with my work and the way those cookies turned out.
Surprisingly the dough was very forgiving and easy to work with, hardly ever drying out, breaking or crumbling up. I had my doubts at first when I saw the number of eggs used in the recipe but finally I knew that it was those very eggs that gave the dough its flexibility and workability. The 1 or 2 hours I spent shaping the cookies were spent without the slightest frustration. In fact the ease of shaping and crimping each cookie, one after another, were like being besotted with gifts of sweet surprises all the way.
These cookies, however, should not be under baked, even the slightest, or the dough will be somewhat doughy and not very nice. But if baked well it will be pleasantly crisp with all the crunchy insides.
I made my cookies very, very tiny. About an inch in length. Simply because I liked the challenge. The ones in the recipe were at least 3 times larger with one and a half teaspoons of filling used in each. I, on the other hand, had only used a scant half a teaspoon of filling for each cookie.
The Dough :
300 gm plain flour
a pinch of salt
150 gm butter
2 egg yolks
1 egg white
2 T iced cold water
1 egg, beaten for egg wash
The Filling :
90 gm roasted peanuts, crushed finely
45 gm roasted sesame seeds
50n gm granulated sugar or according to taste
Sift flour with salt into a bowl. Cut in the butter and using hands break it down until teh mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Mix the eggs and water with a fork in a small bowl. Pour it into teh flour mixture and bring them together until it becomes a smooth and soft dough. let the dough rise in a cool corner for 30 minutes.
Roll out the dough until 0.3 cm thick and cut out circles with a cookie cutter that is 7.5 cm in diameter.
Place 1 1/2 teaspoons of filling in the middle of the circle of dough and fold over like a turnover. Press the whole edge with your finger tips to seal. It will be a semi circle shape now. Then crimp (starting at one end) by pinching the edge with your thumb and forefinger thus flattening out the edge a little at that point and then folding the pinched bit over itself. Repeat the process until the whole semi circled edge is completely crimped.
Once the filling is sealed in and the cookie in a semi circle shape complete with the lovely crimped edge you then use the clipper to mark patterns on the surface. Clip or pinch the surface of the cookie with the clipper (thus making little ridges and grooves) parallel to each other until a row of ridges form from one end of the cookie to the other.
Then start the clipping all over again but on the next 'empty' part of the adjacent surface of the dough that hasn't been clipped yet, this time clipping at a slightly different angle from the first row thus making zig zag patterns.
The grooves will form naturally as you pinch or clip the surface with the fine toothed clipper making delicate patterns wherever you clip the dough.
Obviously all this is much easier done if your cookie is larger in size than the ones I had made.
Place the cookies on an ungreased baking tray ( I used non-stick baking paper) and then bake for 10 minutes WITHOUT EGG WASH. Take out after 10 minutes and brush the egg wash over the cookies and then bake another 10 or 15 minutes until the cookies are a beautiful deep golden amber.
By brushing the cookies with egg wash AFTER they have been baked for 10 minutes allows the pattern to remain embossed and stand out as opposed to being 'washed out' and buried if the cookies were egg washed from the beginning of baking.
Cool and store in an airtight container.