Baking Cookies Recipes

Browned Butter Chinese Walnut Cookies

Browned Butter Chinese Walnut Cookies

The Chinese walnut cookie (he.tao.su / hap.to.so) is my favourite traditional Chinese cookie. This Chinese New Year I am in search of the perfect recipe. When I was doing research, I realized that this might be the most popular cookie in all of China. According to a story I read, it originated in Jingdezhen, in the Jiangxi province, the ceramics capital of China since the ancient times. It is believed to be started by a ceramics craftsman who brought dough from home to bake by the kiln for food because the working hours were so long. He then added walnuts to calm his cough condition. But eventually walnuts were eliminated in the recipe because of its bitterness. Another story says that the character tao in tao.su means ceramics, not walnuts. The version that I am used to actually contains little or no walnuts at all. Regardless of the story, it eventually spread all over China, winning the hearts of cookie lovers.  The traditional recipe uses lard, which makes it so wonderfully crumbly and flavourful. However lard is not a popular baking ingredient in North America, and I find that the lard sold at supermarkets is very bland. Unless you made your own lard, it doesn’t lend much flavour to the cookie. Butter, on the other hand makes a good subsitute but it has moisture so it would effect its texture. To get the best flavour and texture out of butter, I tried browning it. My version: browned butter Chinese walnut cookies – deliciously crumbly, sandy, and packed with nutty flavour.

Browned Butter Chinese Walnut Cookies

Ingredients

  • 150 g / 1 cup plus 3 tbsp cake and pastry flour
  • 75 g / 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1.5 g / 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 100 g / 1/2 cup browned butter, room temperature
  • to make browned butter, melt 170 g / 3/4 cup unsalted butter in a small saucepan on medium heat, swirling pan occasionally until colour turns light brown (you might need to skim off foam to see colour). Strain with a fine mesh strainer into a heatproof container, cool until ready to use.
  • 1.5 g / 3/4 tsp baking ammonium / baking powder
  • 1.5 g / 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 25 g / 1/2 of an egg, slightly beatened + more for egg wash
  • 40 g / 1/2 cup walnut halves, lightly toasted

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 325 F / 160 C. Set the oven rack to the top third. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar, and salt. Add in browned butter, and mix it in with your fingers until it resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. Add baking ammonia and baking soda, continue mixing it with your fingers, making sure it is thoroughly distributed into the mix. (Note: it will start to smell very pungent once the ammonia is added but it is not harmful, so don't worry.)
  4. Mix the egg and form a dough. It might be a bit sticky at the beginning, but it will eventually form into a soft dough. Avoid over-mixing or kneading it otherwise the cookies doesn't spread nicely during baking.
  5. Form into 25 gram balls, about 1.5 inch / 4 cm balls. You will get about 14 cookies. Place them onto lined baking sheets, about 3 inches / 7.5 cm apart, they will spread quite a bit. Brush with the remaining half of the beaten egg. Let the first layer dry for about 10 minutes, brush second layer, and top with toasted walnut halves.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, rotate pan, bake for 10-15 more minutes until the tops have become nice and golden. Cool before serving.
http://yummyworkshop.com/2016/01/31/browned-butter-chinese-walnut-cookies/

Browned Butter Chinese Walnut CookiesA note on baker’s ammonia: I tried to stay true to the classic texture and look of the cookie by using baking ammonia or baker’s ammonia, which is a precursor to leavening agents baking soda and baking powder. It is usually found in very old recipes. It reacts to moisture and heat, and it is suitable for a longer leavening process. I managed to find some at a specialty store (there are sources online too), but you can substitute it for the same amount of baking powder but it might change the texture and its cracking appearance. If you do use it, be aware that baking ammonia smells VERY pungent, but it will dissipate as the leavening reaction is finished during baking. I suggest storing it in an airtight jar and keeping it in a cool and dry place. FUN FACT: If you have ever had a Cantonese style steamed BBQ pork bun, you would notice its signature bursting exterior, which is a reaction from using baking ammonia.

I think this might be the perfect twist to this traditional treat – the texture and appearance echo its original version with the addition of a more nutty and complex butter flavour. I remember that they were much bigger when I bought them as a child, about the size of my small face. Though not a complicated recipe, I am so proud that I was able to recreate its texture because it is so nostalgic.

ChineseWalnutCookiesTopThese make a great companion with a cup of robust Chinese tea – my favourite is a good, smooth pu’er.

Thanks to Christine from Vermilion Roots for spearheading the Chinese New Year Cookie Party, this recipe is my contribution to celebrate this holiday with bloggers from all over the world.
Hop on over and check out my fellow bloggers’ yummy cookie creations!

Join us on social media with the hashtag #ChineseNewYearCookieParty with your cookie photos! Whether you celebrate Chinese new year or not, cookies is always a good idea. In the year of the monkey, I wish you and your family healthy and prosperity!

Baking Cake Dessert Recipes

Olive Oil Chiffon Cake with Meyer Lemon Curd

Olive Oil Chiffon with Meyer Lemon Curd

.I like my citrus desserts to be very brightly flavoured and tart. This is my first time baking with Meyer lemons. Its flavour is often described as a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. To me it is closer to the Japanese yuzu. It is not as pungent as a regular lemon but more floral. This chiffon cake recipe is so good – it is soft, moist, and its olive oil flavour comes through perfectly. It is crucial that you use a good quality olive oil for the recipe. I find that a fruity one works well with the citrus notes of the cake. The cake is delicious on its own too, it is my grandma’s favourite cake without any fillings nor toppings. Since the cake is so light, you can also easily dress it up with a whipped cream, or in this case, a lemon curd. Thus becoming olive oil chiffon cake with Meyer Lemon Curd. I love that this first post of 2016 is off to a “fresh” start!

Olive Oil Chiffon Cake with Meyer Lemon Curd

Ingredients

    Olive Oil Chiffon Cake
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 65 g / 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil - the best quality you can find
  • 2 tsp clementine or orange zest
  • 85 g / 1/3 cup lukewarm water
  • 4 g / 1-1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 120 g / 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp cake flour
  • 5 egg whites
  • 140 g / 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
  • Meyer Lemon Curd
  • 100 g / 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp Meyer lemon zest
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 125 g / 1/2 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice
  • 70 g / 5 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
  • Glaze
  • 120 g / 1 cup icing sugar
  • 45 g / 3 tbsp Meyer lemon juice
  • Assembly
  • Meyer lemons
  • clementines
  • edible dried rose petals

Method

    Olive Oil Chiffon Cake
  1. Adjust rack to the middle of the oven, preheat to 350 F / 175 C.
  2. Prepare a 8 inch x 3 inch high round cake pan, line the bottom with a piece of round parchment paper. Do not grease the sides of the pan as the batter needs to climb up as it bakes.
  3. Sift together flour and baking powder. In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks lightly, add olive oil and water, and clementine zest, whisk to combine. Mix in sifted flour mixture until incorporated, do not over-mix. Set aside.
  4. In the mixer bowl, beat together egg whites and sugar. Start on low speed and increase to high speed slowly. Beat until meringue reaches a stiff peak.
  5. Take one-third of the meringue and fold into the flour mixture until incorporated. Gently fold in the rest, careful not to deflate the batter too much. Pour into the prepared pan.
  6. Bake in preheat oven for 40-45 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle and comes out clean. Cool completely in pan before unmoulding and slicing.
  7. Meyer Lemon Curd
  8. In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar and egg yolks until combined, whisk in the lemon juice and zest.
  9. Heat the mixture on medium heat, keep whisking to prevent the bottom from burning. Cook the curd for about 10-15 minutes, until the curd coats the back for a spoon. Take off heat and whisk in butter until it is emulsified.
  10. Strain lemon curd through a fine mesh sieve into a clean container. Cover and chill until ready to use.
  11. Glaze
  12. Mix icing sugar and lemon juice in a bowl, set aside until ready to use.
  13. Assembly
  14. Slice cake horizontally into three equal slices. Place the first slice on a plate or platter, spoon about 1/3 of the lemon curd and spread it evenly. Layer with the other two slices of cake and lemon curd.
  15. Spoon the glaze all over the top, grate clementine and lemon zests on top, and decorate with cut fruit. Sprinkle with dried rose petals if desired. Let the glaze set for 15 minutes for serving.
http://yummyworkshop.com/2016/01/18/olive-oil-chiffon-cake-meyer-lemon-curd/

Olive Oil Chiffon with Meyer Lemon Curd

I made this cake intending it to be very refreshing and full of citrus flavours. The chiffon cake is the perfect vehicle for the lemon curd. A buttercream would have weighed down the cake too much. The mellow olive oil flavour acts as a background of the Meyer lemon and clementine. I know this might sound counter-intuitive but as a baker I don’t have a high tolerance for a lot of sweets in day. This cake though, I can afford to have more than one slice because it is so tart and bright.

Olive Oil Chiffon with Meyer Lemon Curd

Take advantage of the beautiful citrus fruits in season and be creative. You can even just cut the cake into slices and serve with a spoon of lemon curd or make it pretty like I did. If you can’t get your hands on Meyer lemons, I am sure it would be just as delicious made with regular lemons and/or limes.

Baking Cookies Recipes

Cookies for Santa – one recipe, three ways

Cookies for Santa

Growing up in an Chinese family, we’ve never prepared for Santa’s big arrival every year. Not until moving to Canada that I learned about Santa, cookies, milk, gifts, and chimneys. Well, there’s a first time for everything, right? Baking can sometimes be therapeutic, just need to enjoy the process and its delicious outcome. When I feel the need to step away and bake, I usually turn to good cookie recipe because it is easy to make, and I know they will turn out. So this year I have Cookies for Santa – one recipe, three ways! These variations are based on one basic cookie dough and just by adding some flair, they become deliciously different. You can create your very own versions depending on your preference – a clever way to save time during this busy season.Cookies for Santa

My cookies for Santa menu: (I think he’s going to love them!)

Matcha Snowball Cookies
my twist on Japanese genmaicha (tea), crispy toasted rice inside,
coated with a light Matcha icing sugar that melts in your mouth

Coffee Walnut Shortbread
delicious flavour combination of coffee’s caramel, nuttiness and walnuts

Coconut Thumbprint Cookies
gooey with jam and divine with caramelized white chocolate

Cookies for Santa

Ingredients

    Basic Cookie Dough
  • 1/2 cup / 113 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup / 55 g granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp fine salt
  • 1 cup / 150 g all-purpose flour
  • Matcha Snowball Variation (makes 24 cookies)
  • 1/4 cup / 20 g Japanese toasted brown rice (dough inclusion)
  • 1/2 cup / 70 g icing sugar (finishing)
  • 1 tbsp / 7 g matcha powder (finishing)
  • Coffee Walnut Variation (makes 12 wedges in a 7 inch fluted tart pan)
  • 1/3 cup / 40 g toasted walnuts, roughly chopped (dough inclusion)
  • 1 tbsp / 4.5 g finely ground coffee (dough inclusion)
  • 2 tbsp coarse sugar or granulated sugar (finishing)
  • Coconut Thumbprint Variation
  • 1/4 cup / 20 g toasted unsweetened fine shredded coconut (dough inclusion)
  • 15 g / 2 tbsp unsweetened fine shredded coconut (finishing)
  • good quality jam and/or good quality white chocolate (finishing)

Method

    Basic Cookie Dough
  1. In a stand mixer bowl, with a paddle attachment (or use an electric mixer) beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, add vanilla extract to incorporate.
  2. Add flour and salt, mix on low speed only until a dough starts to form, stop mixer, scrape bowl.
  3. At this stage mix in the respective dough inclusions and incorporate briefly until they are evenly distributed. Do not over-mix! (For example, if you are making the coffee walnut variation, you would add the toasted walnuts and ground coffee.)
  4. Matcha Snowball Variation
  5. Preheat oven to 400 F / 205 C. Line a cookie sheet with parchment
  6. Divide the dough in half. Roll one half into a 12 inch rope, divide into 1 inch pieces. Roll each piece into a round ball with your palms. Continue with the rest of the dough.
  7. Place cookies evenly spaced in cookie sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, rotating halfway, until the edges turn slightly golden brown.
  8. While baking, prepare the dusting mixture - sift icing sugar and matcha powder into a medium mixing bowl.
  9. After the cookies have come out of the oven, cool them for 5 minutes, and coat them in the dusting mixture, working 3-4 pieces at a time. Cool on cooling rack. When they have completely cooled, dust them again in the mixture to ensure a nice and even coating.
  10. Coffee Walnut Variation
  11. Preheat oven to 350 F / 175 C.
  12. Turn dough into the tart pan or cake pan with a removable bottom, pat down dough so it is leveled to the edges. Prick the dough all over with a fork. Sprinkle sugar evenly onto the surface.
  13. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the edges are golden brown, rotating halfway through. Cool completely. Carefully cut into 12 wedges with a serrated knife.
  14. Coconut Thumbprint Variation
  15. Preheat oven to 350 F/ 175 C.
  16. Divide dough evenly into quarters, divide each quarter into 4 balls, roll in shredded coconut.
  17. Place onto cookie sheet, make an indentation onto each cookie. If you are making ones with white chocolate, gently press a piece of white chocolate into the center, and bake for 20-22 minutes, rotating pan halfway, until lightly brown.
  18. If making jam thumbprints, bake cookies for 10 minutes, take out, gently reshape the center cavity with a spoon, fill with about 1/2 teaspoon of jam. Return to oven to bake for 10-12 more minutes until lightly brown.
http://yummyworkshop.com/2015/12/12/cookies-for-santa-one-recipe-three-ways/

Cookies for Santa

These cookies make terrific gifts, and with a little packaging, your friends and family will adore you. I try to give my close friends and family edible gifts every holiday because it creates less waste, and it saves me time from gift shopping, and the energy to think about what to give everyone. Instead, I just bake a whole bunch of things and give them away. These little gems can sometimes make people happier than purchased gifts!

Happy baking! Have a wonderful and safe holiday!

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