Kuala Lumpur Cookies

(Kuala Lumpur Cookies)

After spending a considerable amount of time on holiday, I’m now back cooking in a commerical kitchen and admittedly, I’ve really missed it. Several years, a few kitchens and a couple of unpleasant experiences ago, I really thought I was done with the whole business. What I’m rediscovering however, is that if you love cooking but occasionally feel discouraged, it’s probably because you just haven’t found the right place yet.

Of course, the only way to find the right place is to keep working, keep pushing yourself. Cooking school may be great, but it doesn’t teach you work flow, a sense of urgency or how to move in the tight space of a bustling, sweaty kitchen. You meet all kinds of characters when you work in the industry. The adage that they are a special breed rings true in every place I’ve ever worked in. Singing baristas, grumpy bakers, OCD pastry chefs and angry-shouty head chefs; you’ll meet them all. You’ll even learn a thing or two from them; always about how to work and sometimes about yourself.

Currently my new job is teaching me how to manage multiple ovens and handle dough (one day, I may be able to give Miss Smilla and her snow a run for her money). At the same time I’m also rediscovering little things like how short and small I am compared to high storage shelves, heavy flour bags and unwieldy baking trays, and how completely clumsy I can be (paper cuts from baking paper, anyone?). In the past I’ve smashed my thumb instead of a stubborn walnut with a heavy pestle, walked straight into a hot oven door (red faced from embarrassment and the impact of said door), and inexplicably burned my chin several times on silly things like the edge of a hot tray and the tip of a blow torch (the less said about that, the better).

Last week, someone at work commented twice, that my English was ‘really good’. I pointed out that since I am older than her, I have actually been speaking English for much longer than she has. Although I’ve been living in Australia for what feels like most of my life, I was originally born in a small town near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and am occasionally reminded of that place.

These cookies are based on the much loved Monte Carlos which are typically sandwiched with vanilla cream and raspberry jam. I filled mine with home made kaya jam (flavoured with fresh pandan leaves), and as an ode to the place where I came from, am calling them Kuala Lumpurs.

Kuala Lumpur Cookies :
(makes 18-20 filled cookies)

185g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g light brown sugar
pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 small egg
40g dessicated coconut
290g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

kaya jam, for sandwiching the cookies

Preheat the oven to 175’C.

Sift the plain flour and baking powder together and set aside. In an electric mixer, cream the butter, brown sugar and salt until pale. Add the vanilla extract and egg, mixing well. Add the sifted flour mixture along with the dessicated coconut and briefly mix on low until just combined. Roll tablespoonfuls of mixture into balls and place on lined baking trays. Gently flatten each cookie with a fork. Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool on a wire rack before filling and sandwiching the cookies together.

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Lemon Meringue Cookies

(Lemon Meringue Cookies)

I’ve only recently discovered a world of Turkish sweets that extends far beyond lokum and the ever popular syrupy baklava. Take these lemon meringue cookies for example. Just when you think you’ve seen and eaten every imaginable cookie, someone decides to spread meringue on cookie dough, roll it up, bake it, and unsurprisingly, it tastes pretty darn fantastic.

The cookies expand slightly in the oven and come out resembling a rose while smelling like a combination of nutty butter and lemon peel. Biting into one reveals a range of magical textures from tender crumbly cookie to meringue that is soft in the middle and slightly crisp around the edges. I haven’t yet managed to stop at just one.

This recipe lends itself to many variations. Chocolate with crunchy hazelnut meringue or an applied thin layer of cumquat marmalade come immediately to mind. Do let me know if you happen to experiment with any other flavours!

Lemon Meringue Cookies :
(makes 12, adapted from a recipe from Turkish Bakery Delight by Deniz Göktürk Akçakanat)

For the pastry :
1 small egg
25g caster sugar
150g unsalted butter
180g plain flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of sea salt

For the meringue :
2 egg whites
pinch of sea salt
125g caster sugar
zest from 1 large lemon

In a food processor (or Thermomix), combine the egg, sugar, butter and salt. Process until creamy. Add the flour and baking powder, processing until a dough just forms. Press the dough out into a flat disc, wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

When ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 160’C. Make the meringue by whisking the egg whites and salt in a mixer until foamy. Gradually add the sugar, whisking until the meringue is stiff and glossy. Stir in the lemon zest.

Roll the dough out to a rectangle roughly measuring 12″ x 9″, with the longest side of the rectangle facing you. Spread the meringue on the dough, leaving a 1″ border all around. Gently roll the dough up. This may be a bit messy as the meringue will try to escape a little but it’s worth persevering, I promise.

Cut the log into 12. Arrange the cookies cut side up on a lined baking tray. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cookies are golden.

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Earl Grey tea cookies and a sojourn to the land of tea

(Earl Grey tea cookies with lemon buttercream)

“Like the pastries themselves, each day is different from the last. As I look around at all of the handsome shapes of crescents, twists, and coils and the delightful assortment of cookies, scones, tarts, savories, and confections, I am excited and amazed. But it’s that final glance, that close-up view, that reveals their truth. Simple, humble, and beautiful, this is the stuff I love.” — Nancy Silverton.

I’m not sure if this is true or not, but someone once told me there are many Inuit words to describe snow. Likewise, us bakers have many words to describe baking.

It is a tool for procrastination, a gesture of love, a moment of greed or joy, and for some lucky people, a means to make a living. It’s an act whose meaning changes with every day that I bake. Yesterday we had chocolate sables because I didn’t really want to do my long overdue taxes. Today, I made these Earl Grey tea cookies because I enjoy the quietly therapeutic process of mixing and rolling soft, buttery dough. (Update : taxes still not done) Also, there was the matter of some frosting to use up before we went away.

Next week I’m heading to Shanghai for a few days and it’s my first ever trip to China so if anyone has any great tips or suggestions, please let me know!

A few people requested this recipe when I posted a picture of it a few months ago. Apologies for the delay, but here it finally is. The version here is tea inspired, but you can make it whatever flavour you wish : vanilla, chocolate, marbled.. it’s pretty versatile and very delicious. The cookies are an adaptation of a classic shortbread treat called Melting Moments and this particular recipe (original author unknown) comes from an old work notebook of mine. Sandwiched between ‘Madelines, citrus’ and ‘Messine sauce, for marron’, it reads as follows..

Earl Grey Cookies :
(makes 30 sandwiched cookies or thereabouts)

180g butter, at room temperature
60g icing sugar
180g flour
5g earl grey tea powder
60g cornflour
pinch of salt

In a food processor (or Thermomix), cream the butter and icing sugar. Add the flour, tea, cornflour and salt. Pulse/process until the dough comes together, stopping occasionally to scrape the mixture down. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for 15 minutes.

To bake, preheat the oven to 175’C. Line two or three baking sheets with greaseproof paper. Roll heaped teaspoonfuls of dough into balls and arrange them on the baking sheets, leaving about 1.5 inches of space between each ball to allow for spreading. Indent the tops with a fork. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Allow to cool completely before sandwiching them with frosting (I used lemon buttercream here).

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