Saturday, July 28, 2012

coconut icebox cookies

I am not particularly fond of coconut, nor do I distain the taste of it. Considering that coconut is such a common ingredient in our diet here (think curry, nasi lemak, laksa, kueh...), I am surprised that it never crossed my mind to bake something with it.

It all started one fine day last month, when I was sitting in the bus on my way to work. For some unknown reasons, I started imagining the taste of coconut tarts from a neighbourhood bakery in my childhood home back in Georgetown, Penang (which is also a UNESCO heritage site by the way). It started mild, then grew stronger and stronger with each day passing. The buttery, rich, sweet + savoury taste together with semi crunchy texture of the coconut tarts invaded my mind in such an explosive manner that I had to do something about it - I baked something with coconut to eat!

Well, you would naturally think that I will make some coconut tarts... No, no, if I do that, I knew I would definitely be disappointed... It would be a futile effort to rival childhood memory. So I took an easier path, I made coconut cookies.

Coconut Icebox Cookies

1/2 c butter (I used 1/4 c butter and 1/4 c oil since I ran out of butter)
1 cup white sugar (I cut to 3/4 c)
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp coconut extract (I didn't use since I do not have it at home)
1 3/4 c sifted flour (I used cake flour but think all purpose may be better)
3/4 tsp salt (I actually used slightly more)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 c shredded coconut (I toasted it slightly to bring out the fragrance)

1. Cream the butter until smooth; add sugar and continue creaming until light and fluffy. Stir in egg, vanilla and coconut flavouring.
2. Mixed the sifted flour, baking soda and salt. Alternately add the flour mixture and the shredded coconut into the creamed mixture.
3. Form the dough into logs about 2 inches in diameter. Tightly wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight (I did overnight)
4. Preheat oven at 190 degree C. Remove dough from the fridge and cut into 1/4 inch slices. Bake on ungreased sheet until edges are golden, about 10 mins. Cool on wire rack.

Recipe adapted from allrecipes.

The cookies are delicious and crispy, they actually taste like 'aerated' butter cookies with coconut goodness. Every mouthful is so additive that I kept reaching for more. I really think the salt is important, or rather important to me bcoz I really like the sweet savoury taste of the coconut cookies. Maybe it is my childhood memory again, or maybe it's a Chinese thing? We seem to have more sweet savoury traditional cookies.

While the whole process took longer than the usual cookies, it works for me. I started doing the dough at night after putting baby to sleep and the next day, after I put him to nap in the late morning, I took out the dough to bake.

Oh, it is crucial that you do not take out both dough logs at one go. If you take both out, by the time you finished slicing the first log, the second dough would be too soft and sticky to work. So, take one out, finished slicing and arranging on the sheet before repeating for the second.

Having done this, I am contemplating to try more recipes with coconut in future.... :)... so let's see if I do.

Monday, July 16, 2012

semolina chocolate cookies

I like the texture and the slightly nutty taste of semolina flour. I have tried baking cakes with it, and posted 2 of them before: citrusy yogurt semolina cake and orange semolina cupcake. This is another attempt at using this flour, thought in a less common way, by using it in cookie recipe.

Semolina flour is not a common baking ingredient in this part of the world. Other than sugee cake, I have yet to know of any other common type of bake goods here that is made of it. So, when I presented the cookies to my family, they showed me the  'question mark' face :p. But, after tasting, they gave thumbs up.

Semolina Chocolate Cookies

1/2 cup butter or oil (I used butter)
1/2 sugar (I used slightly less)
1 cup semolina flour
1 cup flour (I used cake flour)
1 cup chocolate chips (I used big round chips)
1 egg
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

1. Preheat oven at 18- degree C
2. Cream butter/oil and sugar until the mixture turned pale and sugar has dissolved
3. Add egg and vanilla extract and mix thoroughly
4. Add sifted flour, semolina and baking powder and mix well
5. Fold in the chocolate chips
6. Place small discs on baking sheet
7. Bake until cookies are golden brown, about 12-15 mins.

Recipe adapted from easily good eats. From the blog, one can tell this recipe is relatively flexible, if you are not a fan of chocolate chips (well, I really don't know that many people who doesn't like chocolate chips cookies), you can always replace the chips with dry fruits.

If there is one thing I would like to change about the recipe, it is maybe to add a pinch of salt to it, I think it will help to bring out the taste of the chocolate. But all in all, I am pretty happy with the result: crispy, buttery, nutty, chocolatey, tasty.

My mum brought some down for neighbour's kids, they kept asking for more. Though I know most kids couldn't stop at 1 chocolate cookie anyway, I still feel proud of the cookies.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

jelly cheesecake

I used to go to a neighbourhood bakery in Tiong Bahru area for their jelly cheesecake, which comes in 2 flavour: green (with lime flavoured jelly) and red (with strawberry flavoured jelly, if I am not mistaken). I prefer the green over the red simply bcoz I like the complimentary taste of the sourness of the lime jelly against the sweet, creamy and rich backdrop of the cheesecake.

But after shifting house and moving away from that area, I seldom go back. So when this recipe came out in the Straits Times, I simply had to try!
Jelly Cheesecake

9 McVitie's Original Digestive biscuits
70g butter, melted
250g cream cheese (room temperature, I used low fat)
295g condensed milk (I cut down to 2/3)
juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp gelatin
50ml hot water
strawberries for decoration (optional)
One 90g lime-flavoured jelly crystals (I used Tortally brand, as recommended in the newspaper recipe)
1. Crush the biscuits, they should resemble fine bread crumbs. (I put mine in a clean plastic bag and crushed using hand)
2. Put the biscuit crumbs in a bowl, add the butter and mix well.
3. Pour the biscuit mixture into a 8-inch round or square baking tin. Press the mixture and pat down firmly.
4. Chill the mixture in the fridge for at least an hour.
5. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until it is smooth.
6. Add condense milk and lemon juice. Continue to mix.
7. Dissolve the gelatin in the hot water. Strain it if there are insoluble granules. Add to cream cheese mixture and mix well.
8. Pour the cream cheese mixture into the baking tin and spread evenly.
9. Bisect the strawberries, cut out the stalk and trim if necessary.
10. Arrange the strawberries on the cream cheese mixture according to pattern desired. Gently push them into the cream cheese mixture slightly, deep enough to ensure that they will not slide.
11. Leave in the fridge to refrigerate overnight.
12. Follow the instruction on the jelly crystals box to make the jelly solution. Let it cool to room temperature.
13. Pour the jelly mixture until it covers the strawberries (or more if desired)
14. Put the tin back into the fridge to refrigerate until the jelly has set.

Recipe adapted from Jelly Hearts recipe published in the Straits Times (I didn't record the date)

The cheesecake tasted exactly how I remembered it to be: delicious, refreshing, and with interesting contrasting texture.

The bakery's version is plainer, without the strawberries. But I find that the strawberries complemented the jelly and the cheesecake well and they looked so pretty set in the jelly. I should have used more for a more elaborate pattern.
For those that experienced the jelly cheesecake for the first time (like my hubby and mum), after getting through the initial shock of the striking green colour, they actually like the cheesecake, esp my mum.

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