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German Cookies with Black Sesame Seeds 德國酥餅(黑芝麻口味)

Today is Chinese New Year’s Eve, it is the day every Chinese household cook up a storm, starting early in the morning~ in my family back in Malaysia, we will be busy cooking foods to offer to our ancestors in the other world, and  this usually happen around lunch time. By the evening, we will be busy making the most important meal of the year– reunion dinner. Family members will always rush home from around the places to join the table. If you are not familiar with Chinese culture, let me tell you: Reunion dinner is a FEAST not to miss!Fish, shellfish, soup, pork, chicken, duck, veggie are usually on the menu. Oh how I wish we could join the dinner with my family on the other side of the planet… I have my feast too spreading out on my dining table here at home, but the feeling is not the same.

Anyhow, back to the cookies. This is another new cookie recipe I tried this year for my Chinese New Year bake, and I don’t really know why it is called German Cookies. Maybe it is similar to one of the Christmas cookies German make for the holiday?… Anyway, one interesting ingredient to this cookies is potato starch, which I believe is the key to these very light, airy and melt-in-your-mouth cookies. Not only is the recipe super easy and fun to make with little kids, the cookie dough freezes well too.

Some people make their version with a marble look(chocolate and original flavor), doggy look (by using some cereal to make doggy face). Others use poppy seeds. This time, I used black sesame seeds so the cookies don’t look so plain and pale, plus I like the nutty flavor of toasted black seeds. Green tea or earl grey will be good choice for a different look and flavor as well.

German Cookies with Black Sesame Seeds 德國酥餅(黑芝麻口味)– makes about 50-60 pieces

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups potato starch– “Windmill” brand preferred
2 tbsp dry milk powder
2 sticks (4oz each) unsalted butter– soften
3/4 cup powder sugar
2 tbsp black sesame seeds– toasted

Method:

  1. Combine flour, potato starch and milk powder together in a bowl.
  2. Put butter in a separate bowl. The butter must be very soft but not melted; microwave for a few seconds if needed. Add powder sugar and mix well. Add in sesame seeds to mix well again.
  3. Sift flour mixture into butter, mix to form a soft dough that is not sticky to the hands. If the dough is too soft, refregerate for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Take a small piece of dough and roll into a ball of 1-inch size. Repeat until all the dough is used.
  5. Place each ball one a large baking pan, about 1 inch apart. Press each ball down slowly with a fork to make a pattern. Bake at preheated 325F oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the edge is slightly brown. Cool completely then store in air tight container.

Regina’s Note:

  • Freezing cookie dough: roll up dough to a log shape and wrap in parchment paper followed by plastic wrap. Place in air tight bag.
  • To toast sesame seeds: toast in dry clean pan on the stove on medium low heat, stirring at all time until the seeds puff up a little and sesame flavor starts to come out. Cool before use.
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German Cookies with Black Sesame Seeds 德國酥餅(黑芝麻口味)– before baking

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Potato starch– Windmill Brand

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Hazelnut Chocolate Mini Cuppies

With Chinese New Year getting closer and closer, I have been baking like crazy~ pretty much bake one type of cookies a day on top of my normal busy routine around the house. These hazelnut chocolate mini cuppies are new cookies that I tried making this year. I love hazelnut, and chocolate makes it even better! This is a very simple recipe that produce yummy cookies. From my previous trip back to Malaysia, I brought with me these mini baking cup liners which is perfect for these cookies. For those who are not familiar with Chinese New Year cookies (a New Year tradition among Malaysian and Singapore Chinese), they are usually made in bite size and have a delicate look. If you are making these cookies, go elegant with the look~ make the cookies small and pretty just like from a chocolate shop. It worth the efforts.

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Hazelnut Chocolate Mini Cuppies

Hazelnut Chocolate Mini Cuppies (makes 120- 140 mini cuppies)

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
1 toasted hazelnut– ground
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks (4oz each) unsalted butter– room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Chocolate sauce (whisk to melt in a double boiler, over medium low heat, cool slightly):
1 lb bittersweet chocolate chips (about 1.5 bag (10oz each)
1 stick unsalted butter– cut into pieces

Topping:
1/3 cup toasted hazelnut– skin-off preferred, finely chopped

Method:

  1. Combine flour, ground hazelnut, powdered sugar and salt in a bowl.
  2. Place butter in a separate large bowl, gradually pour in flour mixture while using fingers to rub in butter, until it forms a dough and doesn’t stick to hands. If the dough is too soft to handle, refrigerate for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Divide dough into small pieces (about 8g each) and roll each piece into a balls, about size of a marble ball. Place each ball in the baking cup and press down with your thumb or finger to form a disc.
  4. Bake at preheated 325F oven for 15-18 minutes or until the top is slightly brown.
  5. When the cookies are cooled completely, carefully cover the top with about 1/2 tsp of chocolate sauce. Sprinkle some chopped toasted hazelnut on the top. When the chocolate is set, store in air tight container.

Regina’s Note:

  • Chocolate sauce: if the chocolate cools down and thicken, just warm it up again over a low heat simmering pot.
  • Freezing cookie dough: to freeze cookie dough, wrap tightly in a parchment paper (shape like a sushi roll), then wrap in plastic wrap and inside an air tight bag.
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Hazelnut Chocolate Mini Cuppies

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Besides stained glass cookies, this is another new cookie I baked this year for Christmas. I got the recipe from Just A Pinch Recipes. It’s quite simple, although I needed to add about 1/2 to 1 cup more flour because the dough was just too wet and sticky. I think the reason might be that I cheated on softening the butter– I use the quick microwave way to soften, and I warmed it up a bit too long. Anyway, lesson learned…

Some thumbprint cookie recipes suggest filling the jam on top of unbaked cookie dough, while others say add the jam after the cookies are baked. Well, I did the hybrid part– baked cookies, added jam, and baked for a few more minutes. I did this because I was hoping the extra baking time will dry out the jam a bit more, so the jam filling won’t be as thin runny and more on the thick sticky side. The results: No much difference. The main thing is the jam itself– I used pineapple preserve and raspberry jam. After final baking, while pineapple jam was still thick and nice in the thumbprint area, the raspberry jam was starting to overflow the edge of the cookies (it gave a smooth touch on the jam surface though). If you want a crunchier cookie texture, I suggest you bake the cookies and store in airtight container. Only add in the jam on the day of serving (you can add jam and bake a few more minutes if desired). Once the jam is filled, it will soften the cookies over time.

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Thumbprint Cookies– Baked, waiting to be filled with jam.

Thumbprint Cookies Recipe (adapted from Just A Pinch. Makes about 30 cookies)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 oz) unsalted butter– softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, separated
1 1/2 cup flour– add more later if needed
4 tbsp dry whole milk powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a large baking pan with parchment. Combine flour, milk powder and salt.
  2. Cream butter with a hand mixer. Add sugar and cream until it’s fluffy. Mix in vanilla completely, then mix in egg yolk blend well.
  3. Use a spatula to mix in flour mixture, in a stir-and press motion, until the it forms a dough. Roll the dough into thin long log of 1 inch diameter. Cut into pieces and roll each piece into a 1 inch diameter ball.
  4. Whisk egg white in a bowl until it gets frothy. Place chopped hazelnut in a separate bowl.
  5. Dip each dough ball into egg white, then roll it in chopped hazelnut to cover completely. Place the dough on baking pan, about 2 inches apart. Use your thumb to press down the ball to make a deep indentation.
  6. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Remove from the oven but maintain oven temperature. If the cookies lost its indentation then press down further with a spoon to make indentation deeper (do it while the cookies are still hot).
  7. Place about 1/2 tsp of jam onto the indentation. Bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. When cookies are cooled completely, store in air tight container, adding parchment paper between each layer to prevent jam sticking together.

Regina’s Note:

  • Besides chopped nuts, you can also roll cookies in shred coconuts, sugar or simply none at all.
  • Don’t be limited by sweet jams. Jalapeno jam, cream cheese (flavored or plain) can also be used to create different flavors. Be adventurous!
  • For crunchier thumbprint cookies, just bake the cookies itself without jam and store in air tight container. Only fill in the jam on the day of serving.
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Thumbprint Cookies– I added some chili powder to some pineapple jam filled thumbprint cookies… looking for a sweet and spicy taste.

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Thumbprint Cookies– I used pineapple jam and raspberry jam for the filling.

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Stained Glass Cookies~ Oops! missing a “S” in there…

MERRY CHRISTMAS! MAY YOUR HOLIDAY SEASON FILLED WITH LOVE, JOY AND PEACE!

This is one of the new holiday cookies I tried this year for Christmas holiday. The other ones are thumbprint cookies and meringue coconut crunch. Back to these attractive colorful stained glass cookies… Aren’t they beautiful? They are of different flavors too depending on the candy flavor. And these stained glasses didn’t last long– kids just love them! To be honest, I’m not a fan of cut-out sugar cookies with icing and sprinkles on top, too plain sweet for me. So I never make it for the holiday (hey, baker chooses what to bake you know ;-)). But for these stained glass I can do it, if not for its taste at least for its look! So this cookie is officially on our Christmas cookies list.

This is a very simple recipe. The dough can be prepared ahead of time. The most challenging part I guess would be crushing the hard candies– never underestimate the power of hard candies! Many people made a mess of candies flying everywhere… For me, I just let the man of the house do it, on the floor (unless you want to risk breaking your table/kitchen counter). Kids  will have fun helping you out cutting the dough and sprinkling the crushed candies. Be creative with the colors and patterns, but take care not to mix too many colors or it will be messing looking glass. Have fun!

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Stained Glass Cookies

Stained Glass Cookies (makes 20-40 pieces, varying sizes)

Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
15-20 hard candies (Life Savers or Jolly Ranchers)– separate flavors into different groups, then crush separately with a hammer.

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
  2. Cream butter with a hand mixer until light, add sugar and cream until fluffy.
  3. Add egg, mix to blend well. Add vanilla extract, mix well again.
  4. Combine flour and salt. Use a spatula or wooden spoon, mix flour mixture into butter mixture in 2-3 batches. Use mix and pad down motion, until all dry flours are incorporated and form a dough. Divide dough in half. Flatten each half to a disc, wrap tightly and refrigerate overnight.
  5. Bring dough to room temperature, roll out to 1/4 thickness (I rolled mine even slightly thinner than 1/4″). Dip cookie cutters in flour then cut out dough– you will need cookie cutters of larger and smaller sizes. Make sure the smaller cookie cutters fit into larger cookie cutter. The idea is to cut out cookie dough for the outer side of the cookie, leaving out the center of the cookie for the stained glass. To do so, use larger cookie cutters to cut out the dough first, transfer cut dough onto baking pan, then use the smaller cookie cutters to cut out the middle part, leaving the center of the cookies hollow. If you have small alphabet cookie cutters, you can use them too to create name initial stained glass cookies. Arrange cookies about 1 inch apart on baking pan, bake for 6 minutes, or until the bottom is slightly brown. Remove from the oven but maintain oven temperature.
  6. Carefully spoon  (1/2 to 1 tsp) some crushed candies into the middle hole of cookies. If the candies touches the cookies, quickly use your finger to sweep it to the middle hole. You can use 1 color/flavor, or use 2-3 colors/flavors for one cookie, depending how big the middle hole is. Do not mix colors/flavors all together as it will create messy looking stained glass. Return to the oven for 2-3 minutes to melt the candies. Remove from the oven. If you are using letters for the cookies, quickly place an alphabet cookie in the center of melted candy. Cool cookies on the pan for 5 minutes for the candies to set. Peel off cookies from parchment paper and continue cooling on a rack. Store in air tight container when cookies are cooled completely.

Regina’s Note:

  • Crushing hard candies: To prevent candy explosion, keep candy wrappers on, wrap with paper towels and place inside a ziplog bag. Take out the candy wrappers after it is crushed. Crushing candy is very loud with all that hammer actions, so I suggest crushing it on a wooden surface on the floor. Do not do it on your kitchen counter unless you are ready to replace with new counter top. And remember, crush each flavor group separately.
  • Not enough candy to cover the middle hole: After the last 2-3 minutes in the oven and if you find not enough candy to melt and cover the entire middle hole, just add in a bit more crushed candies to cover up, bake for another 1-2 minutes. Keep an eyes on the melting process.
  • Do not over melt the candy: Keep a close eye on the melting process. Once the candy melts it gets bubbly fast– which will create a smeared edge between candy and the cookie itself, not to mention chance of melting candy overflowing to the cookie part.  The other thing is that when candy get bubbly hot it creates air bubbles. These small air bubbles, when cooled, trap inside the candy and will affect the smooth clear clean stained glass look. To get rid of air bubbles, use a toothpick to swirl around the melted candy while it is still hot out from the oven. The melted candy sets quick so you have to swirl around fast. The best stage is when the candy just melts, no bubbles at all.
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Stained Glass Cookies

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This is a new recipe I tried for my 2012 Christmas bake. I was hoping for a dark rich chocolate flavor with tangy tart cherry bites, but my shortbread turned out not chocolate-y enough both for the look and flavor, and the cherries were dried… maybe I baked it too long or the temperature was too high?… Anyhow, my recipe this time is a little messy with note-to-self’s everywhere. I need to fine tune the recipe, so there will be Cherry Chocolate Shortbread Bars version #2… :-)

Cherry Chocolate Shortbread Bars

Cherry Chocolate Shortbread Bars

Cherry Chocolate Shortbread Bars

Ingredients:

2 sticks (4oz each) unsalted butter– soften
1 cup icing sugar
2 cups flour– maybe down to 1 1/2 cup?
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder– maybe up to 1/2 cup?
2 tbsp dry whole milk powder
1 tbsp tapioca starch– maybe skip?
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup dried cherries– coarsely chopped

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a small jelly roll pan with parchment paper.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until smooth. Combine flour, cocoa powder, tapioca starch and salt in a bowl.
  3. Turn mixer speed to low, gradually add in flour. Mix to combine ( maybe better if mix with fingers like making pastry for Malaysia pineapple cookies?). Add in dried cherries. Stir to mix well. Form a dough.
  4. Roll the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap to the size of jello roll pan. Transfer dough to the pan, adjust to fit the pan evenly. Use a fork to prick the top. Bake for 30 minutes.
  5. Cool in the pan on a rack completely. Drizzle top with melted chocolate (extra) if desired. Remove from the pan, cut into cookie bar sizes. Store in air tight container.

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To be honest I am not a big fan of peanuts. I would rather make green pea cookies instead. But I don’t have any ground green pea on hand. Almond would be my second choice, but I already made almond crisps…

This was my first time making peanut cookies; and I know I didn’t do a good job making it– the peanuts were still too coarse (I should have used a coffee grinder instead of food processor), and I forgot to toast ground peanut. So the cookies came out just okay for me… I have been trying to lure my kids to eat more peanut cookies because I know this will be the last Chinese New Year snacks sitting on the kitchen counter.

Peanut Cookies 花生餅

Peanut Cookies 花生餅

Peanut Cookies 花生餅 (makes 100+ bite size pieces)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup skin-off raw peanuts
1 1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil

1 beaten egg for egg wash– see note below

Method:

  1. Grind peanut until fine. Then toast in dry clean pan on medium low heat until it browns and the peanut aroma comes out. Be sure to stir constantly to prevent burning. Cool completely.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix to form a dough. Put dough on a flat surface and place a piece of plastic wrap on the top, roll the dough to 8mm thickness. Use a mini cookie cutter to cut out cookie dough.
  3. Lay cut cookies on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Brush egg wash on the top, and bake at preheated 340°F oven for 18-20 minutes. Cool cookies on the pan completely then store in air tight container.

Regina’s Note:

  • Egg wash: I didn’t want to have residual beaten egg from the egg wash, so I brushed the top with heavy whipping cream (just happen to have it in the fridge) instead. And the result wasn’t too bad– the top of the cookies has the sheen look.

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I meant to make this cookies for Chinese New Year, but didn’t get to it until now. This was my first time making it, and they turned out pretty good. The mixing part was pretty easy, although spreading the batter to a thin layer took a little time. The cookies aren’t too sweet, and the toasted coconut flakes on the top added some coconut flavor to the cookies. Next time I make it, I want to coat the bottom with some dark chocolate sauce… yum!

Almond Crisps-- The thinner the crisper. Mine are about 2-3 cm thick.

Almond Crisps-- The thinner the crisper. Mine are about 2-3 cm thick.

Almond Crisps (makes about 120 pieces)

Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter– softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 egg whites
2 cups flour
1/2 salt
6 oz (about 2 cups) sliced almonds

crumbled toasted coconut flakes for sprinkle

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 335°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add vanilla extract and egg whites, mix to blend well. Sift in flour and salt, mix well. Stir in sliced almonds.
  3. Scoop some batter (about 1/2 tbsp for each cookies, leave some space between each) onto lined baking sheet. Use the back of the spoon to spread the batter to a thin layer (about 2-3 cm thick). Sprinkle some toasted coconut flakes on the top.
  4. Bake at preheated oven for 10-13 minutes (depending on the thickness of the cookies). Remove from the oven and cool completely on rack. Store cookies in air tight container.

Regina’s Note:

  • If the bottom of almond crisps is still a little soft, return to the oven and bake a little further.
Almond Crisps-- bottom side is golden brown.

Almond Crisps-- bottom side is golden brown.

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