Sunday, February 14, 2010

Kuih Bangkit

A restlessness has been upon me as Chinese New Year approaches. The urge to bake and cook is strong. I resisted it no more. Yesterday, I made some Kuih Bangkit- a traditional Nonya Arrowroot Flour cookie. Last year, I could not find the elusive arrowroot flour and had to fall back on recipes that used Tapioca and cornflour instead. The cookies were hard. A few months back I chanced upon Arrowroot Flour by Bob's Red Mill while shopping at Henry's. I grabbed two bags full and stashed them away.....for Chinese New Year.

I truly miss my Ah Mah, my paternal grandmother. She made the most amazing Kuih Bangkit. Beautiful, white and melt in your mouth.CNY baking is a family affair. I remember coming home from school and rushing to the kitchen table. Most of the time I was relegated to dotting the eyes duty. A small saucer of red food dye with sticks of toothpicks were my tools. I patiently wait as my grandmother, my aunt and my mom, press balls of dough into the designs of the floured wooden moulds. A swipe of the butter knife, removes excess dough. A deft swift flick of the wrist, knocks the mould against the table top and out pops the cookies. The cookies are placed on the cookie tray where I give life (eyes) to rabbits, frog, fishes, birds or flowers. Regretfully, as I grew up, I never went beyond making the cookies to actually making the dough with Ah Mah. By the time I was in my teenage years and young adult, Ah Mah was living with third uncle and his family. I made fancy modern and western cookies. I received my tin of Kuih Bangkit from Ah Mah but stop making them with her. The trend of buying CNY cookies was beginning to take its evil root...... (a practice I abhor I let you know). Then I moved to the US. By the time I was ready to once again learn the secrets of making CNY cookies, Ah Mah was rendered bedridden by a stroke......My beautiful, gutsy, strong and funny Ah Mah is gone now but always remembered. I see her vividly as I use her Kuih Bangkit moulds. Wished I have her whisk.... ha,ha I can see her beating the egg yolks with sugar to a thick golden froth with the round coiled whisk in an up down motion.

Determined to succeed this year, I had my husband crack a fresh coconut for me which I patiently grated with my coconut grater bought at an Indian grocery store ( yes, another toy). Ordinarily, I would have just popped open a can of coconut cream. I put the precious grated coconut in a muslin cloth and squeeze the daylight out of it. Managed to only get 100ml of first santan ( coconut milk). Alas, I made to make up the difference with a carton of coconut cream. So continues my adventure....

Kuih Bangkit ( Arrowroot Flour Cookies)
150g cornflour
600g arrowroot flour ( Bob's Red Mill)

3 organic egg yolks
150g castor sugar
250ml thick coconut milk extracted from 1 grated coconut( 1st press santan)

The night before making cookies, fry the cornflour and arrowroot flour in a dry pan over low heat. Stirring flour mixture, constantly until the flour is light and airy, leaving the sides of the pan. Be patient and you will notice the change. Do not increase the heat as we want the flour to remain white. It should take about 30 minutes. Leave to cool overnight.

If possible, grate a fresh coconut and extract the first press santan. Do not add any water.

Baking Day

Preheat oven to 350F. ( I set my convectional oven to 325F but it was still too hot. I reduce it to 290F)

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar until very thick and golden. Stir in about 250ml of the coconut milk and whisk until the sugar is dissolved.

Reserve 1/2 cup of flour mixture. Stir in egg yolk mixture slowly into the rest of the flour until a dough just forms. Too wet a dough will yield a hard cookie. Lightly knead. Cover dough with a damp cloth. Rest it for an hour.

The dough on the right is too wet. The dough on the left is almost correct-just need a little more coconut milk. It takes practice to get the right consistency. A lot depends on the flour, how well it was fried and the weather the day you are making the Kuih Bangkit.

Lightly dust the Kuih Bangkit mould design indentation with reserved flour. Press small balls of dough into the indentation in the mould. Use a butterknife or paring knife, flat against the top of the mould and horizontally remove excess dough. Flick your wrist and knock the mould against the work top. Collect and place design cookies on ungreased cookie sheet. Dot the eyes of the animals design with a toothpick dipped in red food dye. Bake for 10-20 minutes depending on the size of cookie design. Most of mine were done at 15 minutes.

Test the melt-in-mouth texture of the baked cookies. If cookies are hard, add more flour to dough. If it just breaks apart, add more coconut milk. The cookies should be crisp on the outside but melt in the mouth to a powdery softness.

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