Saturday, February 12, 2011

Another New Year .. a little late

I've crawled out of my report card hole, thank goodness! I'm a little late, but I wanted to wish everyone a Happy Lunar New Year! It's the year of the Rabbit, which only means to me, that the students at my school are all making cute little origami rabbits.. I have like ten of them on my desk right now.

Lunar New Year means lots of little traditions in my family -- cleaning the house (did that .. kind of), getting a haircut (yeah .. not this year), lots of family time spent eating (yup.. dinner.. and then dim sum!) and of course, New Year treats. I love baking for family occasions. The holiday season, I did tons of baking for my family: gift-cookies, orange crumb cake on Christmas eve, cranberry walnut bread for Christmas morning, rosemary chocolate chip olive oil cake for New Year's day .. yup! I totally baked up a storm. But for Lunar New year, it's a bit tricky. I never delved into the world of Chinese desserts, mainly because they either included difficult-to-make fillings (like lotus paste, black bean paste, and melon/coconut filling) or they were deep fried (yuck).

One of my favourite new year flavours is included in a deep fried, oily dumpling-type snack. Basically, it's a deep-fried pastry pocket filled with sesame seeds, sugar, peanuts and coconut. I gave those up several years ago, but this year, I thought I'd try to re-make it in my kitchen. I'm so glad I did! Instead of rolling up all those goodies into a deep-fried package, I baked it into a healthy-ish cookie (oats, whole wheat flour, canola oil ..). I made one batch with peanut butter and another with tahini -- both were delicious. The secret is toasting the coconut, peanuts and sesame seeds in the oven before mixing them in the cookie. It's crumbly and crunchy with just a little bit of chewiness when you get to the middle -- perfect with a cup of jasmine tea.

Now that I've officially tried baking Chinese-inspired desserts, my next plan is to play around with azuki beans. It's often made into a sweet paste, or cooked into a sweet dessert porridge (yeah I know it sounds kinda .. well... ya know..), but who knows? Azuki muffins? Bars? Squares? We'll see ...

New Year Cookies
makes about 3oish mini cookies

1/2 cup of peanuts, chopped
1/2 cup of unsweetened, shredded coconut
2 tablespoon of white sesame seeds
2 tablespoons of black sesame seeds
1/4 cup of peanut butter or tahini
1/4 cup of canola oil
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of white sugar
1 egg
1 cup of rolled oats
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the peanuts, coconut and sesame seeds out on a baking tray and place in the oven. Toss after about 5 minutes and let it toast for another 5. They should be nice and golden. Set aside.

2. Mix the peanut butter, oil and sugars together until smooth. Add the egg and mix until combined. Add the flour, oats and baking powder and mix.

3. Add the coconut mixture to the cookie dough. With your hands, knead the dough so that all the coconut, peanuts and sesame seeds get incorporated. Form the dough into little balls and place on a cookie sheet. Flatten (or not!) with wet fingers and bake into the oven for about 15 minutes, or until they get golden brown.

4. Serve with Chinese tea. Gong Hai Fat Choy!

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