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*Also available under Chinese New Year Cookies to Order- $20 per box of 30 pcs
Chinese New Year is 2 weeks away, and having missed out on all the festivities back home for the past 6 years, I decided 2010 was the time to more actively recreate some of the buzz all the way here in London, at least on the baking front.
I urge you SERIOUSLY, even if you're not Chinese and don't celebrate CNY, to try this recipe. If your life's experience of peanut cookies has been limited to chunky Western versions made with peanut butter and a criss-cross fork pattern, these little devils will be a revelation- crisp to the bite, then crumbly as you first chew, then melt-in-the-mouth, then unbelievably fragrant as the salty nutty flavour hits your tongue. Well-made fah sang peng are an exercise in taste and textural heaven akin to a cross between buttery shortbread and melting moments, except better, because of the added oomph and aroma of peanuts. :)
The recipe below is simple and easy too, the only slightly time consuming bit being the shaping of the cookie with a bottle cap. Most people choose to add more oil so they can roll the dough into smooth solid balls- I prefer to keep the pastry short and crumbly, and I like the rustic and uneven end result with the little cracks around the edges. Just beware- once baked, you'll have one (just to try), two (just to be sure), and before you know it you'd have had thirty.
Don't say I didn't warn you :)
Traditional Chinese New Year Peanut Cookies (Fah Sang Peng)
Makes about 60 cookies, depending on the size of your bottle cap
Blitz 200g roasted salted peanuts in a blender/spice mill until a finely ground powder/paste is formed.
*Note: I used a ready-to-eat Asda Smartprice pack (which was insanely cheap, only 27p!) that was already roasted, salted and had added vegetable oil, hence a more pasty rather than powdery result. If you prefer you can use raw nuts and dry fry/roast from scratch, but remember you'll be adding salt and oil later anyway.
In a large bowl, sift together:
200g (approx. 1 1/2 cups) plain flour
100g (approx. 3/4 cup) icing sugar (essential for the fine texture- do not substitute with normal sugar)
1/2 tsp baking powder
Dash of salt (more if you used unsalted nuts)
Chuck everything into a food processor (or a mixing bowl if kneading manually), add a good glug of vegetable oil- I used rapeseed, but any mild variety like corn, sunflower or groundnut will do- and blend at high speed (or work with your fingers) until a crumbly, dry, short dough that looks like this is formed:
If the mix is still floury, add more oil gradually and keep blending/kneading until the "grainy sand" look (like shortcrust pastry before liquid is added) is achieved, and forms a solid tightly packed mass if compressed. Be sure not to pour in too much oil at one go- you don't want a greasy mess.
To shape each cookie, place a piece of cling film over a clean bottle cap
(I used the plastic top of an HP sauce bottle, about 3cm wide and 1.5 cm deep)
and press in dough tightly. Yank out the cling film to release the cookie and place on a lined baking sheet. Repeat until all dough is used up.
Using the back of a spoon, brush each cookie with a bit of egg wash (1 egg yolk diluted with 1 tsp of water).
Bake at 160 C fan-assisted (or 180 C for non-convection ovens) for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
Let cool, then devour!:)