Almond cookies!

I love baking traybake bakes because of the ease that they present.  You mix the batter and you spread them on a greased and prepared pans, pop them in the oven, wait for the appropriate time, et voila!  You have cake!

photo © @the_yukistar

However, that being said, I do love the care and attention that’s required when making cookies, or as the Brits call them, biscuits.  I love the drop cookies and the cookies that require a bit more care and precision and a cookie cutter.  It’s the care and attention that is involved in making each biscuit that counts.  Each piece is individual.

One of my favourite cookies to bake (and eat) are almond cookies.  These cookies are Chinese bakery staples and most of my Chinese friends have a happy childhood memory involving an almond cookie.  So when Alan found a recipe and we perfected the recipe and cookie production, it became a staple for us.

photo © @the_yukistar

Sure, it’s a little more complicated than mixing the batter and dolloping them on a cookie sheet, but it’s the process that makes it special.  Because every time you scoop the mixture, press the almond into the centre and brush egg wash on each cookie, you are putting a little piece of you in the cookie.  Too sentimental?  Okay, here’s the recipe instead!


  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 200g plain flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 24 blanched almonds
  • 1 egg (beaten for brushing)


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.  Cream together the butter, sugar and salt.  Then add the almond extract and egg, and mix well.  Slowly add the flour, the baking powder and ground almonds and make sure it is all combined.
  2. Line a couple of baking trays with baking paper and then divide the mixture into 24 equal sized balls.   I use a small ice cream scooper to the balls uniform.  Lay the balls out on the baking trays and use a round measuring spoon to press an indentation in the middle of the ball.  This will also flatten the ball into a cookie shape.  If you do not have a round measuring spoon, flatten the ball with your hand and indent with your thumb.  Place a blanched almond into the indentation of each cookie and then brush with egg.
  3. Place into the oven for 12-14 minutes or until the cookies are lightly golden.  Allow cookies to cool down for 10 minutes.  Reduce the oven to 150°C.
  4. Brush the cookies with more beaten egg.  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until they turn golden.  Allow to cool completely and store in an airtight container.
  5. This recipe makes approximately 24 cookies.  If you’re not making halal versions, you can also add about 1 generous tablespoon of Amaretto liqueur to make it even more almondy.  

Thank you to Yuki (she’s @the_yukistar on Instagram.  Have a look at her photos, they are blow-you-away amazing!) for the lovely photos of the almond cookies!  She made them look extra pretty!💖


Chinese hotdog buns

This is a recipe in development and I’m quite excited about it.  Alan and I may have found the best milk bread recipe.  It’s easy to make and relatively easy to handle.

We’ve been able to bake hotdog buns with it.  Now, when I say hotdog buns, I mean Chinese hotdog buns which are also known as caterpillar buns.  They’re hotdog slices encased in bread topped with cheese, mayo, ketchup and spring onions.  This is a Chinese bakery staple and all the different bakeries in Chinatown have their own version of it.  This is our version of our favourite.

unbaked hotdog bun

Chinese caterpillar bun

I need to find a good recipe for char siu filling so that I can make char siu buns!



I’ve always been proud of Filipino food.  I’ve always believed that if people tried the food that we Filipinos ate on a daily basis (ably prepared by our mothers and titas), people would be addicted too!  Filipino cuisine is influenced by the food cultures from China, Malaysia, Indonesia, China and Spain.  We also have a very pronounced American influence.  These influences are due to the fact that the Malays an Indones were the early settlers on the Philippine islands and it has been historically proven that we traded with the Chinese very early on.  The Spanish (and largely Mexican food tradition) influences came because the Philippines was a Spanish colony for over 300 years (the Philippine islands were named after King Philip II of Spain).  Then after the Spanish, we had the Americans with us…for a while.

I am so thankful that there are enterprising individuals (who may or may not be Filipino) who have identified an opportunity to sell to Filipinos living overseas the food staples.  I’ve been able to cook Filipino food here in England and it helps the homesickness.

But nothing compares to the satisfaction when one is able to make something that isn’t always available in the Oriental or Filipino supermarkets.  A few days ago, whilst I was recuperating from a really bad migraine (I was signed off for a week), I told myself that I would make hopia. I had been watching various YouTube video how-to’s and I felt that I was ready to attempt the Filipino treat.  I even risked eating store-bought hopia in the name of research!  Mind you, it was a tad disappointing because the hopia I bought seemed to have shrunk!  For what I paid for, well, it was an exhorbitant amount of money for 4 minuscule hopia pieces – not at all what I remembered eating when I was growing up!

Hopia is also known as bakpia (in Chinese).  It is a bean paste-filled pastry that was apparently introduced by Fujianese immigrants in the Philippines.  It is usually filled with mung bean paste (either red mung bean or yellow mung bean), or purple yam and there is a variant that is filled with candied wintermelon (called kundol in the Philippines).  Apparently, in other countries (apparently this is a popular Indonesian treat as well!) the fillings can be pineapple, durian, cheese, chocolate, coffee and custard!  I’ve never had a cheese hopia, but it certainly sounds interesting!

I painstakingly wrote down the recipe from all the YouTube videos and translated it into metric measurements.  Then I set about making my hopia!

Hopia before baking

I was quite excited about how they looked like.  Even more excited when they came out of the oven.  I loved the smell that wafted out of the oven.  I was definitely in hopia heaven!


I need to practice some more.  I think the pastry is nearly there.  A few more tweaks with the procedure and a few temperature adjustments will help.  But what I’ve been allowing myself to eat is hopia.  It’s not as sweet as the store-bought ones, but it is, already, hopia!

More hopia


Chinese coconut tarts

I’ve loved coconut tarts since the first day I tasted them.  Alan properly introduced me to them in Chinatown in London.  We had a favourite Chinese bakery where we bought our char siu buns, cocktail buns and egg and coconut tarts.  We called this bakery, the one with the pushy aunts because they were very…authoritative.  To be honest, these Chinese aunties scared me!  We’ve since then changed loyalties and we’ve found the perfect char siu buns from somewhere else, but after looking through at least 4 Chinese bakeries, one of my favourite things to order is the coconut tart.  I love the flakiness of the pastry that they use on the tarts.

It is widely known that necessity is the mother of all invention.  The trains to London are (to put it indelicately) buggered on the weekends until 22 March.  So I can’t just zip into Chinatown and get some coconut tarts.  Plus, Alan has been asking me to bake coconut tarts for a few weeks now.  At first, they were very gentle, subtle hints.  A couple of weeks ago, he asked me to bake them because he said my tarts were better than the store bought ones because I put more coconut in them!  So, of course, I had to bake them!

Sliced coconut tart

I’ve almost always used store-bought puff pastry because it was more convenient.  But as I am challenging my baking fears, I’ve been practicing my puff and rough-puff pastry making capabilities and flexing my muscles.  I can bake shortcrust and sweet shortcrust pastry fairly well now, so this was a new challenge.

I think I’ve found a puff pastry recipe that I can manipulate and work to fit my needs.  I’ve done a few tweaks to it so that it’s simple and relatively fool proof.

Shortcrust pastry:

  • 250g butter, VERY COLD and cut into cubes
  • 250g all purpose flour
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 150ml cold water


  1. Because my hands are a still a bit buggered, I’m using a mixer.  In a mixing bowl, combine flour and icing sugar. With the paddle attachment, add all the butter and mix.  You should still see pieces of butter but they should be covered in flour.
  2. Add 2/3 of the water and mix until the mixture comes together and comes away from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Turn the mixture out onto a floured surface and knead gently until the mixture is relatively smooth and then form a rectangle.  Using a floured rolling pin, roll into a longer rectangle.  Fold the top third down towards you and the bottom third up (you should have a square-ish rectangle).  Flour the surface some more so that the pastry doesn’t stick.  Hold one of the corners and turn the dough 90º and roll into a rectangle and fold into thirds again.  Do this another 2 times.  Then wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
  4. Roll and fold the pastry into thirds about 3 more times chilling 30 minute in between roll and fold sessions, wrapping the pastry after each time.  This will create the pastry layers.  Keep the pastry in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.  This will line at least 2 12-hole muffin pans (24 tarts), depending on how thick you want your pastry to be.

TIP:  To use this pastry in a savoury recipe, replace the sugar with 1 tsp fine sea salt.

When you’re ready to fill your tarts, roll out the pastry to desired thickness and cut rounds to line muffin tins.  Preheat the oven to 180ºC.

Coconut tart filling:

  • 225g dessicated coconutCoconut tarts before baking
  • 100g butter, softened
  • 175g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 75g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 100ml evaporated milk
  • 24 glacé cherry halves (optional)


  1. In a bowl, combine coconut, flour and baking powder.  Set aside.  In another bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg to the butter-sugar mixture until well combined.
  2. Add the coconut-flour mixture and evaporated milk until the mixture is thick.  It will be slightly heavy.
  3. Fill the tarts until almost to the top of the pastry (which is about one tablespoon of mixture) and top with half a glacé cherry (if you wish, this is optional of course, but it makes it so pretty!) and bake for 20-25 minutes (depending on how hot your oven is) or until risen over the pastry and golden brown.
  4. Take the tarts out of the oven and cool for 5 minutes before moving to wire racks to cool completely.

Coconut tarts