We're nearing the end of the 12 Days of Cookies and I wanted to make a Chinese cookie. The problem is that there aren't many classic Chinese cookies and no fortune cookies do not count. The lack of home baking is because most Chinese households don't even have an oven and baking is primarily done in bakeries in the form of little bread buns and pastries, rarely, if ever, cookies. But for the purposes of this cookie event, these Thousand Layer Cookie will be our Chinese cookie of the day because 1. Steven's mom bought these at our local Asian supermarket (99 Ranch) and 2. There are Chinese characters on the packaging (which I think say qian ceng bing aka Chinese for Thousand Layer Cookie), which makes these Chinese cookies (good reasoning right?). So when you open up the wrapper, inside is a cookie about 2 inches long, 1 inch wide, and roughly 3/8 inch thick. There are a few sugar crystals on top of the cookie to give it an extra crunch. Break it in half and you see that though it is not 1000 layers, it is indeed very flaky, with a few black sesame seeds.
The main difference between Chinese baking and Western baking is that the Chinese use lard instead of butter (we like our pork and pork products). As a result of using lard, the baked goods are flakier and more tender but lack the characteristic flavor of butter. My goal was to recreate this cookie at home because they're really, really good and addicting. The ingredients seemed pretty straight forward: 1. use a combination of butter and shortening to approximate lard, 2. add in some whole wheat flour (because the back of the wrapper had a picture of wheat, again more good reasoning right?), 3. some black sesame seeds, 4. and finally some raw sugar on top for crunch. The hardest part of this recipe was creating the flaky texture.
My first attempt was to use the Chinese pastry technique. An oil dough (shortening, butter, and flour) is sealed inside a water dough (flour, oil, water, sugar) and rolled out and folded repeatedly, much like puff pastry. However, I've never made puff pastry or Chinese pastry before so this led to the disastrous result of One Layer Cookie (bleh). So I tried a second technique, which was to adapt a basic pie dough recipe to create the flaky layers. The layers will not be as uniform and distinct as a cookie made with the Chinese flaky pastry technique but this is much easier to do at home and with a food processor, the dough takes a minute to put together.
And the results? As you can see, my cookie does not have as many handsome layers as the original. Texture wise, it is a little more crunchy and fragrant than the packaged cookie because I used a little butter in combo with the shortening. I learned that my Chinese pastry technique definitely needs more practice and I will continue trying to recreate the original cookie. But this recipe is a great start (A for effort *thumbs up*) and the cookies have excellent flavor. The black sesame seeds adds a delicious nuttiness and the raw sugar adds a great crunch to this unique cookie.
Flaky Black Sesame Cookie
3/4 C AP flour
1/2 C white whole wheat flour (if you don't have it AP flour is fine)
4 Tbsp cold shortening
4 Tbsp cold butter
1/4 C sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp black sesame seeds
3 - 5 Tbsp ice cold water
1 - 2 Tbsp raw sugar
Mix the two flours, sugar, salt, and black sesame seeds until everything is evenly combined. Cut the shortening and butter into cubes and scatter them in flour. Make sure your shortening and butter are very cold. Use a food processor and pulse the butter with the flour until the mixture looks crumbly and the butter pieces are no bigger than a pea. Alternatively use a pastry cutter or two forks and cut the butter into the flour.
Start with 3 tablespoons of water and scatter it over the mixture. Pulse in the food processor slightly until the dough comes together. If it still looks dry add a little bit more water (I used a little over 4 tablespoons). If you're doing this by hand, scatter the water over the mixture and fold with a spatula and press the crumbs together until the dough starts to come together.
Form the dough into a flat disc, wrap with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for at least an hour or in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Flour your work surface and roll out the dough into a rectangle until it is about 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch thick. Scatter raw sugar on top of the dough and gently press in. Cut into 1 inch by 2 inch portions and place them on a baking sheet. Bake until the cookies are golden, about 25 to 30 minutes.
Day 1: White Chocolate Cashew Macadamia Butter Cookies
Day 2: Shortbread Bars with Mango Jam
Day 3: Pumpkin Butter Thumbprints
Day 4: Butterscotch Cookies with Hazelnuts
Day 5: Best Oatmeal Cookies Ever with Chocolate Chunks, Pecans, and Dried Cherries
Day 6: Torta Sbrisolona
Day 7: Alfajores
Day 8: Orange Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti
Day 9: Brown Sugar Cookie