Malaysian Monday 76: Not quite there yet Puff biscuits.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A biscuit by any other name...would taste just as sweet. Well, sweet-savoury actually. The biscuit (cookie/pastry) that I wanted to highlight today looks like an unassuming, bun shaped, golden brown puff. But bite into it and you’ll encounter layers of delightful flaky pastry leading to a sticky centre. The stickiness and sweetness comes from maltose, and the savoury flavour is courtesy of onion and sesame. I know this doesn’t sound quite so appealing but it’s a snack I grew up with, and LOVE!

The names for this pastry are many - puff biscuits, fragrant biscuits (biskut  wangi), Hiong Peah, pong peah or beh teh saw (not sure of correct spelling).  What’s not so common though, is information on how to make this snack.

Believe me, I googled my little heart out, and couldn’t find a proper recipe anywhere. Not even a reference that would lead to a cookbook or print resource. Well, not in the English language media anyway.

What I did find however, were many reviews, other fans looking for recipes and an ingredient list on the side of a packet. Based on this list (for a halal version of the biscuit), I knew that I should start with wheat flour, maltose, sesame, margarine, vegetable oil, sugar and shallots. However, my first attempt  at the pastry using butter and oil, instead of margarine, yielded unsatisfactory results. The pastry just wasn’t flaky enough, in fact it was verging on tough.

Maltose. I remember eating maltose "lollipops" bought from the travelling sweet (lolly) man. He used to come round on his bicycle.

I knew I had to bite the bullet and use lard instead. (Lard, being a pork product, is unsuitable for Malaysians of the Muslim faith. Which is why the halal version of the biscuit doesn’t include this ingredient).

This time, I think I got very, very close to what I was after. The only trouble was, every single biscuit lost its filling during the baking process. The sugar just ooozed out, no matter how tightly I sealed the dough, leaving a beautiful flaky biscuit filled with a whole lot of nothing! (I think I now know how to remedy the situation though, so stay tuned for another attempt).

Sugar crusted bottoms!

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the steps of how I conducted my biscuit trial. If you give it a go and succeed in making the perfect biscuit, please share, I will be very grateful :)

And just to show you that I’m not the only biscuit tragic, here are links to some other fans:
At Think Food Thoughts, you can find a review comparing the different brands of biscuit. The post is aptly titled  battle of the fragrant biscuit.

Biscuit fanciers say that the best tasting ones come from Ipoh, in Malaysia.  Motormouth hunted down and reviewed biscuits from two locations in this state. One from Gunung Rapat and the other from Taiping.

Puff biscuit attempt number 1

My biscuit trial was based on information and a pastry recipe found on this forum thread.

For the pastry, I referred to this post at Corner Cafe. The post is full of information about Chinese flaky pastry, including brilliant step by step photos about the various layering methods. I used the “hidden layering” method for this attempt.

Based on the ratios mentioned in the Corner Cafe post, I used 250g plain flour, 100g hot water, 50g lard  and a pinch of salt for the water dough. I melted the lard in the hot water, then mixed this into the flour. When cool enough to handle, I kneaded the dough until pliant (about 3 or 4 minutes). Then I left the dough to rest for an hour, wrapped in clingfilm. I’m actually not sure how hot water affects pastry, but I thought I’d give it a go as I make tortillas this way (recipe here) and they turn out lovely and soft.

For the oil dough, I used 200g flour, 50g softened butter and 50g lard. I just mixed it all together using a spatula. The resulting dough is very buttery and melts very easily in the hand. It feels a little like sable pastry. This pastry was also left to rest wrapped in clingfilm.

To roll out, I divided each type of dough into 16 pieces (this makes very small biscuits. Divide into 8 or 10 for bigger biscuits). Wrap and roll the dough as shown in the Corner Cafe post mentioned above.

For the filling, first I made some shallot oil. I sliced a shallot finely and fried this in about 2 tablespoonfuls of sunflower oil (any plain vegetable oil can be used). I removed the pan from the heat just as the shallots were turning brown and crisp. The residual heat will cook the shallots further. When cool, I drained and reserved the oil.

Then I placed 110g liquid maltose in a heatproof jug, and added a pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon of the shallot oil and a teaspoon of sesame oil. I put the jug in microwave for a few seconds to heat up the maltose, and when runny, I stirred the oils in. This resulted in a bit of an emulsion. I stored this mixture in a glass jar in the fridge, and when I needed to use it, brought it back to room temperature. Some of the oil does float to the top, but can be stirred back in.

The flavour of this filling is pretty spot on to what I remembered, but as I mentioned above, this filling won’t stay in the biscuit. I think I need to add some flour to this mix, possibly some cooked glutinous rice flour (koh fun). Also, I think I need to add some caramelised sugar too. That’s on the cards for the next experiment. Wish me luck!

Have a great week and if you can spare some time to make something Malaysian, send it to my friend Suresh (sureshchong(at)yahoo(dot)com) for Muhibbah Malaysian Monday.


Hungry Dog said...

Intriguing, I've never heard of this little snack. They really are quite pretty!

Heavenly Housewife said...

It is so frustrating trying to recreate something you love, but when you get it right its totally worth it. I am loving the sound of this treat, and the layers on the inside are absolutely beautiful.
*kisses* HH

chocolatesuze said...

hehe i remember my mum trying to convince me to love these and while i liked the pastry layers i had issues with the insides lol but i think ill give them a go and see if she likes them thanks for sharing!

Anh said...

oh wow! Shaz you are so patient with all these experiments! I have never tried these. Hopefully one day.

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

Oh Shaz. How I wish you are my neighbour so you can teach me how to cook. At least you can cook and garden at the same time. I can't cook. Making pastry or using yeast still scared me.

peachkins said...

those breads looks fantastic!

Sylvia said...

I attempting to recreate some recipe, that I loved but are always afrustration. These buns looks so good

Janine said...

Wow Shaz you're amazing! I always liked my tao sar peah but never thought to make them myself since they're easily available in Malaysia. I prefer the ones in Penang though ;p Really wishing you luck in this experiment - can't wait to see the end results of your next attempt!

3 hungry tummies said...

Hey Shaz they looked perfect to me....well done!

shaz said...

Hungry Dog - it's pretty hard to find these outside of Malaysia (I've looked!).

Heavenly Housewife - thank you dear. There's still a way to go before I get it quite right though.

chocolatesuze - shallots in sweets are quite confronting huh? Make sure you tell your mum about the leaking sugar issue though.

Anh- hope you do get to try them, perhaps you'll like them as much as I do :)

MK - you can cook! I have seen the pictures :) I would love to be neighbours, I can help you harvest, he he he

peachkins - thank you :)

Sylvia - lovely to meet you. I think often our memories can trick our tastebuds. It's hard to ever recapture precise flavours I think.

Janine - thank you for the wonderful encouragement. If I was still living in Malaysia, I wouldn't bother making these myself!

3HT - still have to work out the filling issue :)

grace said...

the first shot of the maltose is very artsy-fartsy. good attempt, shaz!