Saturday, May 14, 2011

Chinese Red Bean Flaky Pastries

I must apologise in advance for my woefully inadequate knowledge about Chinese pastries. In my defence, I come from the Northern part of China where dessert items such as the egg tarts one sees so often at Yum Cha, or the 'Wife Cake' (lao po bing/low paw bang) are not nearly as ubiquitous as they are in the Southern region. I don't even know the proper names for these flaky red bean pastries I made earlier today.

I feel that's the case with a lot of Chinese pastries that I eat, and that bothers me. It seems like the least I could do while I'm tearing something apart with my teeth is to know what it's called.

My decision to try my hand at making this particular pastry was actually borne out of necessity. You see, during a trip to Tokyo, Japan this last summer holidays, I went slightly nutso on the food front and purchased almost an entire suitcase-worth of edibles, including two packets of this amazing Hokkaido adzuki bean paste from an imagawayaki store in Shinjuku. At 1000 yen per packet, they're almost double the cost of any red bean paste you can get from Asian groceries in Sydney. And there was some drama transporting here in the first place, since they were deemed unsuitable for carry-on baggage by the Japanese custom officers, since they were classified as "liquids" @_@ Once we did get them re-packaged as check-in luggage, they...never turned up at baggage claim in Sydney.

Anyway, it turned out that someone else had taken the box with our bean paste, and we had their last-minute check-in luggage instead. Long story short (or as short as I can make it at this stage), we initiated a swap, and got our bean paste back. The whole point of this very long-winded tale is to underscore the shame that would come out of chucking the bean paste out past their expiry date after all the trouble we had of getting them here. And the date was getting perilously close. And hence, the red bean flaky pastries we have here.

As you would have seen from the second picture in this post, I made the pastries in a variety of shapes and forms. They were, in actual fact, made from the exact same dough of the exact same quantity, only rolled and folded differently. There are two sources I want to credit with te success of these pastries. Firstly, the recipe for the pastry dough provided by Suanne at Chow Times. Secondly, a post by SeaDragon at Corner Cafe, which detailed a precise step-by-step guide of how the pastry dough out to be prepared and rolled in order to get all the effects seen below. Thank you very much!

The recipe for the pastry dough called for lard, which may bother some people, but which I myself was fine with. This is, of course, coming from someone who was raised on jellified animal innards :D Don't be tempted to substitute the lard with butter. I have a suspicion that doing so will, firstly, cause the pastry to burn at the temperature it was baked (185°C or 360°F) because of the milk fats in butter (something I recently learned off George on Masterchef), and secondly, completely alter the taste and texture of the pastry. Although this may look like the Asian equivalent of puff pastry, the texture is closer to a shortbread than anything else. Without the buttery taste, of course. It's crumbly...and flaky! Lard definitely gives it a distinct taste. Try it for yourself before you make any judgements! 

And, because the dough itself isn't flavoured strongly, the taste of the red bean filling (or whatever filling you choose) really shines through.

The thing that I am particularly proud of for this pastry is the leopard skin pattern effect created by my 'special' eggwash. LOL, it was actually a mistake. I misread the proportions for the eggwash on SeaDragon's site and substituted one of the ingredients and, lo and behold, prettiness! :D

1 comment:

  1. These look great, just like in the restaurants!