A few weeks before Chinese New Year, Mrs Connie Phua, 49, takes about 12 days of leave just to whip up festive goodies for her friends and family.
Mrs. Phua, who is a store manager of a luxury handbag brand, makes everything from pineapple tarts to love letters to peanut cookies and also melt-in-your-mouth kueh bangkit (right) for family and friends.
She says: “I spent three years experimenting before I was satisfied with the result. It is very important to mix the tapioca flour, one scoop at a time. If you pour everything at one go, it will harden and you have to start all over again.”
To speed up the process, the mother of three children aged 12 to 17 uses some nifty tools to make her kueh bangkit. Her husband Jason Phua, 52, is a nursery owner.
For example, she has a special cookie cutter from baking supply chain Phoon Huat which cuts four flower-shaped cookies at a go.
She also uses a pair of small plastic tongs with jagged ends to pinch the kueh bangkit dough, which forms the traditional pattern on the cookie.
Cutting the kueh bangkit into floral shapes. PHOTO: MATTHIAS HO/ ST
She makes about 50 jars of each type of snack every Chinese New Year.
On taking the time to churn out these festive goodies, the cheerful baker says: “When you know how to make them, you won’t buy those sold outside. It’s worth my hard work because people appreciate it.”
Makes 300 to 400 pieces
1kg tapioca flour
10 to 12 long pandan leaves, cut into 12cm pieces
500g icing sugar
600ml fresh coconut milk (about three coconuts), no water added
3 long pandan leaves, rolled into a small bundle
8 egg yolks, from small eggs
1. In a wok, fry the tapioca flour with the pandan leaf pieces over a low flame until fragrant, for about 30 minutes. It is best to do this in advance and leave the flour to cool overnight in an airtight container for one to two days.
2. Preheat the oven to 150 deg C.
3. In a pot, boil 250g of icing sugar with the coconut milk and bundle of three pandan leaves. Remove from heat and leave to cool. Discard the pandan leaves.
4. With an electric mixer, beat the remaining 250g of icing sugar with the egg yolks on medium speed for about 10 minutes.
5. In a large bowl, mix the coconut mixture from step 3 with egg yolk mixture from step 4.
6. Sift the tapioca flour from step 1 into another large bowl. Discard the pandan leaf pieces.
7. With a soup ladle, add the sifted tapioca flour into the coconut and egg yolk mixture – one scoop at a time. Knead until you get a soft dough that does not stick to your hand. Cover the dough with a damp cloth to prevent the dough from drying out.
8. On a lightly floured surface, roll out small portions of the dough to about 1/2cm thick with a rolling pin.
9. Cut out the flower shapes (six petals) with a cookie cutter. Using a small pair of tongs that have a jagged edge, pinch the dough twice to form the kueh bangkit’s pattern.
10. Place the cut kueh bangkit pieces on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Leave about 1cm gap between each piece.
11. Bake the kueh bangkit for about 30 minutes, or until the tops turn light brown.
12. Leave the kueh bangkit to cool on a wire rack before removing from the tray to store into containers. The kueh bangkit may stick to the parchment paper, so be careful when removing them.
This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on January 26, 2014. For similar stories, go to sph.straitstimes.com/premium/singapore. You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.