Adding some CNY colours with origami

The weeks leading up to Chinese New Year can actually make me feel like I’ve had enough of the decorations, before CNY actually begins!

Still, it won’t feel like CNY at home without some colour – even if it’s not traditional-style ;) I love doing origami – partly because origami paper is always so pretty, and because I like the smell of the ink on paper.

Origami butterflies, cranes and flowers for CNY

We covered part of the TV wall with origami flowers, butterflies and cranes – three of my favourite designs. I did think of using patterned paper, but I didn’t have any in colours I wanted. We ended up putting them up in a gradient – from light orange to red.

I did the origami from memory, but you can find really easy to follow origami instructions here – my go-to resource when I feel like making something new.

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Baking my favorite almond cookies

Almond cookies are one of my all-time favorite CNY goodies

My aunt gives me just one jar of almond cookies every Chinese New Year, and I can never bear to finish them. They’re crunchy, crumbly, sweet and salty – all the things I love in a cookie, rolled into a bite-sized ball of goodness. I’ve only been desperate enough to make them once while I was in Melbourne. All I remember from that attempt was that it took a very long time to fill up one lonely normal jar :( That’s a lot of work for very few cookies! When I found out a few days ago that my aunt won’t be baking almond cookies this year, I decided to ignore the hesitation deep down inside, and to just go for it. How bad can it be anyway :p Can’t be more tiring than baking pineapple tarts, right?!

TIP: Set aside a whole afternoon for this. This recipe makes quite a lot of cookies, which means you may spend half a day rolling and baking if you want bite-sized cookies (approx. 1/4 tsp of dough per cookie)

For the almonds

You can buy the almonds skinned (they usually come chopped or sliced), or you can skin them by blanching the almonds at home. It only took me about 15 minutes to remove the skins from 500g of almonds :) It’s the easiest part of this recipe!

Heat a pot of water until it boils, and put almonds in for 1 minute – any longer, and the almonds will get soft. Use a sieve to strain the almonds from the water, then rinse them in cold water. Roll or pat them dry with kitchen towels. Hold the fatter end of the almond in one hand, with your other hand cupped in front. Squeeze gently, and the skin should come off easily. Cupping your hand in front of the almond prevents them from shooting across the room – it really happens, I tried ;)

Put the almonds into a food processor, and chop them into a mixture of fine and small almond bits. I like to have a mix for more crunch, but it’s really up to you. Set aside, and begin preparing the dough.

All you need is some flour, almonds, and a lot of patience

For the dough

  • 1 kg plain flour
  • 500g caster sugar
  • 2tsp fine salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 6 tsp baking powder
  • 250g chopped almonds
  • 740ml oil (any brand will do, as long as it is tasteless and odorless)

For the glaze

  • 1 egg yolk, diluted with a bit of water

Heat oven to 160°C (320 F). Sift the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder together. Mix in the almonds, then slowly add in the oil, until the mixture begins to stick together and form a dough. Roll the dough into little balls – I used a 1/4 tsp to form bite-sized cookies. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, and place the balls of dough about 1 inch apart. Brush the tops with the glaze, and bake for 13 minutes, or until the cookies turn a pale golden brown.

TIP: If the cookies are baked long enough, you won’t be able to smell or taste the oil used in the dough.

Baking and eating

My first try baking pineapple tarts

I always try to spend Chinese New Year overseas because I don’t like the crowds. Combined with the crazy hot weather that always seems to accompany the first two days, the only reason I look forward to it is because of the two-day holiday!

Since A and I can’t escape the madness this year, I’ve decided to focus on the only part I like – the Chinese New Year goodies :)

Pineapple tarts, all ready to go!

Pineapple tarts have got to be my favourite. Tangy jam on buttery, melt-in-your-mouth pastry… So. Good. In the spirit of embracing every single day, I’ve stopped wishing for the perfect pineapple tarts, and tried making my own.

Three hours later, the jam is done

I used the recipe here for the pineapple jam. Turns out that if you use ripe pineapples, you may not need to use as much sugar.

I tried Thai pineapples, which taste amazing. Couldn’t stop licking my fingers while making the jam. Mmmm!

TIP: Use ripe pineapples, and less sugar. Make the jam a day before bake day, roll it into little jam balls after it’s cooled, and store in the fridge.

I used the recipe here for the pineapple tarts pastry. If you’re a fan of buttery, melty, pastry like me, you may end up ‘testing’ quite a bit as you bake!

The hardest part is rubbing in the butter – your forearms will get a really good workout :)

TIP: It’s easier to get a cleaner shape with your pineapple tart cutter if you roll the dough slightly thicker, and press down firmly.

Rolling and cutting

Cutting pastry shells

Here’s the combined ingredients list, taken from the recipe links above. I made about 80 pineapple tarts, with some dough leftover.

For the jam

2 ripe pineapples (the ones from Thailand tasted better)
250g sugar (you probably won’t use it all)

For the pastry

400g plain flour
50g corn flour
1/4 tsp (heaped) salt
280g cold, unsalted butter (don’t let it soften!)
3 egg yolks, beaten
3 tbsp cold/ice water
6 tbsp icing sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 egg yolk and 1 tbsp water (for the glaze)

Supplies

The only special thing you’ll need is a pineapple tart cutter. You can’t use a normal cookie cutter. You can get them online from Brown Cookie, or from Phoon Huat in Singapore.

The best part of baking has got to eating the freshest pineapple tarts I’ve ever had. Warm, buttery pastry that’s light, slightly crisp, and topped with warm, tangy jam. Best afternoon treats ever!

Baking and eating