For Chinese New Year dishes that are sure to impress guests, Nafeesa Saini looks to four society personalities known for their cooking wizardry. At the stylish showroom of German luxury kitchen appliance brand Gaggenau, she speaks to Serene Sorensen on their family celebrations, signature recipes and expert tips.
Born to bake
“I have always enjoyed upping the game when it comes to baking. This recipe was the result of adding sea salt to a classic Chinese New Year almond cookie recipe as well as dry roasting the almonds beforehand. The result was so good that I have stuck to the improved recipe ever since. My friends and family love them as they are quite addictive. Since I normally bake them only during this festive season, they are very special and much appreciated.”
“Dry roast the almonds first to give the cookies a nice smoky flavour. One also needs to touch and feel the dough to get the right consistency – it cannot be too dry or wet, or else the cookies will fail.”
“Every eve of the festival, we would celebrate at home with a reunion steamboat dinner consisting of traditional dishes that carry symbolic auspicious meanings of prosperity, blessings and good fortune. The first day will always include a visit to my mother’s place to pay our respects and enjoy her home-cooked food. It is also a great opportunity to catch up with our extended families and to exchange blessings by giving each other hongbao. This year, we will have our reunion dinner and pay a visit to my mother, but big gatherings of friends will be scaled down. It will be subdued but hopefully it does not take away the festive spirit.”
“One that exudes sleek and minimalist aesthetics, has a good flow of working space and plenty of storage and, most importantly, is equipped with state-of-the-art kitchen appliances.”
Serene’s sea salt almond cookies
- 160ml peanut oil
- 120ml butter (melted)
- 100g coarsely chopped almond • 200g ground almond
- 360g all-purpose flour
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 240g castor sugar
- 1 tsp coarse sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 180 deg C. If you are using fan mode, reduce to 170 deg C.
- Combine the peanut oil and melted butter. Set aside.
- Dry roast the almonds, both coarse and ground, in a frying pan over low heat. Stir regularly to prevent from burning. Remove pan from heat once the almonds have turned golden brown. Leave to cool completely.
- Sift flour, baking powder and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Add the sugar, sea salt and cooled almonds. Mix to combine.
- Add the peanut oil mixture and mix until it forms a dough. Tip: Test the dough by taking a teaspoon of it and roll it into a ball. If the ball falls apart, the dough is too dry. If that happens, add a little more oil and mix the dough again. Once you are able to roll it into a ball without it falling apart, the consistency is right.
- When the consistency of the dough is right, pinch a small amount and roll into a ball (approximately 10g each). Repeat the process until the dough is all used up. Place the balls on a baking tray already lined with parchment paper, about 1 inch apart from each other.
- Bake the cookies for 16 to 18 minutes or until the top of the cookies are lightly brown. Remove from the oven and let them cool completely.
PHOTOGRAPHY: ALECIA NEO | ART DIRECTION: AUDREY CHAN | HAIR: SHA SHAMSI | MAKE-UP: NOOR FASEHA ISMAIL
This story first appeared in the January 2022 issue of Prestige Singapore.