The first time I made these cookies a couple of years ago, it was not a success. The shapes of the cookies turned out well, but the tastes were awful. It was like eating a mouthful of uncooked cornflour, with a lingering feel of tartness in your mouth for hours after eating them.
After that experience, this time I was smarter, I cooked the cornflour first like you would do for the tapioca starch when making Kuih Bangkit. I had come across at least 5-6 recipes for the Dragon Cookies, and none of them told you to cook the cornflour first before using it. So I am not sure if they would all taste like what I experienced the first time… Or maybe I should use the real cornstarch instead of the wheaten cornflour… But I think real cornstarch also has the same tartness feel if not cooked properly…
This time the cookies turned out much much better, almost a 98% improvement, it had just the least, slightest hint of tartness which I assumed was from the custard powder which I included this time and which I did not cooked beforehand. As custard powder is made from cornflour with colour and vanilla added, I should have remembered that and cooked it with the cornflour before using, will have to remember that for next time. But never mind, the cookies still smelled and tasted delicious, they are light, crispy and with a delicate crunch!
You might be wondering why in the recipe below I have some softened butter and some melted butter included? The reason is that originally the melted butter was not included in the recipe, but after mixing the dough, I found the mixture was still crumbly, so I melted some extra butter and added it in to the mixture to clump the dough together. I discovered later after baking that I’d miscalculated the quantity for the custard powder, it should have been about 35g (1.25 oz) instead of the 55g I used, no wonder the dough was crumbly and I had to add more butter and the second half of the egg – was originally calculated to use only half an egg for this recipe. Anyway, it does not matter now since the cookies turned out very well, I think the warm melted butter also helped in softening the dough slightly for piping.
Speaking of piping, you really need to have Popeye muscle to make these cookies, as the dough is quite stiff (maybe it would be softer in hot weather but it was hard at about the low 20°C weather here when I made them) and you really need to press very hard to get the dough out of the piping bag! So use a good quality sturdy piping bag! And also since the dough is so stiff after mixing, I’m now thinking if it is necessary to cream the butter at all, maybe I can just melt the whole lot and mix it in to the other ingredients for next time… If you have a cookie press with a star tube attachment, it might be easier to use it to press out the cookies. And please don’t ask me why I didn’t use my cookie press, well, laziness mainly, and also it was easier and more water-wise to just wash a piping bag (the consequence of water restriction here due to the drought, now very conscious of water use!) than the different parts of a cookie press, hahaha!
Makes approx. 40 biscuits
115g (4 oz) wheaten cornflour (wheat starch)
55g (2 oz) custard powder
10g (1 tablespoon) milk powder
12g (1 tablespoon) cake flour, or plain flour
55g (2 oz) butter, softened
55g (2 oz) caster sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
30g (1 oz) butter, melted
few drops of red (cochineal) food colouring
1. Put cornflour on a piece of kitchen paper and put into the microwave. Cook on HIGH for 1 minute. Remove from microwave and transfer the cornflour onto a new piece of kitchen paper. Put back into microwave and cook on HIGH for another minute. Remove the cornflour and sift it into a mixing bowl.
2. In the meantime, cream softened butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in egg.
3. Sift the custard powder, milk powder and cake flour; add to the creamed mixture. Add the sifted hot cornflour. Mix until crumbly.
4. Pour melted butter into the crumbly mixture and knead lightly into a stiff dough.
5. Preheat oven to 180°C. Line baking sheets with baking paper.
6. Transfer the dough to a good quality, sturdy piping bag (or use a cookie press) fitted with a 1cm star nozzle. Pipe out small ‘S’ shaped dough pieces to represent Chinese dragons. I find the best way to do this is to hold the piping bag high and press out about 5cm long dough (be careful not to let the dough breaks off) before you lower the piping bag and let the dough rest onto the paper-lined baking sheet. Then finish piping out the dough to make a ‘S’ shape. If the shape is crooked, you can quickly adjust and neaten the shape using your fingers.
7. Let the piped out dough pieces rest for 20 minutes before baking; put them into the refrigerator in hot weather. (Last time I made them, I dot the eyes straight after piping and they bled, so the resting help to dry the surface to prevent bleeding.)
8. Dip one end of the toothpick into the red food colouring and dot two red spots at one end of each ‘S’ dough to represent the eyes of the dragon.
9. Bake for about 10 minutes; the cookies should remain pale in colour. Let cool and store in airtight containers.
Taste: Delicately light, crispy biscuits with a light crunch and melt-in-the-mouth texture
Consume: Best within 1-2 weeks
Storage: Store in airtight containers
Recipe Reference: ‘龍餅’ recipe by HOHHUANNSHAN