Anybody familiar with ant nests? I for one have never seen an ant nest before, although I have seen anthill, is that the same thing? Anyway these are Malay-style cookies called Ant Nest Biscuits. I have never tasted or seen them before, so I would assume the chocolate sprinkles (or chocolate rice) are the ants and the golden cookies are the nests.
From what I could find of the recipes, there are two styles – one which uses more custard powder than plain flour very much comparable to the recipes for Dragon Cookies; the other style more plain flour than custard powder and more reminiscent of recipes for Melting Moments.
I decided to try out the style with more custard powder first. They did taste very similar to Dragon Cookies, but they have a softer crunch and not as crisp, all in all still very delicious. However I would prefer them to be just that bit more lighter in texture and crispier. This is probably due to my drying the custard powder first in the microwave and then sifting the powder, I lost almost 20g in the process and have to add more cake flour at the end to firm up the dough. I think next time I will just reduce the butter to 85g and use about 1 to 2 tablespoons of cake flour only (compare my Dragon Cookies recipe) to make these cookies for a lighter and crispier texture.
Makes approx. 50 mini-muffin sized biscuits
170g custard powder
115g butter, softened
70g icing sugar mixture
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
115g cake flour, adjust as necessary
chocolate sprinkles (chocolate rice), for topping
1. Put custard powder on a piece of kitchen paper and put into the microwave. Cook on HIGH for 1 minute. Remove from microwave and transfer the custard powder onto a new piece of kitchen paper. Put back into microwave and cook on HIGH for another minute. Remove the custard powder and sift it into a mixing bowl; set aside. Preheat oven to 160°C. Arrange mini-muffin paper cases on baking sheets.
2. In the meantime, cream softened butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and egg.
3. Add sifted custard powder to the creamed mixture. Mix well.
4. Gradually add sifted cake flour until the dough is just firm, and not semi-fluid anymore. The amount of cake flour needed depends on how much moisture is removed from the custard powder; so you may need less cake flour or you may need more.
5. Put some dough into a potato ricer and squeeze out noodle strands onto a plate. Carefully pick up a tiny bundle of noodle strands and place into paper cases. Repeat making noodle strands and fill the cases until all the dough is used up. If you don’t have a potato ricer, use a grater to make strands. Don’t press out the dough into strands all at once as they tend to stick together and you will have difficulty in separating the strands.
Don’t squeeze out all the dough at once and don’t pile it up like what I did, the bottom part all squashed together and I have to re-squeeze the noodle strands again.
6. Scatter a little chocolate sprinkles on top of each cup.
7. Bake for about 20-25 minutes; don’t let the biscuits get too brown, they should still be quite golden in colour. Let cool and store in airtight containers.
Taste: Lightly crunchy, shortbread-like biscuits
Consume: Best within 1-2 weeks
Storage: Store in airtight containers
Recipe Reference(s): ‘Biskut Sarang Semut’ recipe by Malaysian cookery writer Norzailina Nordin