Saturday, January 29, 2011
I noticed something strange. As you may already know, sugee (also known as soogee, suji or sugi) is basically semolina. Yet, when I searched for a Sugee Cookie recipe, I ended up with quite a few which did not contain a single grain of semolina! I realised that most of these were really vanilla or almond cookies. So why call them sugee? In the words of Eminem, will the real Sugee Cookie please stand up, please stand up?
Well, super-sleuth me decided to refine my search and typed "sugee semolina cookies", which yielded a find at Food.com - contributed by a fellow Singaporean, no less. When I saw the word "semolina", I punched a triumphant fist in the air (yes, I am quite the drama queen, even in solitude). Now we're talkin'. So I gave it a browse, and although the recipe - described as "a very OLD Singaporean/Eurasian recipe" - looked sound, I felt that it was missing a crucial ingredient.
Perhaps the Eurasian way of making Sugee Cookies doesn't require salt but for many Chinese-style cookies, salt is a must. Think peanut cookies, or almond cookies, or pineapple tarts ... the sweetness is always nuanced with sudden bursts of saltiness*.
* Actually, the same principle applies to many western-style desserts too. Chocolate with fleur de sel, anyone?
Anyhow, I decided to make 2 batches: one following the recipe to a 'T', and the other with 1/4 tsp salt. You wanna know what happened? Tune in next week.
Nah, just kidding.
The batch without salt tasted curiously like Kjeldsens Danish Butter Cookies! They were buttery and sweet, but tasted a bit flat.
The second batch was a lot more like the Sugee Cookies I grew up eating. And it was quite incredible how a mere 1/4 tsp salt made all the difference. Simply put, it gave depth. Food should have layers of flavours, no?
The one thing I observed was that using semolina flour gives a crispy, sablé-like texture. Both batches of cookies were sandy and crumbly, even on the fourth day. Me likey!
So yeah, there you have it. Sugee cookies that contain sugee. How on earth the star ingredient went missing in the first place is beyond me. LOL!
A big thanks to the kind lady who shared this recipe. Without you, I would have sadly assumed that authentic Sugee Cookies had gone into extinction. Now I wonder, should I try substituting butter with ghee? Would that not give the cookies an even stronger Asian flavour? You think?
Yields about 20 cookies
- 125 g butter
- 75 g soft brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 100 g plain flour
- 75 g semolina
- 25 g ground almonds
- 1/4 tsp salt (I would recommend adding this)
- Almond strips for garnishing
- 1 egg white, beaten
1. Grease baking trays lightly with butter and preheat oven to 180°C.
2. Cream butter, sugar and essence until light.
3. Sift in flour.
4. Add in semolina, ground almonds and salt to combine well into a dough.
* I would suggest chilling your dough for about 6-8mins before handling it (in tropical weather, especially).
5. Pinch off pieces and roll into small balls and place on prepared trays.
* Note that these cookies expand when baked, so make sure you leave about an inch between each one. I used a teaspoon to make sure every cookie was of uniform size.
6. Press gently with a fork.
* I didn't bother. Just used my fingers. ;)
7. Brush lightly with egg white and press two almond strips in the centre of each pressed out dough.
* Up to you, really. One strip, two strips, almond sliver, almond half ... you decide.
8. Bake in a preheated oven for 13 to 14 minutes or until cookies turn golden.
* I brought the temperature down to 170°C when I popped the cookies in, knowing how my oven tends to overheat. The tops and bottoms of the cookies should turn a golden brown colour.
9. Leave on the tray for 1 to 2 minutes.
10. Remove onto a wire rack to cool. Then store in an airtight container.
* I don't know how well these cookies keep. I stored them in a plastic container and they remained sandy and crispy even after 4 days, but beyond that, I really don't know. To "refresh" your cookies, preheat your ovenette toaster on high for about 8mins, then pop the cookies in and turn off the heat. Let them remain in there for about 5mins, in the residual heat. The cookies will taste (nearly) oven fresh again.