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Where EAST meets the Northwest

 

AP Photo/Matthew Mead

AP Photo/Matthew Mead

From The Asian Reporter, V22, #24 (December 17, 2012), page 12.

For tasty holiday desserts, try saffron and five-spice powder

By Alison Ladman

The Associated Press

A delicate spice calls for a delicate cookie. So when looking for ways to make the most of the gorgeous color and ethereal flavor of saffron, meringue puff cookies were the obvious choice. The result is an Almond Saffron Puff Cookie, a decidedly adult-friendly cookie with a light, crunchy exterior and a wonderfully chewy interior.

Our second dessert, a Chinese Five-Spice Brownie Cookie, has all the rich, fudgy flavor of a brownie, but with the convenience of an easy-to-handle cookie. And since we are already tinkering, we also added five-spice powder, a Chinese seasoning made from you guessed it a blend of five spices: fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and Sichuan peppercorns.

The result of that blend of which star anise tends to dominate is a peppery bite that works so well with the deep chocolate of the cookie.

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Almond Saffron Puff Cookies

Start to finish: 45 minutes

Makes 36 cookies

1 pinch saffron threads, crushed

1 tablespoon hot water

5 egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 1/4 cups sugar

10 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups) finely chopped almonds

Heat the oven to 300 Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the saffron and the hot water. Let stand for two minutes.

Add the egg whites, vanilla, salt, and cream of tartar. Beat until soft frothy peaks form. With the mixer running, slowly add the sugar, a tablespoon at a time. Continue whipping until thick, glossy, firm peaks form.

Use a silicone spatula to gently fold the almonds, half of them at a time, into the egg whites. Be careful not to deflate the whipped egg whites. Scoop the mixture by rounded tablespoonsful onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving one inch between the cookies.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until very light golden brown and puffy. Let cool completely on the baking sheets. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Nutrition information per cookie: 60 calories (35 calories from fat, 58 percent of total calories); 4 g fat (0 g saturated, 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 7 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 2 g protein; 20 mg sodium.

* * *

Chinese Five-Spice Brownie Cookies

Start to finish: 2 hours 45 minutes (45 minutes active)

Makes 4 dozen

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Two 10-ounce packages dark chocolate bits

6 eggs

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon five-spice powder

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the butter and oil, heating until the butter has melted. Remove the pan from the heat, add the chocolate, and stir until completely melted. If necessary, return the pan to low heat, stirring constantly, to ensure all of the chocolate has melted. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla, and five-spice powder until smooth and slightly thickened. Whisk in the chocolate-butter mixture, then stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.

When ready to bake, heat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Working in batches, scoop the dough by the tablespoonful onto the prepared pans, leaving two inches between. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until puffed and crackly on top. Transfer to a rack to cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Nutrition information per cookie: 140 calories (80 calories from fat, 57 percent of total calories); 8 g fat (4 g saturated, 0 g trans fats); 30 mg cholesterol; 18 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 12 g sugar; 2 g protein; 40 mg sodium.

* * *