Month: June 2021

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.61: Gyepi-manju – bean-paste filled cookies from Korea

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.61: Gyepi-manju – bean-paste filled cookies from Korea

Like most of East Asia, Korea doesn’t really have a long-standing baking tradition – it’s to do with the relative scarcity of slow-burning fuel, which means that cooking is more likely to be done fast, at high temperature in a wok. However, Western baking has found its way to Korea (by way of Japan, in this case), where it has adopted a decidedly Korean accent. If you visit Seoul, I can vouch for the fact that their bakeries and patisseries are extremely popular and of super-high quality – even a relatively mundane chain bakery in a Seoul subway seems capable of turning out mouth-watering croissants.

In the case of gyepi-manju, the cookies that I’ve made here, the Asian accent comes in the form of sweetened bean paste and the specifically Korean accent is their love of sesame seeds. They’re pleasant, not over-sweetened cookies: some Westerners will want to add more sugar.

I started with a recipe from New-York based Korean cook Maangchi. While this isn’t the hardest bake in the world, there’s definitely room for error – and I made a few, which are visible in the photos. The first of these: Maangchi expects you to take the skins off your broad beans *before* boiling them, which I forgot to do. Taking them off afterwards is fine, but you need a much longer boil. The second is that I ran out of sesame seeds, so I substituted some decidedly un-Korean poppy seeds in my last few gyepi-manju (they were fine).

As usual, I’ve gone for metric quantities and ingredient names from the UK. I’ve shown the way I did the beans, since it worked fine. Go to the original if you prefer.

The bean paste

  • 200g butter beans
  • 100g sugar (1 cup)
  • A pinch of salt – perhaps 1g
  • Vanilla essence to taste
  1. Put the butter beans in a bowl and cover with a lot of cold water: soak overnight.
  2. Transfer the beans to a saucepan, cover in water and boil until soft, skimming off the worst of the scum that will accumulate at the top.
  3. Drain the beans and leave until cool enough to handle.
  4. Remove the tough outer skin of the beans and discard, placing the peeled beans in the bowl of food processor.
  5. Add sugar, salt and vanilla, and process until very smooth (this takes longer than you expect).
  6. Put into a covered bowl and refrigerate while you make the dough.

The dough

  • 15 g butter
  • 80g condensed milk
  • 130g flour
  • 1 egg
  • 5g baking powder
  • 2g salt
  • Vanilla extract to taste
  1. Melt the butter and pour into a bowl
  2. Add the condensed milk and stir
  3. Add egg, baking powder, salt and vanilla and stir
  4. Add the flour and mix until you have a smooth dough
  5. Cover in cling film (or put in a sealed bowl) and leave to rest for at least an hour – I actually ended up doing this overnight, which was fine.

Final assembly and baking

  • Generous amounts of sesame seeds (black, white or half and half) – perhaps 1-2 tablespoons
  • 1 egg yolk
  • flour for rolling
  • Generous amounts of ground cinnamon – perhaps 1-2 tablespoons
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
  2. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan until fragrant. Set aside.
  3. Beat the egg yolk in a small bowl. Set aside.
  4. Flour your board
  5. Separate the bean paste into two halves. Separate the dough into two halves.
  6. Form a half of the bean paste into a ball.
  7. Roll half of the dough into a circle big enough to be wrapped around the ball.
  8. Roll your assembled ball into a log.
  9. Repeat for the second half of the bean paste and dough.
  10. Spread cinnamon powder over a space of your board that’s been cleared of flour.
  11. Brush water over a log of dough and roll it in the cinnamon so that it’s thoroughly coated. Keep adding cinnamon if you have to – it’s hard to overdo. Repeat for the second log.
  12. Cut your log into individual cookies (I made 12 each for a total of 24). Array them on a baking sheet lined with baking paper (or, better still, a Silpat sheet).
  13. Brush the tops of the cookies with beaten egg, and scatter generous amounts of sesame over them.
  14. Bake for around 20 minutes until golden brown. Take out and leave to cool.
Around the world in 80 bakes, no.60: Khobzet borgden – Tunisian orange cake

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.60: Khobzet borgden – Tunisian orange cake

Tunisia grows a lot of oranges. Over 550,000 tonnes, according to The Guardian, in what was admittedly a freak year – apparently, 200-400,000 is more normal. Anyway, you have to do something with all that fruit, and one of things the Tunisians do is to make orange cake – or “Khobzet borgden”, as it’s called in Arabic.

If you look up English language recipes for Tunisian Orange Cake, you tend to get something different, often involving stale breadcrumbs and a lot of ground almonds. These are also very good – my wife has been making her mother’s orange almond cake recipe for years and it’s a winner – but I can’t find any evidence that they’re authentically Tunisian: the closest I got was a recipe where the cake was decorated with flaked almonds.

So I’ve gone for one of the many recipes for Khobzet borgden on Tunisian websites, generally in French. Variations include choice of fat (butter / olive oil / vegetable oil) and how to treat your oranges: the most extreme one I’ve seen involved blitzing whole oranges – skin, pips and all – and adding the resulting purée to your cake mix. Just about all the recipes involve drizzling your finished cake with an orange syrup. I’ve started with one from tunisienumerique.com (translation: digital Tunisia), which uses oil (I chose olive – it doesn’t specify) and lots of orange zest as well as decorating the top of the cake with slices of orange.

A couple of notes on my adaptation: (1) the suggested baking time of 20-25 minutes wasn’t even close. Either their oven or their baking tin is very different from mine. (2) my cake domed hugely in the middle. The original recipe specifies one sachet of baking powder, and I have no idea how much you get in a Tunisian baking powder sachet. So I went with around 12g, which may have been a bit excessive.

  • 300g plain flour
  • 12g baking powder
  • 3 oranges
  • 3 eggs
  • 150g granulated sugar
  • 100g olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 180℃ fan.
  2. Grease with butter a 20cm springform tin (or other cake tin of similar size).
  3. Sift your flour and baking powder into a bowl.
  4. Zest at least two of the oranges (all three if you really want a bitter orange flavour).
  5. Slice one of the zested oranges into rounds (I needed five rounds to fit onto my 20cm springform tin). Squeeze the juice out of the rest of this orange and the other two: you should get around 200ml. If the yield is substantially less, you might want to add some orange juice from elsewhere (or from a fourth orange if you have one).
  6. Put the eggs and 100g of granulated sugar into the bowl of your stand mixer and mix at high speed until well blended.
  7. Add the orange zest and 100g of the orange juice and mix until well blended.
  8. Add the oil and mix until well blended.
  9. Add the flour and baking powder and mix until you have a smooth batter.
  10. Pour the batter into your tin. Arrange the orange slices over the top, pressing each slightly in so that it’s level with the batter.
  11. Put your tin into the oven and bake for around 30-35 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.
  12. Meanwhile, make a syrup: put your remaining 50g of sugar and 100ml (approximately) of orange juice into a saucepan, bring to the boil, stirring frequently.
  13.  Cook until the syrup is thick (if you’re using a sugar thermometer, aim for around 105℃).
  14. When the cake is done, leave it to cool for a couple of minutes, then drizzle the syrup you should try to get the rest absorbed into the cake.
  15. Take off the outside of the springform tin and then cool the cake on a rack.

Tunisians would accompany this with black coffee. Personally, I’d go for both black coffee and a scoop of pistachio ice cream. But the choice is yours…