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
- Put the butter beans in a bowl and cover with a lot of cold water: soak overnight.
- 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.
- Drain the beans and leave until cool enough to handle.
- Remove the tough outer skin of the beans and discard, placing the peeled beans in the bowl of food processor.
- Add sugar, salt and vanilla, and process until very smooth (this takes longer than you expect).
- Put into a covered bowl and refrigerate while you make the dough.
- 15 g butter
- 80g condensed milk
- 130g flour
- 1 egg
- 5g baking powder
- 2g salt
- Vanilla extract to taste
- Melt the butter and pour into a bowl
- Add the condensed milk and stir
- Add egg, baking powder, salt and vanilla and stir
- Add the flour and mix until you have a smooth dough
- 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
- Preheat oven to 180°C.
- Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan until fragrant. Set aside.
- Beat the egg yolk in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Flour your board
- Separate the bean paste into two halves. Separate the dough into two halves.
- Form a half of the bean paste into a ball.
- Roll half of the dough into a circle big enough to be wrapped around the ball.
- Roll your assembled ball into a log.
- Repeat for the second half of the bean paste and dough.
- Spread cinnamon powder over a space of your board that’s been cleared of flour.
- 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.
- 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).
- Brush the tops of the cookies with beaten egg, and scatter generous amounts of sesame over them.
- Bake for around 20 minutes until golden brown. Take out and leave to cool.