Red (Adzuki) Bean Hand Pies

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So I brought these little hand pies to my mum and two friends for a taste test, and we were all floored. One of my friends, who doesn’t have the biggest sweet tooth, started off with an ‘omg, these are incredible’, before pausing and commencing to talk specifically about the balance in texture and flavour of his delicate, puffed-up pie. ‘I like how it’s mildly sweet and soft in the middle, and crazy crisp everywhere else. Not too sweet either. Whoa.’ I couldn’t agree more. As my mum and I shared one, a tingling warmth rippled through my being. There is nothing like sharing a delicious treat with those you love.

London’s cold spell was brief and impactful. Harsh winds and cancelled train rides aside, the most beguiling thing was to watch my gloved hand traverse the page in my diary, just this time last week. Not once did I ever have to write in my diary with a shivering hand.

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And so comfort had to be in tow. No question about it. Tinker tinker, tinker tinker. A brief encounter with the adzuki bean reminded me how powerful it can be in conjuring up such profound memories and nostalgia. Native to the Himalayas and Southeast Asia, it is especially common in Japan, where it is used in a variety of different desserts. Red bean mochi and red beans scattered in my ice kachang were some of my favourite desserts as a child, ones I appreciate now more than ever in London, where Asian desserts are still rather uncommon. If one is so lucky to find them, they still tend to bear ridiculous prices. Another reason to make these yourself at home!

The best thing about these hand pies, cute filling aside, is the delicious, outrageously crisp crust. Complementing it is the just-right sweetness of red bean paste, smooth and sticky. You could customise the filling by adding things like soft dates (deglet/medjool) and nuts for some interesting dimension and a different mouthfeel.

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Red Bean Hand Pies (makes 10-12 little hand pies)

Ingredients 

For the red bean paste:

200g (1 cup) adzuki beans

240ml (1 cup) water

pinch of salt

200g (1 cup) granulated sugar

 

For the puff pastry:

280g (about 2 and 1/4 cups) plain flour, and have a little bowl with some extra flour set aside for sprinkling later on (sub: half white and half whole-wheat, or use a gluten-free flour such as coconut or rice)

120ml (1/2 cup) vegan butter (sub: coconut oil)

120ml (1/2 cup) cold water

pinch of salt

1 tbsp sugar

 

Directions

The night before you make the pies, soak the adzuki beans in the water. In the morning, drain the beans, place them into a saucepan. Add fresh water to the saucepan until there is about an inch of water covering the beans. Turn on the heat and let the beans come to a boil. Once at a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook the beans for about 45 minutes. During this time, start making the pastry. You could use a food processor but I prefer using my hands in a bowl to get a good feel of the dough. In a bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter/coconut oil and squeeze it into the flour until you get floury clumps. You don’t have to make sure everything comes into clumps, you should just have a relatively dry and crumbly mixture. Add a quarter cup of water to start, then add the rest slowly until the dough just comes together in a large clump. The mixture will be quite dry. Add more or less water until you get to this point. Put the dough in a bowl and place this in the fridge.

After 45 minutes of cooking the beans (give them a stir every once in a while), add half of the sugar and salt. Continue cooking for 15 minutes. Squeeze one of the beans– if it breaks easily then you’re on the right track. If not, never mind, just continue cooking until most of the beans are easily smushed (I LOVE that word). Continue cooking until most water is evaporated. Add the rest of the sugar and cook for another 5 minutes before taking the pan off the heat. Use a fork to smush the beans more into a paste. Leave the beans to cool in the fridge; this is also when the paste (termed anko in Japanese) will thicken.

Preheat your oven to 190C. Lightly flour a work surface and, using a rolling pin, roll out your dough until about half a centimetre thick. Using the edges of a glass cup, cutters or a measuring cup, cut 5-inch circles in the dough, starting from the edges to save space. Take your bean paste from the fridge and place a heaped teaspoon of the paste in the centre of one circle. Wet your finger to draw a thin layer of water along the borders of the circle surrounding the paste, then place another circle of dough on top. Pinch the pie along its sides to seal the pie. Using a fork, make little fork marks (or claw marks, as I like to call them) around the edges, then flip the pie and do the same on the other side. Repeat until dough is finished. And now for the important part!! Brush the tops of the pies with water– this will make the tops super crisp once out of the oven. Then sprinkle some sugar on the tops, and place the pies in the preheated oven. Bake them for at least half an hour. Check on them at 25 minutes– if they are already golden-brown take them out, but mine took 30 or so minutes.

 

Apple Galette

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I had been meaning to make an apple galette for quite a while now. I must be this specific– apple galette. Nothing else would have done it for me. Just… Nothing. I had to, and the urge was running wild; coursing hot through my blood. I had looked at quite a few recipes, and surprisingly most required the dough to be set in the fridge for at least an hour or so (understandably), and for the apples to go through a caramelising or some other cook-through method beforehand. Not that I would have minded so terribly… But sadly I am a creature of convenience. Stark laziness, even, sometimes. I’ll be honest. I was really pleased with how this turned out, even after making the radical adaptations. I like those burnt edges. Kill me if you wish. I do. The buttery, caramelised apples with a tender bottom crust go wonderfully with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. I paired a slice with some leftover salted caramel sauce, because I didn’t have any ice cream lying around and yes, that was enough to break my heart. The flavours are simple, wonderful, joyful.

As a student, I don’t have hours and hours to play around with recipes; words like ‘proving’ and ‘resting in the damn fridge for 40 hours’ just don’t cut it most of the time. I came across smittenkitchen’s recipe for the ‘simplest apple tart’, and thought it just perfect to play with. My own adjustments were pretty radical, so I’m going to re-type everything I changed. I swear, dough making in this bloody Singapore heat is a right pain, so I suggest only using things like butter and cold water right when you need it, and straight out of the fridge. Blast the air con and get to work!

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Ingredients:

For galette dough:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 and a half tablespoons sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 80g cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes (I used half salted, half unsalted, just because I love a little extra)
  • 2 tablespoons cold water

For apple filling:

  • 3-4 small apples, sliced into thin slivers
  • 30g melted butter
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar (preferably dark muscovado, if you have that sort of thing lying around)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • half teaspoon nutmeg

For glaze:

  • a quarter cup of your favourite jam (I used marmalade), warmed for a couple minutes in the microwave

 

Method:

Slice the apples and mix with the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl. Set aside. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C.

In a food processor, blend the flour, sugar, salt and butter. Pulse until the biggest pieces resemble medium-sized peas. Slowly add in the cold water, continuing to pulse at a moderate speed. I only needed around 2 tablespoons. Grab a handful of dough and squeeze to see if it holds together. If it does, then it’s fine. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gather into a round and slightly flattened ball. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 10 minutes (Yes! 10. Praise the Lord).

Take the dough out from fridge and using a floured rolling pin on lightly floured surface, roll out until it’s approximately 11 inches wide. Place dough onto a greased, large baking dish lined with parchment (VERY IMPORTANT STEP HERE. DO NOT be like me and do this only after painstakingly placing the apples on top. Please. Learn from my mistakes. Or I will cry for you.)

Take your beautiful cinnamon and sugar-crusted apples and layer them, one by one in a ring spiral, with the outer edges 1.5-2 inches away from the edge of the dough. Continue layering in a ring, working your way to the centre of the circle. Once you reach the centre, you can bend a few slices to fit the very middle, like a rose. If you have extra slices, place them in random nooks around the ring, so they all fit nicely.

Now, this is my favourite bit: Take the outside edges of dough and fold them over, in sections around the ring of apples. Let it be loose and rustic and messy. Enough with the neat crimping. That’s for the uppity. Now brush the melted butter over the edges you folded over and the exposed apple slices. Yum yum. Sprinkle the sugar over the whole thing. Free and easy. Footloose and fancy-free. The joy, the joy, I tell you.

Bake in preheated oven on middle rack for 40 minutes. Leave it in the oven to cool before taking out.

Warm your favourite jam in the microwave for a few minutes, and using a pastry brush, brush all over that beautiful little rustic thing. Galette. The word makes me swoon. The gazelle of all tarts. The almighty apple galette.

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