No, this isn’t a blog post about long epistles on the subject of love or poetry or butterflies in one’s stomach or that fluttery feeling in one’s heart. Instead it’s about one final Chinese New Year treat I thought I’d write about: love letters. These wafery biscuits were absolutely my favourite thing to eat as a little girl, no doubt due in part to the rather romantic name. No recipe this time; I bought a big jarful of this glorious Nyonya/Malaysian treat from Wonderful Patisserie on Gerrard Street in Chinatown.

Love Letters

These biscuits, also known as kuih kapit but I’ve always preferred the more amorous name, are paper-thin and crisp and just shatter when you take a bite, flakes flying everywhere. The flavour is toasty biscuit with a coconut milk aroma. They’re so light too and it’s terribly easy to dip your hand into the jar for one and then another and another and another. I’ve seen them presented in two ways, folded into quarters like I bought or rolled into cigars, and I saw both at the shop.

Love Letters and Tea

They were £6.99 for a large tubful of them and the price reflects the work involved in making them (well, kind of – I thought these were quite a bargain!). Each biscuit is made individually using special moulds filled with batter and then cooked over charcoal. When done, and still hot, they’re peeled off the mould and folded or rolled and left to cool and crisp. Making a jarful cannot be an easy task!

I’ve no idea if they’re still available but I highly recommend seeking out these biscuits! They’re delicious with a cup of tea.

These biscuits were inspired by some I bought at the Japan Centre last year: little brown, crisp, buttery biscuits with bits of adzuki bean. They were ridiculously moreish and I scoffed the lot at my work desk in under an hour. I had to recreate them and after a bit of investigation discovered that they were just smaller, slightly overbaked langues de chat (cat’s tongues). This and finding toasted black sesame seeds at the Japan Centre led to a modification of that biscuit.

Spoon Shaped

Inspired by this post, I made spoon shapes to give away for Christmas – they’re much cuter than the original shape and would also be adorable presented with a scoop of ice cream. For myself, I made little one-bite dots that disappeared alarmingly quickly…

Dots

Oh, and they’re perfect with a cup of tea!

Black Sesame Langues de Chat
adapted from Bouchon Bakery’s recipe.
makes about 48 traditionally shaped ones.

4 tbsps/60g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup packed icing sugar (85g)
a pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup/75g flour
black sesame seeds

Cream the butter, sugar and salt together until well combined and very creamy and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla extract and the egg whites, adding them one at a time and combining well after each addition. Fold in the flour until well combined. Stick the mixture into the fridge for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 180C.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone line. Fill a piping bag with a 1/4 inch tip or a plastic bag (snip the corner after filling) with the batter and use to pipe lines (for a traditional shape) or blobs (for circles) or lines with a large blob at the end (for spoons) on the baking sheet. (See the photos.) Leave at least 3cm between the biscuits as they’ll spread a lot. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds. Bake for about 8-10 minutes or until the edges are just tinged brown; don’t be afraid to let those edges brown – if not, they insides may still be a bit chewy. Halfway through baking, turn the baking sheet around – I found that this helped with even baking in my oven. If you’re using two baking sheets at the same time, switch and turn the sheets around halfway through baking.

Sprinkled

Ready for Baking
Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. I doubt they’ll last that long!

As my Brussels post was becoming a bit epic, I decided to post the take home goodies separately. A number of well known Belgian food shops are located in and around the Place du Sablon and I decided to hit up the ones that were particular to Brussels. Neuhaus, Godiva and Cote D’Or chocolates can all be purchased in London so those were all missed (I’m not a fan of Godiva myself). That left Wittamer, Pierre Marcolini and Dandoy.

I started at Wittamer and chose 250g of chocolates at about €12.

Wittamer Chocolates

I was quite taken with the fresh cream chocolates – huge, slightly chewy and uh…creamy. That big, tan coloured praline on top was a fresh cream coffee chocolate. However, I was greatly disappointed by a pineapple praline whose description was better than its execution.

After, Pierre Marcolini (why did you close your Kensington shop?!), where I purchased a boxful of his chocolates (34 in a box – one of each available , though the eagle eyed among you will notice two of one kind – hmm)…

Pierre Marcolini Chocolates

… and a length of vanilla marshmallow.

Guimauve Vanille

It’s hard not to compare the products of the two chocolatiers. At €17 for the Pierre Marcolini box (about €70 per kilo), this was more expensive than the Wittamer chocolates. If the little jewel-like chocolates are that pretty girl you have your eye on, the Wittamer chocs are her thug of a brother who won’t let you near her. While delicious, the Wittamer chocs lacked the Marcolini refinement and their flavours were more muted. Of the Marcolini chocolates, the pink peppercorn, safron, the Pierre Marcolini Grand Cru and those with crunchy Quimper wafer were particularly memorable while the mango one was the most disappointing. Notice the trend? Perhaps tropical flavours shouldn’t be attempted. I had to buy the marshmallow after seeing this image on the Marcolini website – it’s so light and fluffy and is probably the best marshmallow I’ve ever had. I’m spoiled for life.

I ended with Dandoy, the Brussels-based biscuiterie. Here I bought 300g (about €11) of a selection of their biscuits, my favourites being Patience (a chewy almond macaroon with a hazelnut on top), Earl Grey (a butter biscuit scented with Earl Grey tea) and Chocolate Perlé (a shortbread with bits of chocolate and hazelnut). They have gorgeous biscuits and an equally gorgeous pain à la grecque (also in my previous post).

Dandoy Biscuits

There are definitely other excellent food shops in Brussels but those were left out due to a lack of time. Good thing there’s a cluster of them in the Place du Sablon!

Pierre Marcolini
Rue des Minimes, 1
Place du Grand Sablon
Brussels, Belgium

Wittamer
12 Place du Grand Sablon
Brussels, Belgium

Dandoy
Rue de Rollebeek, 50
(just off the Place du Grand Sablon)
Brussels, Belgium

And here are the cookies from the previous picnic post. I don’t normally bake many cookies – I’m always afraid I’ll scoff the whole lot in one sitting. These very scoffable cookies come from a recipe I clipped out from the Guardian ages ago by baking extraordinaire Dan Lepard. They are crisp with a slight chew from the oatmeal within. The toasted seeds give a lovely nuttiness without any actual nuts, of course, thus making it perfect for those with nut allergies.

Cookies

Back then, when I tried the recipe for the first time, I even threw in some chocolate chips I had lying around and I do like them in there! They’re like healthier chocolate chip cookies. Well, “healthier” – I think the seeds really do fool me there. Blai likes them without the chocolate and honestly, they’re still pretty good that way.

Cookie

One-a-Day Cookies
adapted from a recipe by Dan Lepard
makes 12-20.

125g unsalted butter, softened
100g caster sugar (I used golden)
100g soft muscovado (brown) sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g plain flour
75g sunflower seeds (shelled)
75g pumpkin seeds (shelled)
100g rolled oats

Lightly toast the seeds first. Place both seeds into a dry nonstick frying pan over low to medium heat. Toss the seeds around occasionally. When they’re ready, they will have a light toasty nutty smell to them and you’ll hear them pop a bit. Leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

Cream the butter and sugars together. Mix in the egg and vanilla until combined. Stir in the flour and when all mixed in, add the seeds and oats and stir together carefully.

Place heaped tablespoons of batter on the baking sheet (only 6 at a time as they’ll spread), flattening each heap slightly with the back of the spoon. Bake for 10-12 minutes until the edges are just turning brown. Take out of the oven and let cool for 1 minute before transferring the cookies to a cooling rack.

Before Baking

These cookies will keep for a few days in an airtight container at room temperature and they’re actually better after a night’s rest than on the day they’re baked.