不會太甜: Taiwanese Cronuts, Holiday Cookies, and ChatGPT
also, it's the last day to order in time for Christmas
This is Yun Hai Taiwan Stories, a newsletter about Taiwanese food and culture by Lisa Cheng Smith 鄭衍莉, founder of Yun Hai. If you aren’t yet a subscriber, sign up here.
This month, I tried farming out part of the newsletter to ChatGPT, who, in an unrelated experiment, provided a very off-base method for making Ai Yu Jelly that was perfectly written but would make the world implode. Do not trust. We also share three holiday cookie recipes, adapted by contributor Cat Yeh to include a selection of Yun Hai ingredients. And, introducing a new section, where I wrap with a round up of cool Taiwan-related things I’m excited about.
A friendly reminder that it’s the last day to order from our website in time for Christmas delivery. Have a happy holiday everyone! See you on the other side.
When I started this newsletter, I vowed that, no matter how stuck I felt, I would never write an overly self-reflexive intro, exemplified by the all too familiar “as i sat down to write this” lead in. But, feeling braindead, I asked Chat GPT, society’s new trendy, friendly AI chatbot, to do the dirty work for me:
Great—exactly the kind of intro I was hoping to avoid. I was surprised at the apt description of the fog of street food, and enjoyed the underlying tone of desperation. The finishing touch of a chicken with a hat made me giggle, though I would describe almost everything I’ve produced lately as more coherent than that.
It took only a few more rounds to get closer to something I would never, ever write:
Perfect, but I can’t shake the feeling that the judgment passed on the cronut is secretly a jab at me. Is that you, Wintermute?
Actually, I don’t have writer’s block. I’m just chillin’…..in the red hot volcanic water that is the holiday shopping season. My notes, research, and gentler thoughts are stacked in a pile, waiting for Christmas to come. I do have that picture of the cronut though:
4 stars, highly recommend, I waited in line for almost an hour while batches of fresh donuts came out every 5 minutes. The best place to get them is on the hill between the Upper and Lower Old streets in Fenqihu 奮起湖, as seen in the video below:
The donuts are made by twisting laminated dough into two-sided donut molds, and heating them. During baking, the dough expands, the sugar and butter caramelize, and the skin becomes crispy. Accurately described in the video above as “golden crispy skin, inner Q bomb, rich creamy nose.” Also, not too sweet 不會太甜.
Yun Hai Holiday Cookies
This season, Cat Yeh adapted cookie recipes from our favorite food writers (Zoe Kanan, Kristina Cho, and Namiko Chen) to include a few of the Taiwanese ingredients we offer (and that you may have in your pantry). We’ve included the original recipe links, please check them out!
Sesame Chili Crisp Cookies
A savory leaning cookie with rich flavors and a spiciness that kicks in at the end. We adapted Zoe Kanan’s recipe to include Bullet Chili Crisp, which brings a spicy, savory flavor reminiscent of gingersnaps. We recommend eating them warm (cover them with a damp cloth and warm them in the microwave or a Tatung for 15 seconds). Room temperature works too; they’ll be quite crunchy.
adapted from Zoe Kanan’s Peanut Butter Chili Crisp Cookies
makes 20 cookies
1 jar (6.3 oz) of Dong He Mixed Sesame Paste
1 tablespoon white miso
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus more for coating
1/2 cup Taiwanese black sugar
2/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Dong He Bullet Chili Crisp (add more if you want more heat)
Fold sesame paste, miso, and egg together in a bowl. In another bowl, add both types of sugar, all purpose flour, salt, and baking soda and mix.
Add the dry ingredients into the sesame miso mix and stir. When blended, the dough should have a sandy, grainy texture. Next, add the chili crisp and stir to distribute evenly. Rest in fridge for 2 hours or overnight.
After resting, preheat the oven to 350° F. While preheating, line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Use 1/2 oz ice cream scoop to scoop dough and form into a ball. Roll to coat in granulated sugar and place on the baking sheet. Press gently down on each dough ball with a fork to flatten and create a pattern.
Bake for 10-15 minutes. Cookie is done when puffed up and slightly cracked on top. Cool in sheet pan before removing.
Black Sesame Soy Paste Shortbread
A fragrant and aromatic tea cookie with a crumbly texture. We use black sesame paste instead of seeds and took a cue from Ozzy Hsieh (soy sauce brewer and baker at Yu Ding Xing) and added soy paste. We sliced them thick, which results in half as many cookies as the original recipe, but a satisfying bite.
adapted from Just One Cookbook: Black Sesame Cookies
makes 20 cookies
1 stick unsalted butter
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup almond meal
6 tablespoons sugar, a bit more if you like things on the sweeter side
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon Soy Paste with Glutinous Rice
1/2 cup Dong He Black Sesame Paste (unsweetened)
1 large egg yolk
Cut butter into small cubes and keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.
In a food processor, combine flour, almond meal, sugar, and salt. Add in the cold butter and pulse until the textures is crumbly. Add in the egg yolk, black sesame paste, and soy paste, then pulse until combined.
Form the dough into a ball and cut it in half. Roll it into a log about 2" thick. Wrap in plastic and chill in the refrigerator until firm (about 1 hour).
Preheat oven to 350 °F. Remove the dough from plastic wrap and cut into discs 1/2 inch thick. Place the cookies on the lined baking sheet.
Bake for 20-25 minutes. The cookies are done when they are lightly browned on the sides. Cool for 10 minutes and then transfer to wire rack. Enjoy within three days or store in the freezer.
Kumquat Thumbprint Cookies
The tartness of the kumquat combines perfectly with the warm flavors of the dough, delivering on that warm, fuzzy, holiday feeling. The Geli Kumquat products are available in the Yun Hai Brooklyn store. If you don’t have them you can reference the original recipe for a delicious persimmon compote.
adapted from Eat Cho Food’s Persimmon Thumbprint Cookies
makes 20 Cookies
2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar + 1/2 cup for coating
1/2 cup Geli Kumquat Sauce
1/3 cup Geli Dried Kumquat pieces, roughly chopped
In a large mixing bowl combine flour, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, combine butter and cream cheese. Mix until smooth. Add vanilla, egg, and sugar, and mix until combined. Add in the flour and mix until just combined.
Knead by hand until smooth. Form the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
While your dough is resting, make the kumquat filling. Roughly chop the dried kumquat slices. Combine the chopped kumquat slices with kumquat sauce in a mixing bowl.
Preheat oven to 350 °F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper, and place sugar in a shallow bowl. Take out the chilled dough and divide in to 20 equal pieces (about 1.5 Tablespoon each). Roll each portion into a smooth ball and dust with the sugar. Place them evenly onto the baking sheet.
Using the palm of your hand press down till they are about 1/2" thick. Use a spoon (or your finger) make an indent in the middle of the dough. Fill with kumquat mix. Bake 20-25 minutes, until lightly golden brown.
Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on the sheet and then transfer to a wire rack.
Roundup: Cool Taiwan Stuff
Introducing a new section where I share nice things that I’ve come across relating to Taiwanese food and culture.
1035, a cafe and historical landmark in an old Japanese hospital in Central Taichung, soft opens on December 13th. I was lucky to get a friends and family preview with Mikey Chen (of Cha Jiu Lab, which will be whole feature of its own) and Sydro, the architects responsible for the beautiful restoration and location planning.
This Saturday, we’re having a Winter Solstice party, featuring a Tang Yuan pop up with Taiwanese chef and food writer Jessie Yu Chen. If you’re in NYC, please swing by!
Hunter Lu wrote about Yun Hai’s mission in Foreign Policy magazine. As you know, we’re always pedal to the metal on creating a deeper understanding of Taiwan and Taiwanese food identity.
Currently have the track from the opening scene of Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Millenium Mambo on repeat: A Pure Person by Lim Giong.
Check out this short video of me in the store, introducing our Maestro Wu Knife collection.
The Tongluo Chrysathemum Festival happens every November in Miaoli, Taiwan. Folks gather to watch the chrysanthemums bloom enjoy Hakka cuisine (including deep fried chrysanthemum flowers). The festival has just wrapped, but worthy to note for anyone planning to be in Taiwan next fall.
For any holiday orders that you want delivered by December 24th, we recommend ordering by today, December 14th. If you miss the deadline, you can still order, but we can’t guarantee any arrival times. If you are in NYC, our shop will be open through December 24th.
A struggling but determined writer.
Lisa Cheng Smith
Editing and content support by Cat Yeh, Jason Park, and Lillian Lin. Photos by Lisa Cheng Smith, unless otherwise noted. Got a question, a topic you want covered, or have something to share? Reply to this email and let me know. I love hearing from you!
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A great read as always. Don't stop writing! I love reading your newsletters, I always learn a lot!