As it was very well documented, Jason and I had a wonderful trip to Malaysia last month. And needless to say my kitchen has been a little experimental lab for recreating all the wild things we ate, purely based the
vivid fading memories and my limited knowledge on Malaysian ingredients which has proven to be a bit insufficient. Of course there’s the curry laksa that I somehow managed to pull together which I am pretty pleased about, but the rests are still powering their way through to be worthy of being published. And one of which being this really strange dessert called cendul, a shaved iced desserts with red beans, pandang jelly and palm sugar syrup.
We had very fond memories of cendul partially because it saved us from a major dehydration + heat stroke in the midst of a VERY hot day. I still can’t believe that my rapidly blurring vision was able to spot the very happening stall with a tail of long queue hidden inside a narrow alley. As we approached closer and what I saw started to make sense, I heard myself hailing, “ICE!!!! What!? OMG, it’s ICE!! Was it sweat or tears on my face? I don’t know, and at that point I didn’t even care what was in it. I’d eat it even if it came with durian toppings… (ok maybe not). But it was more unexpected than that. I really can’t describe the taste besides saying that both sweet and savory note hit simultaneously in the first bite… does that make sense? At first it was weird, but then it grew on us with each bite as it slowly became clear that it was going to be addictive in the strangest way. I knew I had to crack the code on this one when we return.
OK, at this point you are probably thinking that’s all nice and all but… WTF does this have to do with biscuits?!! Well, sometimes… testing recipes has unintended consequences, and this is that. The cendul itself has proven to be… a little difficult to crack (GOT freshly-extracted-coconut MILK?), but what it leaves me with is a load of stewed red beans. Well, me being an evident biscuit fanatic, you know where those red beans are going to end up in. But of course it wouldn’t just be red bean biscuits. That’s boring. How about some gooey-wooey marshmallows that melt and drape over the top? Oh that sounds fantastic! I must make it right now. .
The biscuits part went smooth-sailing as I have gotten biscuits-making down to a second instinct. Besides a little hiccup along the way where I mistakenly preheated the oven at 375ºF which should have been 500ºF! Had a COMPLETE PANIC + EMOTIONAL MELTDOWN, and had to shove the tray of biscuits into my already-overloaded fridge (MOVE your FAT ass, cabbage!!) while waiting for the oven to crank up. But hey, no biggies because the biscuits puffed anyways so you don’t have to hear about it. Now, the marshmallow part… is truly a bit crushing. I originally envisioned it to beautifully melt and drool down to the side like any responsible melty-things would do. But as I watched them stubbornly caramelized and browned in the oven in their ORIGINAL shapes, I realized the only thing that’s going to melt beautifully today is my unrealistic expectation. So now I have biscuits with popcorn-looking things stuck on top (or flowers… or… omg! It’s like a Rorschach!). But they are delicious nonetheless and I hope your marshmallows behave more appropriately than mine.
Servings: 12 biscuits
For an even more detailed guide to biscuits, go here.
- 3/4 cup of red bean paste *
- 2 cups of flour
- 3 tbsp of sugar
- 1 tbsp of baking powder
- 1/4 tsp of baking soda
- 1/4 tsp of cinnamon powder
- 1/8 tsp of freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp of salt
- 80 g of unsalted butter, cubed and frozen (or chilled REALLY REALLY COLD)
- 3/4 ~ 1 cup of buttermilk (depending on the consistency of the red bean paste)
- 10 ~ 12 large marshmallows
*I would totally advice buying canned red bean paste because it’s super time-consuming even though I made my own. First I cook the red beans in water with a 1:3 ratio (I began with 1 cup of beans + 3 cups of water), and add more water along the way as it evaporates (add 1 more cup of water every time the water is reduced by 1/2) until the red beans are soft and cooked through, which took me AT LEAST 3 hours. Then I puree the red beans in a food processor with sugar (depending on how sweet you want it) and vegetable oil (I used 4 tbsp for a smoother consistency), put it back on the stove and reduce until it resembles the consistency of a paste (the puree would go from a pale pink to dark red). The entire process took about 4~5 hours for a total amount of 2 cups of red bean puree…. Like I said, buying is easier.
** The recipe calls for 3/4 ~ 1 cup of buttermilk because the consistency of red bean paste varies. My paste is fairly dense and stiff so I used 1 cup of buttermilk, but some paste could contain more water so in that case I would reduce the amount of buttermilk a little bit.
Cube and chill the butter in the fridge or freezer for 30 min. Preheat the oven on 500ºF/23oºC, 20 MIN BEFORE YOU START WITH THE DOUGH.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon powder, nutmeg and salt in a food processor bowl (or you could do this with a hand-held pastry blender). Add the should-be-very-COLD butter, and pulse until the BIGGEST butter-bits are the size of NOT PEAS (too big, man!), I’d say barleys. Add the red bean paste and pulse again until JUST combined (no more than 5 pulses). Transfer the mixture to another bowl and add 3/4 ~ 1 cup of buttermilk **. Use a spatula to fold the mixture in together until it’s roughly combined.
Transfer to a floured surface, dust the dough with some flour and roll it out into a 1/2″ (1cm) thick sheet. Cut into 4 equal sections and stack them together, then roll it out again into a 1 ” (2.5cm) thick sheet. Cut the biscuits out with a biscuit mold (press it down in one swift motion would give prettier and cleaner biscuit edges), and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Gather the scraps again and cut as many biscuits out as you can, then discard the rest of the scraps (or use them if you don’t mind really really ugly biscuits). Brush the top of the biscuits with egg wash (beat 1 egg + 1 tbsp of water).
Bake them in the oven until puffed and golden browned, approx 15 min. Take the baking sheet out and top each biscuits with 1 ~ 2 marshmallows (I divide 1 big marshmallow into 2 pieces and put 3 pieces on top of each biscuits). Return them back to the oven and bake until the marshmallows are darkly browned and caramelized (or you can do it with a torch!).
This is one of those things that you’ll want to enjoy when it’s nice and warm.