Monday, May 6, 2013

Fried cookie twists courtesy of Mongolia

If you wanted proof positive that Mongolia’s cuisine has direct links with India and the Middle East, check out this recipe. 

Fried cookies seem to be beloved in many parts of the world, but these lightly sweetened cookies called boortsog are often served with honey and cheese, which puts them firmly in the Silk Road camp.

Of course, you don’t need to enjoy these alongside honey and some fresh farmer’s cheese, but it certainly doesn't hurt. Neither does a nice cup of hot black tea or, even better, some Butter Tea.

I have sprinkled these with some powdered sugar, which definitely is not traditional, but this highlights the beautiful twists in the cookies so well that I never can resist.

Fried butter cookies
Makes enough for at least 20 people
Lightly crunchy, not too sweet

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cool filtered water
About 4½ cups regular Korean or Chinese flour
Fresh peanut or vegetable oil for frying
Powdered sugar, optional

1. In a medium work bowl, mix the sugar, salt, and water with the melted butter. Stir in 4 cups of flour to form a soft dough. Sprinkle ½ cup flour on a smooth surface and knead the dough until smooth, adding more flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Cover the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes.

2. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and work on one piece at a time; cover whatever dough you are not immediately working on. Roll a piece of dough out to around ¼ inch in thickness.  Use a pizza or ravioli cutter, or even a knife, to cut the dough into strips about 1 inch wide. Then, trim the ends of the strips and cut these into pieces that are more or less 3 inches long.

Slit open, twist once, then once again
3. To shape the cookies, use a small knife to cut a slit down the middle of the strip of dough, stopping about ½ inch from either end. Gently insert one end of the dough through the slit 2 times, which will make the long edges twist (see photo on the right). Repeat with the rest of the dough until all have been shaped.

4. Pour enough fresh oil into a wok or saucepan to give you a depth of at least 3 inches. Heat the oil over medium-high until a chopstick inserted in the oil is covered with bubbles (275°F). While the oil is heating up, cover a baking sheet with a couple of paper towels, have some chopsticks ready to pick the cookies out of the hot oil, a large platter for the finished cookies. If you want to sprinkle powdered sugar on the hot cookies, have a small sieve, a spoon, and the powdered sugar ready.

Fried to a golden brown
5. Carefully add only a few cookies at a time to the hot oil, and then do not stir them around for at least 20 seconds so that they keep their shape. Then, use your chopsticks to gently move them in the oil to keep them from sticking. As soon as they are a medium brown, use your chopsticks to pluck them out of the oil, and then place them on the paper towels to drain. Place them on the plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar, if you want. Repeat with the rest of the cookies until all have been fried, adjusting the heat as necessary to keep them from burning.

6. Cool the cookies to room temperature and store in an airtight container.

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