Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Found your best Hup Toh Soh 核桃酥 / Chinese Walnut Cookies?

You only need a piece of walnut to bake each Dim Sum / Yum Cha style hup toh soh....

I was like "Huh!!!" when my friend's dad, a retired Dim Sum chef told me this. He said there is actually no added walnut in hup toh soh cookie mixture. The piece of walnut that Dim Sum chefs use is the one on each cookies which serves as a garnish to tell all consumers that the cookies are hup toh soh (核桃酥) meaning crunchy and smooth walnut cookies (in Cantonese)...

Hearing this, my heart was thinking... "Is this real???" Whether real or not, it is up to all hup toh soh lovers to detect if there is any real walnut taste in their favourite cookies and decide the perspective of this statement. Whether if you and I can detect any walnut in our hup toh soh or not, I guess that the absolute way to know is if we know the bakers or if we bake the cookies ourselves.

In regardless with or without walnut, why are all the restaurant style hup toh soh so crunchy and "soh"? According to my friend's dad, the most traditional way of baking hup toh soh require shortening /lard (not butter or oil), sugar, salt, flour and baking bicarbonate. Typically, most cookies have a smooth texture because there is no coarsely ground walnut in them.

When I was living in Singapore, I used to take-away a couple of hup toh soh from Crystal Jade restaurants at Suntec city area and Orchard road. All because I like hup toh soh, particularly the type that Crystal Jade restaurants are selling. The hup toh soh that I like are pale-coloured, smooth inside and crinkled being extra crunchy outside. With much thinking, I tend to believe that it is true that hup toh soh requires shortening or lard without much walnut content to make these cookies extra crunchy and "soh"...

So, which hup toh soh recipe is exactly what I'm after? Like I always do, Google... If you search Google with the words, hup toh soh, You will find this from Singapore Shiok, this from Messy Witch, this from Roti n Rice, this from Cooking Pleasure, this from My Kitchen Snippets, this from Frozen Wings and this from Lily's Wai Sek Hong. They are the same being hup toh soh but they all look quite different... And, I stare, stare and stare at these recipes and then I see SOMETHING... Gosh! I feel like a baking Matt Damon from the movie, Good will Hunting!!! - LOL!

I saw a hup toh soh common equation...

150 g/ml of fat + 300g flour plus ground walnut + 80g sugar + about 2 tsp raising agents (not required if the flour is self-raising) + salt + egg wash  = hup toh soh!!!

The rest of the fine tuning adjustment is based on individual preferences and expectation of favourite hup toh soh. For instance:

This from Singapore Shiok and this from Frozen Wings uses 100g of walnut (plus 200g of plain flour) and peanut oil and their cookies are darker with nuttier crunch due to their high walnut content.

This from Lily's Wai Sek Hong is the extremely traditional ones that uses all shortening or lard. Her cookies contain NO walnut inside and have one walnut piece each to decorate their outside. I guess that this is the recipe that most Dim Sum / Yum Cha restaurants used!!!

This from Cooking Pleasure (with icing sugar) and this from My Kitchen Snippets (with caster sugar) use margarine and self raising flour with 50-60g of ground walnut create smoother and fairer-looking hup toh soh with lesser walnut content but the different sugar they used must have created a different kind of sugary crunch.

Personally, I can't say which version of hup toh soh is the best as the taste and texture of hup toh soh lovers are expecting can be very subjective. My heart is telling me that I should bake the truly traditional recipe by Lily's Wai Sek Hong but my brain and thighs are telling me not eat too much shortening... LOL! I have revised mine into a balance version, hopefully to get the best of all worlds...

best Hup Toh Soh 核桃酥 Chinese Walnut Cookies
My version of Hup Toh Soh 核桃酥
I'm using shortening and butter in ratio of 1:2.
The coarsely ground nuts trapped in the sieve will be ground and sifted again.
This is my finely ground walnut...
Combine all ingredients to form crumbs
I got this shaping idea from my fellow hup toh soh bakers.
Baking hup toh soh is easy... Can't imagine that I was paying so much $$$ to buy them in the past!
I chomped five of these at one go after taking this photo!
best Hup Toh Soh 核桃酥 Chinese Walnut Cookies
... because they are so "soh" and delicious!

This is my hup toh soh equation which worked extremely well for me...

150g butter and shortening in 2:1 ratio (I like butter than margarine for a nice milky taste)
+ 250g self raising flour
+ 50g FINELY ground walnut
+ 30g icing sugar
+ salt + egg wash  = Zoe's hup toh soh!!!

YES that there is walnut in my equation, otherwise they are not walnut cookies to me. You know what? After seeing all these hup toh soh recipes, I can't to help to think that all recipes originates from one person.... My friend's dad? Maybe... LOL!

If only cookies can speak, I reckon that they will say... Zoe, Zoe... Don't think too much of baking... LOL!

Here's my adapted version of Hup Toh Soh:

Makes 20
50g butter, very soften at room temperature
25g shortening (the soft kind, not Copha)
30g icing sugar (or caster sugar if you prefer crunchier cookies)
125g self-raising flour, sifted (preferably low protein and bleached)
25g finely ground walnuts (NOT pre-roasted!) and sifted
a pinch of salt

Egg wash to glaze the cookies:
1 egg yolk

1 tbsp milk
a pinch of salt (preferably the coarse kind)

IMPORTANT: Please do not over-process walnut as over-processing can release the fat of the nut resulting the ground nuts to become a paste.

To finely grind walnut nuts, process non-roasted walnuts in small batches with short pulses and also some stirring in between pulses. Transfer the ground nuts into a sieve and use a spoon to stir so that the finely ground nuts can pass through the sieve. Transfer the coarsely ground nuts  that was trapped in the sieve back into the processor. Pulse and sift them again. Repeat this process until you get finely ground nuts after sifting.
Using an electric mixer or a wooden spoon, combine butter, shortening and sugar by beating them together.

Add flour, salt and ground walnuts and stir until mixture forms buttery crumbs. Using your hand, combine everything to form a soft dough but do not knead.

Take half tablespoon of batter and roll into each into a ball by hand. Arrange them on a baking tray lined with baking paper, about 2-3 cm in between them. Press the center of each cookie with an over-turned bottle cap (or a teaspoon) and brush them with egg wash.

Bake in preheated oven at 180°C or 160°C fan forced for about 20 mins or until golden brown. Allow cookies to cool slightly on the tray before transferring them onto a wire rack to cool completely. Serve or store in cookie jar in room temperature.

Happy Baking

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  1. Hi Zoe , boy do those cookies look yummy , now I need a cookie , pass me one , thanks for sharing :)

  2. I read from Sonia's post that hup tou soh without walnut the other day but she added alkaline water! Your version looks nice too!

  3. Oh so there is a little bit of walnut in these cookies.. :) they look lovely, I will have to try them someday :)

  4. I'm speechless, Zoe and that doesn't happen often, lol...I do know one thing for sure though, those cookies look awesome!!! I've often read that shortening makes baked goods more tender but here you say it makes the cookies crunchy. I like crunchy or or soft so I guess I would just LOVE your cookies!!! Oh yea and walnuts too!

    You sure did think this one through, Zoe and you did GREAT! Thank you so much for sharing...

  5. Hi Zoe! Have to agree with you that it's not easy to find the best recipe, i guess it boils down to personal preference. Yours look nice and crunchy, well done! Btw, i wonder if i can link my baked Nian Gao in the CNY Bake Along, not too sure if it meets the theme the CNY Cookies theme since it's not cookies.

    1. Sorry that Joyce, Lena and I have agreed that Nian Gao is not CNY cookies and we will not be accepted any Nian Gao post in our linky. Sadly for those who linked their Niao Gao with us, we have to remove their links :p


  6. Hi Zoe,
    I thought I could smell the aroma of your hup toh soh as I looked at all your photos here. When I google search for a recipe, usually I would be in a dilemma which recipe to choose as there are too many to select. I love your last pic....indeed it does look very "soh".....salivating now.

  7. This is absolutely one of my favourite chinese new year cookies :)

  8. You are "soh" funny. I enjoyed reading this post. The cookies look lovely! ^.^

  9. now that's very informative! this is what i call "solid" sia!

  10. I see this is quite a popular cookies this year, I am resisting! lol! ok, will pin it and see if I have the time to bake some! Looks yummy!

  11. This is also one of my must-do cookies for Chinese New Year. Yours look very 'soong'!

  12. Hi Zoe, thanks for sharing the best Hup Toh soh recipe here. I made these with plain flour, didn't turn out as good as last year. Must use SRF.

    1. Hi Kimmy,

      Thanks for telling me that SR flour works better for baking hup toh soh... I was told that if I'm using plain flour, I must use bicarbonate instead of baking powder as raising agent... I guess this is also the reason why Sonia uses alkaline water... Gosh! I'm crazy again thinking of hup toh soh :p


  13. Zoe your hup toh soh indeed looks very very crunchy and with the addition of walnut meal, I bet it's very fragrant. Loved the rustic look.

  14. Yum, these look awesome Zoe! I haven't had one in a while and looking at these are making my mouth water hehe. Thanks for sharing Zoe, they look amazing!

  15. They look yummy as well as lovely artistic shape of cookies.

  16. What an interesting post & your Hup Toh Soh look great ! I've to agree with you that a walnut cookie should have some walnut in it! Love to try your version of Hup Toh Soh , bookmarking . Hopefully I've time to make some . All I need is time ! LOL

  17. Zoe, sound delicious, must be tasted the same too!

  18. Pineapple tarts and now these Chinese walnut cookies ?! Don't let me get started on it , Miz Zoe lol Lucky you it's only brain and thighs , me , it's my face and stomach as well *sigh*

  19. Hi Zoe,
    I have not eaten hup toh soh in ages, and now you are making me crave for them!
    Well done, I think I would have done the traditional ones with shortening! After all, it is only once a year! Haha!

  20. yeah, those traditional hup to soh didnt seem to have walnuts in them but i think i still prefer the ones with. I believe that your hup to soh texture and mine are quite different, where yours i think more to 'soong' or crumbly whereas mine more to those like peanut cookies :)

  21. Love your last picture of your hup toh soh. Feel like want to bake some too!

  22. These look so crumbly... its the perfect walnut cookie!

  23. Hi, what brand and where did you get the shortening(soft kind) from?

    1. Hi Mathew, I'm using Crisco shortening. If you are living in Australia, you can buy it via online at USA food. Cheers!

  24. Hi Zoe thx for the recipe, just wondering if walnut be replaced with almond meal..do you think its gonna taste nice?

    1. Hi, Glad that you like this recipe. You can find many of my highly recommended almond cookies recipes at http://www.bakeforhappykids.com/2016/01/crunchy-melt-in-your-mouth-nutty.html Happy Baking!