Kueh Bangkit Recipe (Melt-in-Mouth Coconut Cookies)
It has been a long time coming, but I’m finally able to blog the recipe for one of my favourite Nyonya kuihs!
Melt-in-the-mouth Kueh Bangkit, FINALLY!! (Made in Melbourne – in my kitchen)
But what are these chalky-looking little delights? They’re crumbly coconut cookies made with sago, tapioca or arrowroot flour and infused with the fragrance of pandan leaves. You often see them served in transparent bottle plastics with red lids during Chinese New Year, and as a child I’d gobble mountains of these cookies if they are good.
I personally think the hallmark character of an excellent kueh bangkit is: it HAS to melt in your mouth very quickly. And the best versions of these cookies only needs a gentle push with your tongue against the roof of your mouth before it dissolves into sweet-powdery softness and warms your mouth with the fragrance of coconut and pandan. Even out in the stores, it’s hard to find great kueh bangkit, but at least now it can be made at home!
I’d previously tried making these elusive cookies 3 years back, and then once again earlier this year but have failed both times. They were hard as bricks and didn’t melt in the mouth at all…! Fakegf and other fellow foodies and baking enthusiasts have also attempted making this kueh without success. It had reached the point where I declared kueh bangkit to be the ‘macarons of the kueh-making world’.
Several online recipes had postulates and theories on how to make the perfect bangkit… with the Kitchen Tigeress suggesting we oven bake the flour, use coconut cream and that we avoid moisture at all costs. Another blogger had a more scientific approach and tested a couple of recipes and finally came up with a verdict on which one was best. I followed their tips and recipes closely, but sadly still could not achieve the melt-in-mouth texture of the bangkit. Maybe the ingredients I’m able to procure in Melbourne are just ever so slightly different as to make the recipes unworkable.
Mum sensed my baking distress and said she has a failproof recipe that works. I told her I’d already tried her recipe three years ago but couldn’t source fresh-squeezed coconut milk in Melbourne and used tinned coconut milk instead… and with that substitution, the recipe failed.
But we eventually decided that we’d recipe test it together, but this time using ingredients that can be found in Melbourne. So I sent her photos of the ingredients available in Melbourne that I thought might work and she sourced the exact same brands of ingredients in Singapore. When I returned to Singapore for a visit one month later, recipe testing began and we baked up a storm in the kitchen!
She measured, stirred, kneaded, cut and baked the cookies while I watched, took notes and helped her out.
And guess what? The recipe works!!! Her kueh bangkit does melt in the mouth indeed! I spent that afternoon fist-pumping over our wonderful baking success. Now there’s only one more step left: to recreate these cookies in my Melbourne kitchen using the same ingredients just to make sure it’ll work downunder!
Fresh Pandan Leaves
But what are the ingredients involved in making kueh bangkit? The list actually isn’t that extensive. First up, you’ll want pandan (screwpine) leaves for fragrance. This is a tropical plant, so you can’t find it in your regular Australian gardens, but thankfully they can be purchased fresh from Asian markets.
You can also use frozen pandan leaves, just rinse to defrost them, and then dry them thoroughly before using.
Ayam Brand Premium Coconut Cream | Sago Flour
The recipe also calls for egg yolks and sugar, and finally you’ll need coconut cream and flour… that’s it! I followed The Kitchen Tigress’s advice and decided to use thick thick coconut cream rather than coconut milk so that you’re dealing with very little water content. But our choice of flour took on a different tangent to other online recipes. Most recipes used Tapioca flour and some recipes suggested that Arrowroot flour gives the most authentic texture.
Over the course of my recipe testing, I’d opened and compared all three types of flour. In terms of texture, Sago Flour turns out to be the finest and softest flour (but it’s also the hardest to find flour). Even though mom’s recipe asked for a mixture of tapioca and sago flour (meaning you have to fry two separate batches), we decided to make the kueh entirely with Sago Flour and it worked beautifully.
Tapioca Flour | Arrowroot Flour (both did not work for me)
I’ll also say it now that I’ve tried following mum’s recipe using both Tapioca Flour and Arrowroot Flour and it doesn’t work. The required proportions must be different and I don’t know what they should be. I’ve now had far too many baking failures with making this kueh to feel inclined to test other types of flours and proportions. So my experimentation ends here and I’ll just stick with mum’s recipe which I know works.
But the bottom line is: this recipe will probably only be successful if you can find Sago Flour, and preferably the same brand as the Sago Powder (Sunflower Tepung Sago No. 1) that we tested it with. You’re more likely to find it at an Indonesian grocer… I found this elusive flour hidden high up in a forgotten shelf in the store (I had to use a ladder to get it!).
What’s unique about Ayam Brand Premium Coconut Cream is that it doesn’t contain stabilisers (like guar gum), so when you refrigerate the cream it actually splits and solidifies. This is normal, that’s how thick and preservative-free it is. When mom used it, she just shook the whole tin to mix it evenly before opening and pouring out the desired amount for the recipe.
This coconut cream is an adequate replacement for the fresh-squeezed coconut santan that mum’s original recipe asked for. For best chances of success, I’d advise you source this exact same brand and type of coconut cream (it’s quite easy to find) so that all ingredients are as similar as possible. Having said that, I’m really curious how kueh bangkit made with fresh-squeezed coconut milk will taste like…
Here’s the rest of the equipment you’ll need to make these cookies. A small cookie cutter (any shape will do) and tweezers to pinch designs on them if you wish to have it so. Using this 3cm wide heart-shaped cookie cutter, mum’s recipe wielded about 320 kueh bangkit.
And here’s our first successful test batch of bangkit, made with mum, and beautifully displayed on my Singapore home’s antique Peranakan ware. They look a little rough around the edges compared to my future batch, but they tasted great, and most importantly… melts in the mouth!
A few weeks later back in my Melbourne kitchen, I followed mum’s recipe and recreated the bangkit successfully. Hurrah!! The recipe also works in Melbourne’s cooler, dryer climate… our recipe testing is successful!
I’ll now briefly run though the steps involved…
Step one involves dry frying the flour over low heat to remove as much moisture from it as possible. It sounds time consuming but actually isn’t that bad. Using a slotted spoon, fry just the flour for 10mins, then add the pandan leaves and fry for another 10mins or so till the leaves turn dry and crisp.
The flour starts off somewhat dense and heavy, but before long it becomes light and fluffy, creating whirls and wispy puffs clouds as you stir. Warning: overzealous frantic stirring will cover your kitchen with a palpable film of sago flour everywhere! So stir continuously but not too vigorously.
The flour needs to be cooled down completely before it can be used to make the bangkit, so I’d recommend doing this step the night before. Once cooled, sift and then store in an airtight container to prevent moisture from returning.
The next day, the dough is made with coconut cream, egg yolks, icing sugar and the fried flour. This recipe will create a rather wet and sticky, almost unhandleable dough. That is normal, do not attempt to add more flour, just cover the dough with a damp cloth to prevent it from drying out. On this note, I often find that if the initial dough turns out dry and crumbly rather than sticky (like when I tried using Tapioca or Arrowroot flour) the recipe will usually fail.
What happens next relies on intuition… take out a small batch of the sticky dough and start kneading slowly by dusting it with small amounts of extra fried flour until the pastry becomes soft, supple and more handleable (but not dry). Then roll it to 3mm thickness between two sheets of cling wrap, and attempt to cut the pastry with the mould. If the dough is still too sticky and unmouldable, then collect the rolled out pastry again reknead it with more flour till you get a consistency that allows moulding of the cookies.
My first tip is that soft and moist pastry will produce kueh bangkit that melts in your mouth. My second tip is you don’t have to fear over kneading because sago flour is gluten-free! And my final tip is, paradoxically… you might want to wait a minute or so for the rolled out pastry to dry a little before attempting to cut it with the mould, they’re easier to handle if allowed to dry juuust a bit.
Fiddly little pastry, isn’t it?? Also, unlike other types of pastry, kueh bangkit pastry behaves better on warmer, more humid days (it dries out slower). So try not to make these cookies in a dry, cool air-conditioned room.
The final step is optional… pinching the cookies to give them a design. When pinching with tweezers, pinch deeply because the cookies puff up a little in the oven and will lose the design if not pinched enough.
Unpinched vs. pinched
Here’s the difference in the looks department between unpinched and pinched kueh bangkit. I personally quite like the look of the plain bangkit with the natural cracks on its surface. One step less… and prettier!
And here’s how mom taught me to ‘recycle’ the leftover pastry that’s left on the board after cutting. Scrape up the remaining pastry (pictured right) and combine it with more sticky original pastry, and knead / dust it till you get the pastry back to its proper consistency.
Place the cut-out bangkit on trays lined with baking paper and bake. Mum’s baking step also differs from other recipes in that we baked it for longer and at lower temperatures.
I’m so happy I’m able to recreate these cookies in Melbourne now! And to be honest, these cookies are so good that they beat hands-down 80% of the store-bought ones in Singapore (which often don’t melt-in-the-mouth very well at all).
Kueh Bangkit Recipe (using Sago Flour)
Adapted from Mum’s recipe
Makes approx. 330 bangkit
Preparation Time: Overnight
Baking Time: 2-3 hrs
700-800g Sago Flour
10-12 Pandan Leaves
240g Coconut Cream
200g Icing Sugar
3 Egg Yolks
In this recipe, you need to fry more of the Sago Flour because some will be used for flouring the pastry board & bangkit cutter
Prepare at least one day in advance as the flour needs to cool down completely before you can use them
On initial frying, the flour will be lumpy & hard to stir. After 10 mins of frying it becomes a little lighter
Towards last part of frying, the flour will become dry & flies up when stirred, which indicates that it is ready
Wash and wipe with paper towels till very dry, then cut into 2” lengths:
10-12 Pandan Leaves
In a big wok, dry fry over low heat for 10mins, stirring all the time with a slotted spatula:
700-800g Sago Flour
Add & continue to fry for about 10mins till flour is light & the leaves are dried & crinkled:
Cut Pandan Leaves
Spread the Fried Sago Flour in wok & leave to cool completely (preferably overnight)
Sift it & then store
Stir with hand whisk till sugar is dissolved & mixture is like a semi-greyish thick sugary solution:
240 gm Coconut Cream
100 gm Icing Sugar
Whisk at high speed till creamy white & sugar is dissolved:
3 Egg Yolks (approx 50-55g of yolk)
100g Icing Sugar
Lower speed, add & whisk till well mixed:
Coconut Sugar Solution (prepared above)
Change to wooden spatula, add & stir till well mixed:
560g Fried Sago Flour
Pastry will still be VERY STICKY & quite hard to handle but it is OK
Cover with a piece of wet cloth to prevent pastry from drying out & then leave aside
Set aside the remaining Fried Sago Flour to dust the work top & to flour the kueh bangkit cutters
Rolling the Pastry:
1. Line pastry board with a piece of cling wrap
2. Use a cake scraper to cut out a small portion of the Sticky Pastry, sprinkle a little Fried Sago Flour over & knead in, adding the Flour in tiny amounts till pastry is smooth, soft & pliable
3. Flour worktop & place pastry on it. Cover pastry with another piece of cling wrap & using a roller, roll dough out to 3mm thickness
4. Use floured bangkit cutter to cut by pressing into pastry
5. Place cut-out bangkit on trays lined with baking paper, spacing them slightly apart as they will spread slightly during baking
6. Pinch desired designs on the bangkit (optional step)
7. Mix the remaining rolled out scraps of pastry with another small portion of the sticky pastry, knead them together & if still sticky, then knead in a little more of the fried Sago Flour. Repeat the rolling, cutting & pinching process
Bake in pre-heated oven at 160ºC for 10mins to set the design
Then reduce temperature to 130ºC & continue to bake for a further 20mins or till Bangkit is very light beige in colour
For more comforting home recipes, check out my Recipes Section.