One of my favourite things to bake are these simple but extremely indulgent butter cookies. It is one of those no frills, mindlessly therapeutic things to bake – with only five ingredients, no mixer, one-bowl, no long wait time, versatile, and very minimal effort – but always result in something really decadently good. These are reminiscent of Jenny Bakery's butter cookies from Hong Kong. My recipe does not aim to replicate the original recipe, but is guided by my memories of the butter cookies I had in Hong Kong and my take on the texture and taste of it.
With a gazillion recipes out there attempting to recreate the Hong Kong-style butter cookie, this recipe is certainly not a replica that would give Jenny Bakery a run for their money. It is largely similar in terms of the flavour profile and texture, but altered to my liking – hence Hong Kong-style. If you’ve never had these butter cookies, think of an extremely buttery, milky, and decadent morsel that is contrastingly light in texture, very crumbly and tender, slightly sandy on the palate, but undoubtedly melty.
Some notes on ingredients
With reference from the ingredients list on Jenny Bakery’s cookie tin, it consists of largely five ingredients – wheat flour, butter, icing sugar, cornstarch, and salt. With these many ingredients, the most important component that constitutes the most in terms of flavour is butter.
It is an open secret that Golden Churn canned butter has a flavour profile that is very close to the original butter cookies. I personally call it the 'Asian' butter because it has a very distinctive fragrance and milky quality that is different from my favourite French butter counterpart, which makes our favourite 'Asian' baked goods a tad bit different.
However, I find that Golden Churn canned butter on its own is very savoury, and mixing it with Golden Churn unsalted butter helps balance the intensity of the savouriness whilst keeping its distinct buttery and milky flavour.
Cornstarch and all-purpose flour
The proportion of the cornstarch and all-purpose flour to butter helps with the meltiness and lightness, whilst holding the shape of piped cookie. You may change the ratio by increasing the amount of cornstarch to all-purpose flour for a meltier texture – feel free to experiment the recipe to your preference. However, do not drastically change the proportion of either ingredients as it may affect how the shape holds up after baking. I recommend anywhere up to 15g.
To substitute cornstarch, I find rice flour (not brown rice flour or glutinous rice flour) makes a relatively similar alternative, if allergy is a concern. Directly substitute cornstarch with rice flour in equal proportions. However, rice flour may impart a slightly different flavour and texture to the cookies. Do note to that certain brands of rice flour may be grittier than others.
For butter, the Golden Churn canned butter used in this recipe is not substitutable. The brand of butter carries a very distinctive flavour profile that cannot be replicated using other butters, so please do not replace it if you would like to achieve a flavour profile similar to Jenny Bakery's cookies - hence, Hong Kong-style.
Some notes on piping
The Hong Kong-style cookie, unlike its other piped variants i.e., spritz cookies, is mostly eggless - as in this recipe - and may not have enough moisture in the cookie dough to make piping effortless like buttercream. I have occasionally experienced breakages through piping bags too, especially when extra pressure is added to the tip of the piping bag. Here are some ways to work around and minimise any potential mishaps:
Get a better quality piping bag or use a reusable piping bag. For single-use piping bags, take note to get one that is made with a thicker and sturdier plastic. Or get a reusable piping bag, it is made with a sturdier material - usually a plastic-lined canvas or nylon - and is able to withstand the pressure better
Consider getting a cookie press, it helps with getting a more uniformly shaped cookie, which bakes it evenly
If you are using a single-use piping bag, do not cut the hole at the tip too big. It needs to have a better and tighter grip between the piping nozzle and the piping bag
Do not leave the cookie dough out too long. As the flour and cornstarch would have hydrated by absorbing the moisture in the butter, it would become stiffer, making it harder to pipe
I also find that it helps by adjusting your grip when piping. I pipe by holding onto the bottom of the piping bag (close to the nozzle) with my dominant hand, securing the piping bag and tip with the edge of my palm. I then squeeze using only half the dough within the palm of your dominant hand, with the other half on my non-dominant hand as support at any one time. This reduces the amount of pressure added to the piping nozzle, reducing the chance of bursting it. With equal force, pipe into your desired shape
If you happen to purchase an average quality piping bag, double bag it. Fill one piping bag with half the amount of cookie dough and cut the bottom of the piping bag. Place the piping nozzle in the second piping bag, and snip a hole enough for the nozzle to snug tightly in the piping bag. Insert the first piping bag with the cookie dough into the second piping bag with the nozzle. Refer to tip #5 and pipe. The double bagging method reinforces the piping bag, making it sturdier to pipe and less prone to breakages
Add a teaspoon or two of whole milk to "loosen" the cookie dough, making it easier to pipe. I have yet to try this, but it seems like a probable method that would work
HONG KONG-STYLE BUTTER COOKIES
85g Golden Churn canned butter, room temperature
78g Golden Churn unsalted butter, room temperature
50g icing sugar, sifted
80g cornstarch (I use Bob's Red Mill)
140g all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 150°C.
In a bowl, whisk both butters until lightly mixed.
Sift in icing sugar and cream with butter until the colour of the butter runs pale but not too fluffy. Scrape down the sides of your mixing bowl to ensure that the icing sugar is entirely mixed with the butter.
Add the cornstarch slowly and gently whisk into the mixture. Note: Ensure that you scrape the bowl occasionally to fully incorporate the dry ingredients into the creamed butter and icing sugar.
Switch to a spatula and gently sift all-purpose flour into the bowl and lightly fold into the mixture, using a cutting motion to combine until no visible traces of flour in sight. Stop folding when all of the ingredients are just combined and evenly distributed to avoid overmixing.
Transfer the dough into a sturdy piping bag, fitted with an open star-tip nozzle, taking care to not form air pockets whilst transferring. I use the 822 nozzle available at Phoon Huat.
Prepare a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
To pipe, hold the piping bag vertically above the parchment paper, and squeeze with equal force using both hands, one with securing the top of the piping bag. Rotate the tip in alternating motion to form the ruffles. Upon reaching your desired size and height, lightly press down whilst loosening the pressure and grip on the piping bag and pull the piping tip sharply up and away to release it away from the cookie. It takes practice but you will soon get used to the motion. Note: I pipe my cookies approximately 3 cm in diameter, and 2 cm in height.
Repeat the motion until the dough is used up, making sure to leave at least 1cm space between each cookie as the cookies expands slightly whilst baking.
Bake the cookie in the middle shelf of your preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating halfway, until slightly golden brown.
Transfer the baking tray to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest on its baking tray for at least 10 minutes to set. When the cookies have cooled down completely, transfer to an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to one week.
TIP: Use any open or closed star-tip nozzles you prefer. Different nozzles make differently shaped cookies, feel free to get a couple (especially if you're making different flavours) and find one that you like. I like using the 822 nozzle from Phoon Huat. Wilton's 1M star-tip nozzle works perfectly as well. Though, I advise against using a piping tip that has a very small opening diameter.
NOTE: If you would like to turn these into coffee butter cookies, add 2 to 3 teaspoons of coffee extract to the butter and icing sugar mixture, depending on your preference for the intensity of flavour. For a taste closer to Jenny Bakery's coffee butter cookies, add coffee emulco or coffee oil flavouring in place of the coffee extract, but no more than 3 teaspoons. I personally do not use any artificial flavourings but feel free to use for your coffee butter cookies.
Yields 30-36, depending on how big you pipe the cookies.
Something as simple as a butter cookie will never be perfect, and is always up to personal preference - some like it lighter, others like it less crumbly; some like it sweeter, others like it less buttery. This recipe took an uncountable number of trials and experiments to develop, playing with ratios, going back and forth different pairings of ingredients, before eventually coming up with one that I personally enjoy the most. But more importantly, feel free to play around with different proportions, add-ins, and create one you enjoy. :)
These cookies are extremely indulgent, but very moreish - you definitely will not stop at one. I like to pair these with a warm cup of rooibos tea to balance the decadence.
Share with me your thoughts on these cookies and send me photos of your creation! I would love to feature them on my Instagram @theslowfeast!