Tuesday, 25 December 2012



One Christmas Eve many moons ago, my friend Hans and I were treated to a ballet performance of The Nutcracker. The evening began joyously enough. The sweeping Tchaikovsky score, the visually entrancing set, the glittering costumes – what a cosy winter dream! Yet somewhere between the Waltz of the Snowflakes and the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, my eyes slowly glazed over ... When I recovered I stole a glance at Hans who was seated next to me. His eyes watery from yawning. (He later claimed it was because he was very much moved by the bravery of the Mouse King. The liar!) 

Every Christmas Day, I play my Nutcracker Suite CD, just to get into the spirit of things because even though watching ballerinas flirt, prance and dancing en pointe just isn't my cup of tea, I do enjoy listening to classical music.

Mom has been bugging me for weeks to make Rock Buns for Auntie Har (阿霞). I must have told you about Auntie Har before. She’s the neighbour who occasionally looks in on my parents while I’m at work. When we run out of eggs, Auntie Har helps us buy and deliver them right up to our doorstep! She shares with us her homemade laksa, yam rice and chilli paste. And as if babysitting the neighbourhood kids doesn’t keep her busy enough, she still finds the time to ask my mother out to Rochor to buy dried seafood, and then have coffee with her afterwards. Needless to say, our family love Auntie Har to bits.

I'm spending eleven slothful days at home during Christmas, Mom presses me to bake something nice for one of the most helpful neighbours we've ever had.

"来烘点饼阿霞啦!"  ("Come on, make something for Har!")
"烘什么饼好呢?" ("What should I bake?")
"就烘 'lock bun' 吧!" ("Rock Buns, of course!")

Mom labels everything ranging from Digestives to cream crackers, chocolate chip cookies to Tau Sar Piah, as 饼 (biscuits). Needless to say Rock Buns (or '骆笨' as my mother calls them) also falls under the same category. So if you're in our kitchen and Mom offers, "要不要吃饼?" ("Would you like a biscuit?") you should confirm with her which kind because you never know what you might get! 

Rock Buns 
By Jane Brocket

Makes 55

340 grams all-purpose flour 
8 grams baking powder 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
Finely grated zest of one lemon 
175 grams butter 
100 grams brown sugar 
75 grams caster sugar 2
55 grams mixed dried fruits (I used a mixture of chopped dried cranberries, glazed cherries, orange peel and raisins) 
1 large egg 
1 to 2 tablespoons milk or buttermilk 
Egg wash 

Cut the butter into 1-inch cubes and place them in the freezer until you're ready to use them. 

Preheat your oven at 180 degrees C. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. 

Place the flour, baking powder and butter in a mixing bowl and roughly chop the butter with a round-bladed knife. Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the lemon zest, sugars and dried fruits. Add the egg and, using the knife, bring the ingredients together to form a stiff dough. If the mixture is too dry, add a tablespoon of milk. 

With the aid of two teaspoons, dollop heaps of the mixture on to lined baking sheets, spacing them well apart. Lightly brush the tops of each cookie with egg wash. Bake for 15 minutes or until cookies are golden brown. 

Cool on a rack.


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