Chinese New Year is round the corner!

Does this mean Sophia will be “3 years old” soon? I thought I must have been dreaming when I remember the bizarre method of counting age that old people told me about when I was young being that babies are born 1 year old and a year is added on at the turn of each lunar calendar year, but WIkipedia confirmed that this was not one of the instance where the lingering baby brain was at work. Its true! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Asian_age_reckoning) Hence, according to the Chinese (I am one and proud of it), Sophia was 1 year old as of 3 Jan 2011, 2 years old as of 3 February 2011 (apologies for the earlier mistake about her turning “2” as of her lunar calendar birthday) and will turn “3” on 23 January 2012. Or wait, is it 9 Feb 2011 and 29 January 2012 respectively because the 7th day of the chinese new year is supposed to be “ren ri” literally translated to “human day” which is short for “everyone’s birthday”. Something like that. I’m really not the expert on Chinese tradition.

I’ve always liked Chinese New Year. When I was young, it meant I got new clothes, got to eat lots of new year cookies and sweets, played with tones of sparklers and most importantly received “ang pow” being red envelopes filled with token sums that are actually quite substantial to children. Now it means I still get new clothes (yay me!) and got to dress Sophia up in the cutest chinese outfits and show her off to all the relatives. Staying in Chinatown makes it all the more fun for me as the festive markets and performances and street decorations are just round the corner. On the important days like the eve of chinese new year I even get to hear the firecrackers from my home (firecrackers are generally banned in Singapore because of the number of injuries they used to cause). Pity Sophia is too young to understand all these.

Despite my love for baking, for some reason this is actually the first year I’m making some chinese new year goodies myself. Behold, Elaine’s cashew nut cookies:

Cashew Nut Cookies

Traditionally they’re meant to be crescent shaped but I don’t happen to own a crescent shaped cookie cutter so I topped each scalloped round cookie with 2 nuts instead. I think that worked pretty well too. I was actually inspired to bake these after tasting sample cookies from a rather upmarket cafe which turned out to be the worst cashew nut cookie I’ve ever tried and thinking to myself I surely can do better. And on my first try I did do better, despite using crappy NTUC butter. The second batch was baked using proper Australian butter and are much better.

Now I have a whole year to build up enough courage to attempt my favorite chinese new year cookie – pineapple tarts. The pineapple jam is the hardest part and I should know since I burned myself numerous times making blueberry jam for Sophia’s birthday. The blueberry jam isn’t half as thick as what the pineapple jam needs to be but the boiling bubbles already spluttered like mad. Of course, pineapple jam is available in ready made form but to my mind that defeats the purpose because what defines a good pineapple tart is the combination of buttery pastry skin and the perfect tart and fragrant pineapple filling. Commercial filling is just too sweet.

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