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Thursday, 16 January 2014

Old Time Cookies - La Sam Pia aka Chinese Five Spice Pinwheel Cookie

I am on a roll, after making my first old time cookies for the coming lunar new year, i found myself reminiscing about cookies that we had back then.   

When i was young, making cookies was a family affair,  everyone had a role to play, grandparents, uncles, aunties, cousins and all. My mum would be in charge of baking the more modern ones (i.e. those using butter/margarine and mostly baked) while the more traditional ones like kuih kapit (love letters) which were made over a charcoal stove were done at my grandma's place where there was a bigger space to setup the stove, working area and all.

We made cookies by the tins back then, recycle aluminium tins which were diligently collected, cleaned and stored away months ahead. No where were the plastic jars with red covers that we use nowadays in sight.

Since mum was in charged of the modern ones, we would make them at night in my home during the weekdays and if we were not too tired by the weekend we will join the gang at my grandma's place during the weekends.  Sessions at grandma's were especially fun although making those love letters over a charcoal stove at an average temperature of 32C was no laughing matter.  There were so many of us, chatting, sweating and laughing while carrying out our roles :) Somehow, traditions got lost, probably because there were no longer enough helping hands around after the younger ones grew up and left our hometown.  Reminiscing old times can be emotional at times...

This cookie that i have here is one that my mum used to make. Unique as there's an oriental touch to it.  A combination of sweet, savory and spicy.  I don't remember coming across it elsewhere. It's a little like the another chinese cookie called 'cow ear' biscuit but it's not, taste wise it's not as complex as those.   For ease of reference, i named it Chinese Five Spice cookie although we nicknamed it 'La Sam Pia' which translates to Dirty biscuit in Hokkien within the family! I know, i know, food and dirt are not suppose to go together, lol! If I remember correctly it was  because Big Uncle commented that they look like they had dirt on them because of the brownish wheel in between and the name stuck!  Btw, it's one of Big Uncle's favorite.

Mum has stopped baking cookies for a long time and she couldn't remember the recipe that she had used for it.  I tried making it last year but it didn't turn out quite right, the texture wasn't there.  It's not the buttery, melt in your mouth type of cookie, more like the crunchy and snap type.  I am pretty happy that it turned out quite like the way i remembered it this time.  I can't wait to surprise her with it and bring some for Big Uncle too :)

After comparing a few recipes, i decided to adapt from a checkerboard cookie recipe to recreate this cookie.  The original recipe used cake flour which i substituted to normal All Purpose flour to get the crunch.

Adapted from: Do What I Like

  • 100g butter (room temperature)
  • 70g castor sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 egg
Plain dough 
  • 130g all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
Spice dough 
  • 125g all purpose flour
  • 5g Chinese 5 spice powder
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  1. Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Then add in vanilla essence and egg and cream till smooth and well combined.
  2. Divide butter mixture into 2 equal portions.
  3. Sift in plain dough into 1 portion of the butter mixture and spice dough into the other portion.
  4. Blend each dough in its mixing bowl till a dough can be formed. 
  5. Cover the dough with cling wrap then roll out each dough into a rectangular shape of 30cm x 20cm. .
  6. Place the 2 doughs on top of the another and roll it up like a swiss roll. Roll tightly to make sure the 2 pieces of dough stick together.  The dough will become a long cylindrical shape of around 5cm in diameter. If the dough is too soft, refrigerate it for 5-10 minutes.
  7. Cut dough into pieces of around 5mm wide.
  8. Bake at 180C for 18 minutes or till the golden brown in colou
I'm submitting this post to the Bake Along event hosted by Zoe of Bake for Happy KidsJoyce of Kitchen Flavours and Lena of Frozen Wings and the theme is 'Chinese New Year Cookies'.



Hi Adeline
I have never heard of this "La Sam Pia" cookies before. You done your cookies beautifully with that pin wheel effect. I know with the spices in there, the aroma must be great in taste!

Good morning,
I can relate that experience of making love letters too!
Have a nice day

Your cookies look beautiful and crunchy. Must be full of 5-spiced powder flavour. Yum! What did your mum and Big Uncle say about the 'dirty' cookies? Despite the name, I would still grab a couple from your plate, hee hee.

Dirty biscuits??? - LOL! Very funny cookie name. I don't remember eating any La Sam Pia before... This is totally new to me. Dirty but delicious.... I like.

It's so nice that you have memories of making cookies with yr family. We never baked any cookies in our home, but it's nice that I get to do it with my own kids now :)

My mom don't know squat about making cookies :D We have what we call dirty ice cream back home in the Philippines , compare to that , your dirty cookies actually look wonderful and clean lol

@Elaine: Hello there and nice to have you dropping by, will be paying you a visit soon too :)

@Veronica: I haven't had the opportunity to bring the cookies back to my hometown for my family to try yet :)

@Zoe: Funny name huh, you will laugh harder when you hear the nicknames my Ah Mah gave her children, i have pineapple uncle and deer dad etc!

@Yen: Oh yes, can see that your kids are having lots of fun with you in the kitchen, something that they will cherish when they grow up :)

These cookies look so lovely! Great idea of using 5-spice in those cookies.

@Anne: So, there's another 'dirty' treat out there huh, it taste equally delicious, somehow 'dirty' things tend to get all the attention ;-p

We do have similar scenarios where making CNY cooked back then. It was a family affair for us as well. I love making the love letters despite the mess n tedious work of making it over hot charcoal but it was fun. Kind of bonding time for us. Your cookies looks crispy n tasty. Don't mind getting in a tin or a cookie jar! Lol

Making cookies does bring back nostalgic memories. I'm glad that you have found the one closest to which your mom makes. The cookies are lovely!
Thanks for linking!

@What's Baking: Wonderful memories we share around kuih kapit and the charcoal stove huh :) Glad we have them to cherish. Wish we could share some cookies over a cup of chinese tea too :)

@Joyce: Baking cookies seems to be more fun back then :) Nowadays, i am almost always baking alone:( Thanks for the compliment.

good morning adeline!my grandmother used to make kuih kapit too with my aunties , i was too small, so can only see the process but cannot touch. My mum who is not fond of cooking and making cookies tried making kuih kapit and told me she made them once or twice, got scared already becos of the heat and tired, gave the moulds away after that..haha..

Looking at the swirl,i thought you are making the kind of 'nam yee' cookie but i think it's not. thanks so much for sharing these 'dirty' cookies with bake along!

Dirty biscuits? Looks good enough to eat lol! Love the swirls of the two flavors together so pretty!

Hi, your this cookies look addictive. Love the five spice powder flavor, very fragrant scent. Thanks for sharing your recipe.

Best regards.

This reminds me of my childhood days! I love pinwheel cookies and cow ear cookies. Gonna bookmark this, thanks for sharing this recipe!

Delicious looking cookies & love the addition of 5 spice powder . I think I've had this cookie before but that was looooog , looong time ago ! LOL Love to make this cookie someday . Bookamrking & thanks for sharing ;)

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