Monday 20 November 2023

Guinea Pig Wife Biscuit (low carb version)

 Hubby loves having 老婆饼 (wife biscuit) at the start of the day sometimes but Chinese pastries are usually not keto/diabetic-friendly. That's why I decided to make a more sugar-free/ low carb version of his favourite Chinese pastry as his birthday bake.

These cute pastries are modelled after a guinea pig plush we have at home whom we have named 圆滚滚 (pronounced as "yuan goon goon" and it means roly-poly in English). Here is 滚滚 looking at the pastry version of himself 😆!

We have a soft spot for guinea pigs since we have one geriatric pig at home (the other one passed almost a year ago).

I must admit that I couldn't do a full sugar replacement as candied wintermelon, the key ingredient in the filling, has to be made using actual sugar because it relies on the chemical properties of sugar for it to work. I rinsed the excess sugar crystals off the candied wintermelon thoroughly and pat the pieces dry before mincing to reduce the amount of actual sugar. But in all other areas, I replaced regular sugar with Erythritol. I didn't use Allulose as it tends to brown/burn at much lower temperatures and has a stronger aftertaste that hubby doesn't like. Although Erythritol isn't easily soluble in water, it isn't an issue for this bake. It also browns nicely when baked. I don't recommend replacing plain flour with keto alternatives as you need the gluten formation for the flaky pastry to work.

The plush toy is from a very talented artist, Birdie Tam ( Instagram account). I adapted the wife biscuit recipe from Yeo Min's (@pastoriessg Instagram account) newly launched Chinese Pastry School book. Do grab a copy of her book if you are interested in Chinese Pastries. She is very detailed and has done much research into the history and science of Chinese pastry making.

This bake consists of shortbread cookies for the leaves and ears, candied wintermelon filling, and Chinese flaky pastry made from laminating water and oil dough. I used only matcha, cocoa and charcoal powders for natural colouring. You may have a look at my reel for the process of making this:


Makes about 15 wife biscuits. Whenever sugar is mentioned, you may use regular sugar or sugar-replacement of choice. I used powdered Erythritol (zero GI) for all.

Shortbread cookie leaves and ears
10g icing sugar
Pinch of salt
20g vegetable shortening or butter (I used shortening as wife biscuits aren't buttery)
30g plain flour, sifted
Cocoa powder
Matcha powder

Wintermelon filling
65g cooked glutinous rice flour* (a.k.a gaofen 糕粉)
40g sugar
Pinches of salt
110-115g water
15g peanut oil
125g candied wintermelon**, finely minced
12g white sesame seeds, toasted

* If you are unable to get cooked glutinous rice flour, you may buy the raw one which should be available at Asian markets if you do not live in Asia. Stir-fry the raw flour without oil in a frying pan over low heat until you are able to smell the distinctive aroma of cooked glutinous rice flour.
** Also available from Asian markets. You could also make your own from scratch but the whole process requires about a week due to the long wait time for the sugar to draw moisture out from the wintermelon pieces, and the subsequent drying process. Yeo Min has a recipe for making candied wintermelon in her book too.

Water dough 
100g plain flour
20g icing sugar
Pinch of salt
28g peanut oil
55g hot water

Oil dough
80g plain flour
40g vegetable shortening (you may use lard or ghee)

1 egg yolk
1 tsp water
Charcoal powder

1. Make the shortbread ears and leaves. Mix sugar, salt and shortening until well combined. Do not whip to avoid introducing too much air into the dough. Fold in flour. Form a ball of dough. Divide into two equal portions. Add matcha powder to one portion and cocoa powder to the other portion until desired shades are obtained. Shape the leaves and ears with the help of cookie cutters if need be. 

I used a combination of cutters and a small knife to get the shapes I want.  If you need to estimate the size of the features, make a shortbread dough of about 45g in weight and shape it into 滚滚 shape as an estimate.

Bake at 150C for 6-7 min or until very slightly browned. Cool completely. Store in airtight condition. This can be made a day or a few days in advance.

Freshly baked cookie parts

2. Make the wintermelon filling. You may wash off the excess sugar coating the pieces of wintermelon like I did but this step is optional. The filling will still be sweet but not too sweet. Whisk together gaofen, icing sugar and salt. Add water and oil. Knead with spatula to form a dough. Cook over low heat until translucent. Knead in minced candied wintermelon and sesame seeds. Divide into 24g balls. You may make this a day in advance if you are busy. Store in airtight condition in the fridge.

There are only 12 in this picture but the recipe portion is for 15 pieces.

3. Make water dough. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt and sugar. In a heatproof jug, whisk together oil and hot water until thoroughly emulsified. Pour into flour mixture and knead until smooth and elastic. You can see in my reel, the dough passes the windowpane test, is smooth and stretchy. Cover with cling wrap and set aside while you make the oil dough.

4. Make oil dough. Rub shortening or fat of choice with flour until fine breadcrumb-like. Press crumbs together into a ball of dough. Cover and set aside.

5. Divide the dough. Divide water dough into 13g balls. Cover to prevent drying out. Divide oil dough into 8g balls. 

6. Laminate dough. Lightly dust work surface with flour. Press a portion of water dough flat. Wrap a portion of oil dough with it. Roll the combined dough into a long flat piece as shown in the reel. Roll it up like a swiss roll. Rotate by 90°, seam side up. Roll into a long flat piece again. Roll up like a swiss roll. Set aside covered while you work through all the dough. Rest covered for 15 min. It doesn't matter if you end up resting longer 

Again there are only 12 in this picture but the portion in recipe is enough for 15.

7. Preheat oven to 180C fan/190C. Line baking tray with parchment paper.

8. Wrap filling with dough. Press a swiss roll of dough with seam facing upwards flat. Fold the ends of the swiss roll inwards and press flat again. Roll the dough into a flat round disc with the edges thinner than the middle as shown in the reel. Place a ball of wintermelon filling in the middle and wrap it. Pinch the seams together and roll into a ball. Place on lined baking tray. Traditional wife biscuits are pressed into a flat disc on the baking tray but I left mine "roly-poly" shaped.

9. Apply egg wash. Mix egg yolk with 1 tsp of water. Brush each ball of pastry with egg wash in the pattern of guinea pig markings. 

10. Pierce the dough. The steam produced by the filling may cause the pastry dough to burst if air vents are not created for steam release. Ideally, wife biscuits have numerous holes or a couple of large slits at the top of the pastry for the vents. In this design, I didn't want to spoil the look by introducing lots of vents so I only made one where it would be hidden by the leaves. If you don't mind the holes, please make more holes evenly distributed over the top of the pastry. You may use a wooden skewer or cake tester to pierce the holes.

11. Bake the pastries. Bake for 15-18 min or until lightly browned. Reduce oven temperature to 110C fan/120C. 

12. Paint the facial features. Mix some charcoal powder with some egg wash to make a black paint. Use a fine brush to paint the nose. Use the blunt end of the toothpick to paint the round eyes.

13. Add on ears and leaves. Use some egg wash as glue to attach the ears and leaves on the head. Bake the pastries again at lowered oven temperature for about 7-8 min to set the egg wash facial features and the glue for the ears and leaves.

Cool completely before storing in airtight container. It can store at cool room temperature for 3 days or in the fridge for a week. I highly recommend toasting it before consuming if not consuming freshly baked. During storage, moisture from the filling permeates the crust so toasting it will re-crisp the crust.

Hubby gave a big thumbs up for these homemade wife biscuits!

Here's a closer look at the filling and flaky crust!

You may want to remove the ears and leaves just before toasting if you are afraid of burning them by accident during toasting.

Here's a peek at some wife biscuits that I made in the traditional shape!

They are so good freshly baked!

The water and oil dough can be refrigerated in airtight condition for a couple of days and used for wrapping filling and baking on another day. These traditional shaped wife biscuits were made with leftover dough (since I only made 12 圆滚滚wife biscuits). Hubby and I ate them fresh from the oven and they were superbly good!!

with lots of love,
Phay Shing

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