05 February 2009

taiwanese sun pastry / 太陽餅 / tai4 yang2 bing3

太陽餅, pronounced tai4 yang2 bing3, translates roughly to "sun pastry". It is a treat from Taiwan, and the most famous ones are in Taichung. I am not what the most similar American treat is, but at least I can attempt to describe it. It is a flat and circular pastry made up oftwo alternating doughs that create flaky outside crust which is filled with a slightly sweet interior. The inside is a mix of maltose sugar, butter, powdered sugar, and cake flour. It has a very subtle sweetness to it - if you eat it too fast, you probably can't taste the sweetness at all!

I've drawn out a very basic introduction to it below. But no worries, there are photographs too! But I thought that drawing them out might help explain it better.

The ingredients:
Part A - The outer skin for the crust
50g bread flour
150g cake flour
30g powdered sugar
50g softened butter, room temperature
30g vegetable oil
80g water
390g total

Part B - The inner skin for the crust
60g softened butter, room temperature
125g cake flour
185g total

Part C - The filling for the inside
75g powdered sugar
20g maltose
or perhaps honey
20g softened butter, room temperature
5g water
30g cake flour, sifted
150g total

Part B is placed inside Part A, then they are rolled together to create alternating layers that will later become flaky, and part C is the filling that goes inside, whose main ingredient is maltose.
Let's talk about maltose for a moment. What is it? I had no idea. And I still don't really know. Wikipedia has given me some interesting information, for example, maltose is about half as sweet as glucose and 1/7th as sweet as fructose. It's commonly used in asian pastries, I guess perhaps because it is not too sweet. I lugged back a 1 kilo jug of it from Taiwan, but I am not so sure where to find it in America. I'm still working on that, but in the mean time, I think you can substitute with honey. The texture is practically the same - thick, slow moving, super sticky, it's just that honey obviously tastes different.

Prep your ingredients! Lots of small bowls should do the trick. Now, for making the dough. For Part A, mix your bread flour, cake flour, and powdered sugar together and dump on your surface. There is no need to sift it. Then create a hole in the middle and place your softened butter in the middle. If you have a dough cutter, that flat plastic thing in the middle photograph, you can use it to swirl the flour around to create the hole. Then carefully pour in your vegetable oil and water around the butter but within the wall. Make sure there are no leaks! Use your index and middle fingers to gradually mix in small parts of the wall into the little lake. Just slowly knock a bit of the flours and suger into the liquid part, and mix. Keep doing this around until there isn't any risk of oil and water spilling out. Once it's all been soaked up, you can begin smushing it all together and really mixing it up. It will be sticky at first and your hands will be covered in dough. But keep mixing and kneading until it tidies up and leaves no dough on the surface or on you. Once it's nice and evenly mixed and no longer sticky, cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest for a bit, about 10 minutes.

For Part B, it is the same idea. But since there is no liquid and risk of a flood, you can get right to mixing the butter and flour together. Once that is nicely mixed, cover it with plastic wrap and set it aside to rest, about 10 minutes.

For Part C, you'll need a bowl. Dump your powdered sugar in, then scrape the maltose and put that into the bowl. Add the water too, as it helps you with mixing the maltose. Mix well, then add in your butter and mix again. Once that is mixed, finally you can add your sifted cake flour and mix again until you get a nice homogeneous mix.

In the ingredient list, you may have noticed I gave the total amount of grams for each part. That is because we are going to have to do some math! Depending on the size of your final pastries, you are will have to divvy up the dough into equal portions. I've chosen to make 12. It's a nice even number, and I end up with about 2.5" wide sun pastries.

Part A: 390g/12 = 32g each
Part B: 185/12 = 15g each
Part C: 150/12 = 12g each

Divvy up your dough now! Roll them into tiny balls. I highly recommend using a scale because eyeballing never works for me. And make sure you keep the dough covered at all times! If you let it sit out, the outside will dry up and you'll get odd hard bits in your dough. So what I do is just have a large sheet of plastic wrap sitting out, and as I cut and weigh each ball of dough, i place it immediately on the wrap and fold over the wrap so it is covered.

So now you should have three sets of 12 covered little balls of dough. too cute!

Now for the fun part... making the actual pastry!

Take out a ball of Part A. Flatten it with your palm. Put a ball of Part B on top of it, and then wrap Part B with Part A completely. Seal the ends so no part of B can be seen.

Then flatten the Part-A-Containing-Part-B-Ball. And roll it into a spiral.
And then flatten the spiral. If you look really closely at the top left corner of this photo, you can see the outline of Part B inside of Part A.

Then roll out the flattened spiral. And cover and let rest while you go do this 11 more times!

Little spirals resting! (make sure they are covered)

Okay, now that you have finished, grab the very first spiral you made, and... flatten it. Then place Part C on top and wrap it completely with the flattened spiral. Seal the ends - and make sure they are sealed! If it is not sealed completely, you will have a nice sticky surprise for you when you pull these out of the oven. Lastly, flatten it! And tada! They are ready to bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 20 min, but also rotate at the 10 minute mark so it bakes evenly.

How they come out of the oven... white, with a slight hint of golden brown.

If you decide to cut it right away outside of the oven, the fillings will ooze out. They taste best at room temperature, because the filling will have hardened somewhat and you will not be a sticky mess. Also, when they are hot the heat kind of overpowers the subtle taste, and that is not good!

Some random notes on flakiness, mainly for my future reference.
I made these 3 times. And each time I did something different, so i cannot for sure say if X is right or if Y will turn out... but I'll hit a regular pattern, for sure.
Attempt 1: I used shortening instead of butter. (That's the last photo) As you can see it, is extremely flaky. Baked for 20 min. But I won't be doing this again because I don't like shortening. I also used cake flour and bread flour from Taiwan (which you can find at the local asian market)
Attempt 2: I used american cake and bread flour. (This is the first photo). I also used real butter. HOWEVER, I did not bake it long enough (15 min). So I think that is why it did not come out flaky. But it could be the flour. But for sure not the butter, because...
Attempt 3: I used flour from taiwan this time, as well as real butter. BUT i baked it for the right amount of time (20 min). And they came out flaky. But I did not take a photo, and I did not have any pastries from Attempt #1 to compare. So I am not sure if they were as flaky as #1 or not. But the flakiness could come from the fact that the flour is from Taiwan, so...

Conclusion: No results to refer to because I kept changing the ingredients and technique! And I still have one more, where I plan on substituting honey for the maltose. But in the end, they all tasted good!


heidileon said...

hi, this is a pastry I've never seen before, and really want to give it a try!.

looks like asian answer to french pate feuillete!!

csquad said...

yep, except it's not as "crispy" as pate feuillete is. but equally delicious :)

toxobread said...

Great post! I love all the step by step photos. I had freshly baked 太陽餅 from a bakery in 台中 (one of the many on that street) - it was delicious, and now I know how to make them at home!
- Jackie

pigpigscorner said...

This looks amazing, with the oozing filling. yum yum! I've never had this before, would love to try one!

Ookamiko said...

Wow, these look so tasty and luxurious! And at the same time - the instructions seem pretty manageble - I would love to give it a try!

Just one small problem - in our country we do not have cake/bread flour. We sort our flours by how fine the flour is - so we have finely ground, medium and "harsh" flour. Do you think I can substitute fine flour for cake flour and bread for medium/harsh?

Thanks so much for your suggestion, the recipe and instructions are really amazing!

csquad said...

ookamiko: yes, i think so! I did some googling, and I found out that cake flour = very fine flour from soft wheat to give cakes that soft fluffy texture. and bread flour has a high gluten content, which gives it some toughness so its shape is held after baking. i am not an expert, but I think it should be okay! please let me know how it goes :)

pixen said...

I bought a box of this pastry at last year's mooncake festival with other pastry from a Taiwanese company. It's very tasty with Chinese Tea.

The Food Addicts said...

My friend just showed me your blog with this recipe. She said I have to make this! I've never tried it before, nor have I heard of it, but it's great to learn about new desserts!

YINWEN said...

Hi. I bought some 太阳饼 from Taichung, but the fillings had hardened already. Do you have any idea how to make it go back to it's initial state? Like cos it's hardened, then don't taste as good already. But the expiry date is not up yet.

Really need some help. :)

Anonymous said...

hello, did you ever try the honey? these look amazing!