These traditional desserts are readily available in common eateries or dessert shops in Beijing. It’s hard to believe that they claim their provenance from the Imperial palace, and were once served as snacks to emperors and consorts. It is impossible to discuss the desserts in Beijing cuisine and not mention these; they are a unique reminder of Beijing’s history.
Kidney bean buns
White kidney beans200g (7oz)
Store-bought red bean paste50g (1⅔oz)
Prepare kidney bean buns. Blanch kidney beans in hot water until their skins are soft. Drain and peel off skin. Steam kidney beans for about 2 hours until tender. Transfer beans to a sieve, mash well and leave to cool to room temperature. Divide kidney bean paste into 4 equally-sized portions. Pack one portion of the paste into a 3-cm (1¼-in) plum blossom-shaped cake mould if you have one, or a mould of preferred shape. Flatten one portion of kidney bean paste to a size slightly larger than the plum blossom mould, then place some red bean paste in the centre, covering a rough 3-cm (1¼-in) area. Enclose paste with more bean paste, then place into mould and press down firmly. Unmould and set aside.
Prepare date corn dumplings. Combine cornmeal and soy bean flour, sugar, honey, milk powder and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Add egg yolk and water and knead into a smooth dough. Divide dough into 4 pieces and shape into balls. Flatten dough balls into round circles. Place 5g (⅙oz) red date paste on each circle. Enclose filling, shaping into a round dumpling. Using your finger or a chopstick, make a small dent on surface of dumpling and shape the opposite end into a taper. Steam dumplings for 10 minutes, then remove from heat and set aside.
Prepare glutinous rolls. Combine both types of flours and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add milk and mix into a smooth dough. Place dough in a deep dish and steam for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and sprinkle soy bean powder over evenly. Roll dough and red bean paste separately into thin sheets. Place red bean paste on top of dough, then roll dough up tightly. Cut into 4 smaller rolls. Coat with roasted peanuts. Set aside.
Prepare pea flour cakes. Clean and wash peas. In a pot, bring water to the boil. Add peas, reduce heat to low and cook about 2 hours until peas are soft and mushy. Dissolve gelatin in a little water and set aside. Transfer peas to a sieve and mash into a purée. Reheat mash in another pot over low heat. Add sugar and gelatin and mix well. Transfer to a large rectangular tray. Chill for about 20 minutes or until firm.
Portion out 100g (3½oz) pea cake dough. Add green food colouring to it and mix well by kneading. Shape into leaves with a leaf-shaped pastry cutter and set aside. Roll out other portion of pea cake dough and cut into four 4-cm (1½-in) circles. Spoon about 2 tsp egg custard onto the centre of each circle, then fold sides up and enclose custard, shaping into a ball. Shape top of dough ball into a pointy tip of about 2.5-cm (1-in) length. Using the side of a plastic spatula, form a line from the tip down one side of dough ball in a manner of a peach. Gently press leaf-shaped pea dough onto one side of each peach-shaped cake.
Arrange kidney bean buns, date corn dumplings, glutinous rice rolls and pea flour cakes on a serving platter and serve immediately.