Chinese New Year has always been one of my family's favorite holidays to celebrate. We usually go to Chinatown to see the dragon parade or to the local anthropology museum for an afternoon of traditional fan dancing and music, then head home for some homemade Chinese food. This year, we decided to try out a new dessert recipe: Gok Jai, which are little cookie pockets filled with peanuts, shredded coconut, and sesame seeds. After looking at a variety of recipes to get inspiration (including some savory versions), I settled on this one as a base: it is kid-friendly, which my son loved, and the cookies were baked, not friend. Gok Jai slightly resemble empanadas, and the crunchy cookie outside contrasts well with the smooth, creamy filling. We had a little extra dough, and we filled the last Gok Jai with a few chocolate chips. Perhaps not the most traditional variation, but a tasty one indeed! Read on for a family-friendly, kid-approved dessert recipe to celebrate the Chinese New Year. A note for families with peanut allergies: I haven't tried this recipe with soy nuts, but I think they would sub well for the peanuts).
1. Gather the ingredients.
- 1 cup flour
- 3 Tbsp vegan margarine, such as Earth Balance (I also think coconut oil/butter would be delicious here as well)
- 1 1/2 tsp egg replacer
- 2 Tbsp warm water
- 3 Tbsp room temperature water
- 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp roasted peanuts
- 3 Tbsp shredded coconut
- 2 Tbsp sesame seeds
- 2 Tbsp coconut (or regular sugar)
- 1/4 tsp salt
2. Make the dough.
In a food processor, add the flour. Cut in the three tablespoons of vegan butter or margarine in small pieces and pulse to combine. In a small bowl, mix the egg replacer and warm water into a well-blended slurry. Add that mixture to the food processor and pulse again, scraping down sides as needed. Finally, add the remaining 3 tablespoons of water, one at a time to the food processor and pulse. The dough should come together at this point, but not be too sticky. If it’s too sticky, add a little more flour and process again. Scoop the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 15 minutes.
3. Make the filling.
Meanwhile, make the filling. If you have a mini-food processor, this would be a great time to pull it out. You can also use a blender if needed (or a mortar and pestle if you want a good workout!). Add the sesame seeds, shredded coconut, peanuts, coconut sugar, and salt into the bowl and alternate pulsing and grinding. You may need to scrape the sides a few times, but after about a minute or two, the peanuts will begin to break down and the filling will become thick and smooth. Adjust salt or sugar level as you see fit.
4. Roll and cut out the dough.
Remove the cookie dough from the fridge, take off the plastic wrap, and lightly dust a rolling pin and the clean countertop with flour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using the rolling pin, roll out the dough until it’s about 1/4 of an inch thick. The dough should be very pliable. Using a round cookie cutter, the top of a glass, or a ravioli cutter, cut out circles from the dough and place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or a silpat. I used a ravioli cutter that was about 2 1/2 inches wide in diameter, and it made cute, kid-sized cookies. I think anywhere between a 2 1/2 to 4 inch circle should work well.
5. Fill and fold the Gok Jai.
These cookies do not expand much so you can place the dough circles pretty close together on the baking sheet. I used about 1/2 tsp of the filling for each cookie. Simply drop the filling into the center, and then fold the cookie in half over itself to make a half moon, pressing the “seams” together. In order to keep the filling from coming out, I then used a fork to pinch the edges more tightly. If you have a little extra dough, try filling them with jam, chocolate chips, or whatever else you desire. This recipe made about two dozen Gok Jai.
6. Bake the Gok Jai.
Bake the Gok Jai for 19-20 minutes. The edges will begin to get a little golden. Remove from the oven and let cool.
7. Serve and enjoy!
Serve as part of your Chinese New Year feast, or as a fun variation in your rotation of favorite family cookies. These cookies are best eaten within two to three days of making them. Store in an airtight container if not serving immediately. Happy New Year!