Peanut Chrysanthemum Cookies

Peanut Chrysanthemum Cookies

I remember those cookies fondly as a child. I was never a big fan of peanut butter, but I did like these dainty cookies whenever we had them on special occasions. The pastry was very refined and the filling was slightly sweet and peanut flavored. There was the characteristic red dot in the middle making it resemble a pretty flower. They were called star cakes in Guyana or peanut cakes. It was fun to break of each petal and nibble at the cookie in sections.

The pastry used in making this cookie is a two part pastry and not the traditional pâte sable or pastry for tarts. It is very refined and results in a pastry which is both flaky and crumbly, but yet holds its integrity at the same time. This Chinese style pastry, was one which I first learned of in my grandmother’s kitchen. Apparently my maternal Chinese grandfather was quite an experienced cook. He had a noodle and pastry business in his younger years, long before I had the pleasure of knowing him. Sadly I never knew him as the able bodied experienced chef that he was in his younger years. Fortunately, my grandmother learned from him how to make this beautiful flaky pastry. She in turn would continue to make the most excellent Chinese bean cakes. These little pastries are also called Dou sha buns or cakes and my grandmother made them on order with expertise.

The pastry for these cakes is the same one used to make the peanut chrysanthemums. In Guyana they were known as star cakes. As the name dictates, the cakes or cookies were usually cut into 6 points. This is much easier to make than the more challenging 16 petals of the chrysanthemum flower. My mother always added some crushed crackers to give an added texture to the peanut butter and I think this is a great addition. It also makes the filling easier to manipulate. I have added some spices which are not traditionally used, but I think that it definitely adds another depth of flavor to the peanut butter.

I refer to the two part pastry as the rich and poor dough, which is the way we called them. Essentially the rich dough has a higher ratio of fat compared to the poor dough which has a much lower quantity of fat to flour. When combined and folded and rolled, the pastry makes flaky layers. This recipe requires a bit of work and is not a recipe for a novice cook. This does not by any means mean that you should not try this recipe if you’re longing to taste a peanut Chrysanthemum; it’s always a good thing to challenge oneself every now and then. You could opt to make fewer petals as well, really I grew up knowing them with 6-8 petals as a general rule. More petals are more intricate and prettier; but just do as you feel most comfortable.

I realize that so many of the pastries and foods I enjoyed in my generation were made by grandmothers and mothers with great love. In our busy lifestyles today, so many people do not have the time to prepare these childhood delicacies. This type of baking is becoming a lost art in some ways and as such, the taste will only linger in our minds when we think back to our childhood. By writing these recipes down and sharing them with you, it’s sort of reviving and revisiting the past.

Thank you to my gran and mom, as well as all of the Guyanese aunties who once lovingly and painstakingly prepared these tasty things for us to enjoy.

Peanut Chrysanthemum Cookies or Star cakes

Peanut Filling

1 cup smooth peanut butter

½ cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla essence

8 soda crackers, crushed into fine crumbs

Chinese Flaky 2 Part Pastry

2 cups all purpose flour

¾ tsp salt

½ cup vegetable shortening + 1tbsp

1 tbsp sugar

Ice water

Rich pastry (1)

⅔ cup flour

¼ tsp salt

1/3 c vegetable shortening

In a bowl, combine the 3 ingredients together. Mix well and squeeze together into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside.

Poor pastry (2)

1 ⅓ cup all purpose flour

1 tbsp sugar

½ tsp salt

3 tbsp ice cold water

¼ cup vegetable shortening

In a bowl add the flour, shortening, salt & sugar. Crumble together into a fine consistency. Add iced cold water 1 tablespoon at a time to the flour mixture. Mix together to form a dough. It should take about 3- 4 tbsp.

Roll this ball into a 16” long roll.

Cut 16 equal pieces of the dough and roll into balls.

Roll rich pastry dough into a 16” long roll. Cut 16 equal pieces and roll these in to small balls.

Roll the poor pastry into 2” rounds and place a ball of the rich pastry in the center. Fold the pastry to enclose the doughs and pat into a disc.

On a floured surface, roll each of the 16 pastry rounds into a 4” round.

Scoop a small scoop measure into the center of each round and flatten the filling slightly, leaving about ½” perimeter of pastry. Fold over the pastry ends to enclose the filling ensuring that the center is enclosed.

Shape the pastry into a round approximately 2-1/2″- 3” in diameter.

With a small sharp knife, make 4 slices in quarters leaving the middle intact.

Slice each quarter into halves and each one again in halves until you get 16 sections.

Gently turn each petal over exposing the peanut filling and gently patting down each one to form a flower.

Place each flower onto a prepared cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Beat an egg and brush each flower pastry.

In a small dish, squeeze a drop of red food coloring. With a chopstick or skewer, dip the tip into the color and dab in to the center of each cookie.

Sprinkle the cookies with a bit of sugar.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden.

Makes 16 cookies


13 Comments Add yours

  1. Sandy says:

    I am most certainly going to give this a go..I left Guyana a while ago& I recall these.I believe the bakery used grounded peanuts with sugar,but I could be wrong?It’s been a while/decades ago,recall a bakery called Young’s…haven’t been back so presume Young’s is far gone..I enjoy your blog did try your fudge recipe which came out fantastic.Would love to sign up for your emails.BTW.I reside in the USA but Guyanese food does occasionally have a place @ our table.

    1. Hi Sandy,
      Thanks for your comment. I too remember Young’s bakery. They made wonderful salara. I am so glad that you have tried some recipes. Let me know how these come out as well. Keep the Guyanese heritage alive!! 🇬🇾😉

    2. You can sign up for my mailing list on the blog site.
      Thanks again for the support!

  2. Jo-Anne says:

    Hi Sharon – I am so glad I found this recipe. I could not remember the filling mixture and I am not sure if Mom did the rich/poor dough or just say pinetart dough. I will definitely try this one soon!

    1. sharleebrun says:

      Hi Jo-Anne,
      Thanks for your reply and I hope you did try the peanut cakes!!

    2. Pansy says:

      Dear Sharon: my thanks to you for posting this recipe which I have been desperately trying to find for some time and tumbled upon your site while googling. My ancestry is somewhat similar to yours, Chinese parents (Chow) from Georgetown. I remember buying these tasty treats from the Chinese bakery during my childhood and absolutely loved them. We were able to get them here in Toronto’s Chinatown for a while but the Kim Moon bakery closed it’s doors a # of years ago and theirs were made with crunchy peanuts rather than the smooth which I much prefer. My best wishes to you and your family and thanks again. I appreciate your efforts to keep the Guyanese spirit alive and will continue to check in on your additions to your site.

      1. sharleebrun says:

        Hi Pansy,
        Thanks so much for your message. I love that there is a sense of nostalgia associated with food and our childhood that brings about the desire to recreate some of these things we once enjoyed.
        Best wishes to you and thanks,

  3. Stephanie says:

    Thank you for publishing this recipe. To be honest, I was recently hit with the memory of my auntie’s peanut flower cookies and I couldn’t help but want to make them. Her family owned a bakery in Stewartville, W.C. Guyana. and when I was little I would push the dinner chair to the counter and help her. I will try these in a couple of weeks.

    1. sharleebrun says:

      You are welcome Stephanie!! I hope it brings back a flood of memories to you of your childhood.

  4. George Jardim says:

    Wow! So beautifully written and photographed! I’ve been learning to cook while on lockdown, but I don’t have the courage to try these Chrysanthemum Cookies…yet. But the instructions are so detailed, I’m encouraged. Thanks.

    1. sharleebrun says:

      Lovely to hear from you uncle George. Isn’t it wonderful to be able to make a delicious meal while having a good time putting your own special touches into your dish?
      These cookies require a little extra attention and are not quite a recipe for a novice baker. However, if you follow the recipe and details, you might just surprise yourself favorably.
      Thank you so much for your message. I always appreciate hearing from my readers. It validates what I do and encourages me to do what I do.
      I am currently writing a cookbook, so stay tuned for that. It’s a work in progress.
      Take good care, keep cooking and be well.

  5. AnethaT says:

    Thank u for the recipe! There are 3 pastry recipes. Poor and rich. Wat is the first one? Thks! Looking forward to making these

  6. Bibi Nazroodeen says:

    I remember these as star cakes, my aunt bought some from Guyana recently, we were talking about how to make them,I goggle them and you came up. Great job,lots of details and pics.will definitely try and make them. Thanks

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