A traditional local snack with savory fillings in flaky layers
By Wing Tan
Gaoqiao, a rich, flaky pastry, is the namesake snack of Gaoqiao Town in Shanghai’s Pudong New Area. Small wonder that it is so popular. Its 16 light layers of crust and its savory fillings create a divine taste.
Traditionally, Pudong locals always serve Gaoqiao pastry on special occasions, such as weddings, Spring Festival, the Double Ninth Festival and a baby’s firth birthday.
An authentic Gaoqiao cake uses only the finest ingredients. The shortening has to be lard from pigs, preferably raised on the northern side of the Yangtze River in Jiangsu Province. The red bean paste must use beans from Chongming Island, which are considered the tastiest.
The water must be pure, which meant cold, clear well water two decades ago but now calls for premium bottled water. Gaoqiao fillings can be pork or a sweet paste of various ingredients, such as red beans, candied melon, sweet osmanthus, nuts and seeds.
The most difficult part is making the 16 famous layers, hallmark of the original Gaoqiao pastry.
First, two doughs must be made. The first with 3 kilograms of flour, 1 kilogram of oil and 1 kilogram of water, and the second with 2 kilograms of flour and 1 kilogram of oil.
The two doughs are then each divided into 20 or 30 pieces and rolled into circles with the rolling pin. Each circle of the waterless dough is then placed on top of a circle of the dough made with water. Your work counter will be filled with double-decker dough circles.
The two layers are then pressed together and formed into what is called an “ox-tongue” shape with the palm of the hand.
Then by folding in half and half again, the double-decker dough becomes four layers. That process is repeated three more times, making 16 layers in all. We should note here that commercially made Gaoqiao often have fewer layers.
The finished pastry is then baked for about 45 minutes until it is dry. An aluminum basin placed under the pan to deflect direct contact with heat will ensure the Gaoqiao don’t get burned.