The term “love letters” is commonly used in Asia, except for the Philippines, where it is known as barquillos. In other parts of the world, this wafer-thin cookie is better known as “cookie roll” or “biscuit roll”.
This biscuit is common in Indonesia and is said to be introduced to the locals by the Dutch during the colonial days. It is also known as kueh kapit or kueh semprong in Malay. While semprong means rolls, kapit means clamp. It also comes in another shape, which is the folded into a triangle.
Although no factual evidence could be traced to this belief, the reason for its name – “love letters”, is its connection to lovers’ mode of conveying their love messages in the olden days. In order to remain discrete, lovers roll up their messages and hid them inside the biscuits, and pass them to each other. This romantic way of communication is also said to have a symbolic meaning when the biscuits are eaten by the lovers.
This cookie is also one of the popular pastries during the Lunar New Year in Asia. In Singapore, they are usually sold in large biscuit tins or tall plastic containers with a red lid.
To make this wafer thin biscuit requires skill and patience. One has to be adept in making sure that the batter, while being cooked on the iron press, isn’t too thin or too thick. A batter that is too thick will come out as soft, and will not have the crispy and thin texture that love letters should have. A batter that is too thin makes it difficult to be rolled off from the hot iron plate.
Traditionally, the crepe-like batter is first spread thinly over a hot iron mold and cooked over charcoal fire. This mold is made of two round iron plates that are embossed with intricate designs. The batter will be pressed between the iron plates, and held over the fire to be baked till it turns golden brown.
These days, an electric mold, or even a flat pan, are frequently used as substitutes.
The next step is to roll the dough carefully from the press with a wooden stick, or to fold it into a triangular shape. It should be left to cool properly to avoid damaging the shape of the biscuit.
Eggs, sugar, coconut milk, rice flour, and all-purpose flour.