Chapter 38: Request A Master to Teach Me in the Future (3)
“I have been missing sister often, so I made a few snacks and brought them here for sister to have a taste.” Zhou Xiaoxiao opened the box and brought out a porcelain plate glazed in a black mottled texture. “I hope I can receive critique from your noble tastes so this foolish sister may return and improve it.”
Atop the crude black porcelain plate were six exquisitely shaped pastries. There were those that were shaped like delicate white plums, some of an autumn chrysanthemum shape with a milky skin, and also those with the appearance of tender leaves in a muddy jade color. The six pastries were all very small and varied in shapes. A slight hint of tenderness could be seen beneath its soft or translucent appearance while a faint fragrance could be smelled from them.
When Xia Qinglian first heard that Zhou Xiaoxiao wanted to open a snack stall, she didn’t think much of it. She figured that they were just going to be some crude biscuits and cakes. But after seeing how fine they were now, she was surprised.
“I did not expect sister to have such fine skills. I can hardly bear to eat them.”
“Sister is of such noble birth, what fine foods have you not seen? Please do not make fun of me, give them a try. I hope you can give me some serious advice.”
Xia Qinglian reached out a finger and tapped Zhou Xiaoxiao before picking up a plum blossom-shaped pastry with a smile. The pastry looked so pure and tender. It had a realistic shape and appeared as if it had been formed from the first snow of winter. Just looking at them made her feel a little hungry. Once she bit into it, the only thing she could feel was the smooth and fragrant flavor of the skin, while the inside contained a slightly sweet and sour but refreshing taste. Xia Qinglian had a light palate and did not take much sweets, but this treat was just right for her.
Thus, she asked, “Is the filling made of Buddha’s hand?”
“Yes, it is so. After pickling them, the light flavor is acquired to form the sweetness of this pastry. How do you make of it?”
Xia Qinglian nodded and did not speak, but in her heart, she thought to herself, it was unexpected that her sister would have such a set of skills. No wonder she dared to go independent. She had truly undermined her ability.
Then, she picked up the soft and tender pastry in the shape of a leaf. It was a common mung bean cake. The taste was no different from the popular ones sold these days, but the texture was particularly delicate. A sweet taste was left in her mouth after eating it, and there was a refreshing feeling that passed through her throat as she swallowed it.
Xia Qinglian paused and said, “This is very good. It is novel and original, but are there any stories to tell of these snacks?”
“This set of cakes comes in a total of 12 types. As the cakes are created from seasonal flowers and fruits such as rose, white lotus, Buddha’s hand, mung bean, and so on, I call them December Flower Deity Cakes. I plan to sell them as the main offering of my shop, and thus my shop’s name will also be called December Pastries.”
“An elegant and likable name. You have a good hand and a smart mind. It seems that I no longer have to worry about you.”
“How now? I have come especially to seek sister’s help.” Zhou Xiaoxiao opened up the second layer of her box and took out a plate while saying, “These pastries require a lot of work. If I were to sell them in the market, I’m afraid it will not be the best idea. I am hoping to sustain this business by appealing them to the noble ladies of Fengxiang City’s big families.”
With a smile, Xia Qinglian took a glance at her before looking down at the plate. There were six pastries just like before. Three were puff pastries while the other three were crepe varieties. They came both in an assortment of shapes. The very first pastry was a puff pastry in a round shape. The top of the snack was oiled golden and decorated with sesame seeds. It looked rather cute. Xia Qinglian cut the pastry into four quarters with a small silver knife. Layer after layer of the puff that was thin as a cicada’s wing formed the outer shell while a delicate red bean paste could be found in the middle. Then, there was a flowing salted filling at the very center.
“My, what ingenuity, Miss Zhou. It is rare to see egg yolks being used for filling,” one of the maid servants in the room could not help but praise.
Oh, even someone from Qinglian’s home had not seen it. Seems like they have yet to create egg yolk pastries or mooncake type desserts in this era. Seems like I’m in luck, thought Zhou Xiaoxiao.
Xia Qinglian tried a piece and offered the rest to the maidservants to share. Everyone liked them.