We’ve always loved the super lemak Gula Melaka Pandan Chiffon Cake from Cheng's @ 27, a rather polished family-run Hainanese zi char joint nestled amid the hipster cafes in Tiong Bahru. During a recent dessert run there, the affable third-generation boss Dawn Cheng (she operates the kopitiam alongside mom, pop and her brothers), who bakes all the cakes and kuehs at the shop, urged us to try her new Gula Melaka Coconut Biscotti ($50).
Now, we love ourselves a buttery cookie. But biscotti? We can't say we'd ever wake up in the middle of the night lusting after one. Sure, we’d eat the crunchy, nutty Italian biscuit (the name, which comes from the Latin words panis biscotus, means twice-cooked bread) with our coffee if it’s especially good. But more often than not, at least in our part of the world, it's too thick, too dry, and let's face it — too boring. Fun fact 1: it's originally meant to be kinda dry and stiff (though not tooth-crushingly hard, we've had great ones in Italy that were crusty yet delicate to the bite). Fun fact 2: the oft-used "biscotti" is the plural form of "biscotto" in Italian. The biccies are baked twice because the Tuscans who created the recipe like to dunk them in sweet fortified wine as a post-dinner treat. This confection with medieval origins is thought to have been more of a preserved bread, double-baked to keep it dry and fresh for longer periods — perhaps during war, times of scarcity and other unpleasant things more common in the not-so-good old days.