Thursday, February 15, 2007
Chinese Almond Cookies Recipe
This Sunday is Chinese New Year. I’ve only “celebrated” it once. I was living in Boston with a Chinese American woman and we invited a bunch of rowdy people over to eat dumplings, drink beer and eat candy we bought in Chinatown. We hung up a red paper dragon (which I still have in a box in the back of my closet) and handed out red envelopes stuffed with monopoly money. It was a pretty loose (some might say offensive) interpretation of the holiday…
Traditionally, families gather for a reunion meal (much like Thanksgiving) which includes a number of auspicious foods including noodles (for longevity), fish (for abundance) and dumplings (for wealth). Many traditional Chinese sweets are made with glutinous rice flour, an ingredient I have no experience with. Instead of braving an experiment this year (I promise to try before next Chinese New Year), I decided to make almond cookies which use wheat flour. I’m not sure I believe these cookies are an ancient Chinese sweet, but as far as I can tell, they are popular with Chinese American families.
These cookies are usually made with lard, but in honor of the year of the pig (and as a former vegetarian who believes that sweets should not require the sacrifice of animals), I’ve created a recipe that uses palm oil instead.
Makes 36 cookies
8 ounces (1 cup) palm oil
1 cup granulated sugar
2 to 3 teaspoons almond extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
whole unpeeled almonds
1. Preheat the oven to 325 F (165 C) and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl cream palm oil, sugar, eggs and almond extract.
3. In another bowl mix flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
4. On low speed, slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
5. Roll dough into one inch balls and place them 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet. These cookies will spread so make sure to give them plenty of room.
6. Press an almond into the center of each cookie.
7. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until light golden brown. Allow cookies to cool to room temperature. They can be stored in an airtight container for a week but taste best within the first three days.
Since palm oil is one of the few vegetable oils that is semi-solid at room temperature, it is an ideal substitute for lard. You could also substitute Crisco (a combination of soybean and cottonseed oils), butter, margarine, or some combination. The more solid the shortening is at room temperature, the more likely it is to produce a crispy and light cookie.