The Cooking Chook does Chinese New Year – Spanky Chinese Almond Cookies
Chúc mừng năm mới! Happy New Year! Tomorrow (February 10) is Chinese New Year or Tết, as the Vietnamese call it. But, just before I launch into my usual spiel, I would like to say that I got absolutely spanked by baking attempting this recipe. I learnt two very important lessons:
- Never rush baking.
- Always go with your gut instinct.
Normally, I do my baking on Saturdays because that’s when I have the most time. But, last Saturday, I had a Dentist appointment in the morning, then I had to do my weekly grocery shop only to have a friend call and invite my partner and I to a get-together that started in three hours at 4pm. Even though we were told not to bring anything, I quickly whipped up a Mars Bar slice, to take along for dessert. So, it didn’t really give me much time to do any baking. I thought, ‘not to worry Cooking Chook, just get up a little earlier tomorrow and bake before study group’. Study group starts at 10:30am on Sundays, so I was up at 7am to attempt this recipe. This is what you get if you rush baking….
I popped the cookie dough in the fridge to firm up, and when I poked it 30 minutes later, it still felt a bit soft. I looked at the time – it was 9:30am. Stuff it! Just take it out and bake it. I should’ve just left the dough in the fridge until I got back from study group. Absolute disaster…
Take two – on the way home from study group, I stopped at the supermarket to get more ingredients to have another crack. This time, I respected the baking process and took my time. Second batch was A LOT better! *high five* So, getting back to these cookies, they are reasonably ubiquitous in Chinese supermarkets and restaurants around Chinese New Year. They would form part of the ‘offering’ you would make to the family shrine for those who have passed before us and ask for good fortune in the New Year. These cookies are great with a cup of jasmine or oolong tea. Traditionally, these cookies are made with lard like the egg tarts, but my Mum brought up a good point that if I had used lard, you couldn’t eat it if you were vegetarian. My parents are devout Buddhists, so they follow a vegetarian diet during certain events on the Buddhist calendar. So, the lard was replaced with butter. No fatty piggy stench this time! This recipe makes about 50 cookies.
Spanky Chinese Almond Cookies
2½ cups self-raising flour
½ cup almond meal
1 cup caster sugar
½ tsp salt
250g unsalted butter, softened
1½ tsp almond extract
½ cup sliced almonds for decoration
1 egg, beaten for egg wash
Sift the flour, almond meal, sugar and salt into a bowl and set aside.
Use an electric mixer to cream the butter until smooth. I used my KitchenAid stand mixer at setting 4. Add the egg and almond extract, mix until just combined (once again on setting 4).
Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed (setting 1 on the KitchenAid) until just combined.
Turn the dough out onto a piece of cling wrap and shape it into a disc. Wrap the dough and chuck it in the fridge for about an hour or until firm. Please take this step seriously, or risk baking cookies like my first batch. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…
Preheat oven to 160-165°C (fan forced). Line two baking sheets with baking paper. Pull the dough out of the fridge and roll into 2.5cm balls and place them on the baking sheet about 2.5-3cm apart. Using your finger, lightly press the middle of the ball to make an indent and flatten the dough. Place a sliced almond in the indent of each cookie. Brush the top with the beaten egg.
Bake the cookies for about 12-15 minutes until they are lightly golden on top. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes, before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Note: I have amended the original recipe slightly, so if you would like to see the original recipe, click here. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for about a week.
I hope everybody gets a chance to join in on the festivities in the next couple of weeks, and may we all have great fortune in the Year of the Snake!