Monday, January 30, 2017

Aunt Tata's Almond Cookies, Mk. III

Well, after a lot of fuss and bother and experimentation (and ingredients), the secret of those ever-so-elusive and ever-so-nomnomnom Chinese almond cookies has finally been discovered.  Astreja K. has been trying to figure this one out since the mid-1960s, when the Grade 4 teacher acquired some goodies from a local restaurant to complement a geography unit on China.  It was love at first bite.  (She's still working on the Chicken Fried Rice recipe, but it's getting closer.)

This recipe is missing a couple of the decorative features of restaurant almond cookies:  The egg wash, embedded almond, and yellow food colouring have been omitted.  Feel free to add them if you wish, but the cookies work just fine without them.

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Cream in a large bowl:

  • ¾ cup lard (traditional) or vegetable shortening (makes a slightly lighter cookie)
  • ¾ cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon pure almond extract

Combine in another bowl:

  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ cups ground almonds (preferably whole, not blanched)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Gradually add the dry mixture to the bowl with the creamed mixture of lard and sugar.  Continue mixing or kneading together until you have a firm dough -- it should hold together and not crumble.

Form the dough into 1" balls and place on a baking sheet lined with ungreased parchment paper.  Press a thumbprint into each dough ball to flatten it slightly.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.  The cookies are done when they've flattened and spread out a bit and have crackles all over the top, and the texture should be light, dry and sandy.