I’ve always believed that it’s not really Chinese New Year without the following things: 1) family + the people you love (and who love you!), 2) cookies, and 3) cheesy Chinese ‘tong tong chiang’ type music.
I made my first ever batch of Chinese New Year peanut cookies and pineapple tarts last year, and really enjoyed the whole process. I’m not sure why it took me so long to do it, but I suspect that it was something to do with the fact that I usually have a supply of cookies from home…
But anyhow, back to the cookies. I wanted to try making something different this year, primarily because I’ll be back home for Chinese New Year this time around (yay!) and therefore have no immediate need to bake my favourite peanut cookies. So I decided on almond cookies, which are one of the more popular cookies during the festive period.
I modified the peanut cookie recipe I used last year as it was rather simple and non-finicky, and replaced the peanuts with almonds. I also decided to use lard in the cookies instead of oil – I’ve always been told that lard is the secret to perfect ‘melt in your mouth’ cookies, and I wanted to see if this was true.
So what did I think? Well, first of all I was a little alarmed when the cookies were in the oven, as they smelt EXACTLY like pork crackling. Though truth be told, little bites of pork crackling isn’t the worst thing in the world.. in fact it would be an excellent snack! They didn’t smell of pork once they’d cooled though – thankfully. On the ‘melt in the mouth’ scale, I felt that they were a little ‘meltier’ compared to the cookies I made last year. However (I don’t believe I’m saying this), I feel that that extra little bit of ‘melt in your mouth-ness’ doesn’t justify the unhealthiness of lard… so I think I’ll stick with oil in the future. This must be a sign of ageing.
Almond cookies typically have a piece of silvered almond on their tops – I had run out of these so decided to stick to the tried and true method of making an indentation instead. I used a chopstick to do this, some people like to use a (clean) pen cover or straw.
Am planning to make a few more types of cookies, and I promise to blog about them promptly if I do!
Chinese New Year almond cookies
Makes approximately 50-60 cookies, depending on size
- 2 cups ground almonds
- 2 cups plain flour
- 3/4 cup icing sugar (alternatively, use castor sugar)
- 220g lard (alternatively, use 1 cup corn oil)
- pinch of salt
- 1 egg, beaten
1. Dry fry the ground almonds in a wide non-stick pan (over medium heat), until they start to become fragrant and lightly browned. Take care to make sure you do not burn the almonds, as it will impart an unpleasant burnt taste to your cookies.
If you don’t have ground almonds, you can use whole almonds (without skins), and pulse them into a fine powder after dry frying.
2. Place the ground almonds, flour, sugar and salt in a bowl, and mix with a spatula until well combined.
3. Using a pastry blender, incorporate the lard into the almond/flour mix, until you form a cohesive dough. A good guide is to try forming a ball from the dough – it should not crumble. You may need more or less oil/lard depending on the weather.
Alternatively, you can use a food processor for this step: place the almond/flour mix in the food processor bowl, add chopped cubes of lard, and pulse until it forms a cohesive dough. If using oil, trickle the oil in slowly whilst pulsing.
4. Heat the oven to 180′C.
5. Form the dough into 2cm balls, and place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Press down lightly with a chopstick (or a straw or a clean pen cover), this forms the indentation you see in the cookie.
Alternatively, place a piece of slivered almond on the top of the cookie (after eggwashing though!).
7. Glaze lightly with the beaten egg.
8. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until they turn a lovely shade of golden brown.