This all happened last year…I finally got some time to sit down (with a cup of hot coffee) and blog about my adventure. With reference to a couple of cookbooks and online resources, as well as my previous baking experience, I was able to develop the Chinese almond cookie recipe that I truly love and enjoy. Traditional Chinese almond or walnut cookies are made with lard or vegetable shortening and rely on baker’s ammonia (ammonium carbonate) as the leavening agent. This combination makes airy and crispy cookies but my family never likes the unpleasant smell and aftertaste of ammonia. To me these cookies taste pretty bland. I’ve tried making 君之’s walnut cookies. His version contains vegetable oil and finely chopped walnut. The cookies are crunchy and have a nutty aroma. I love them but would prefer something even crunchier, like those made with lard or vegetable shortening. Then I remembered that I’ve made some buttery and crunchy almond cookies a couple of years ago. I dug up the book 餅乾圖解入門百科 and looked up that trusty recipe for 洛神酥餅. With that as my blueprint I started tweaking. I started off with replacing part of the butter with vegetable shortening to make them less buttery and boost up the crunchiness. To mimic the role of baker’s ammonia, I played around with the oven temperature by baking the cookies at a higher temperature initially then dropping it. At a higher temperature the dough will set in shape quickly. When air in the dough expands in the hot oven, it will burst out of the already formed outer crust, resulting in irregular cracks (this is exactly my strategy for making high-top muffins such as this Double Chocolate Muffins). Moreover, I continued using the reverse creaming method, which minimizes the formation of gluten effectively and produces cookies with open crumbs (read more about reverse creaming method in my Cut Out Sugar Cookies post). My recipe initially contained more ground almond, but that was not budget-friendly when you need a mass production. Being a frugal mom, I adjusted my ratios again. I experimented with different egg wash too. I found that glazing the cookies with egg yolk gave the best appearance (leftover egg whites can be used for other cookies such as almond thins, fortune cookies, French macarons and Shiroi Koibito). It took me over two months to finalize all details. Before I went for our family trip to Hong Kong last year, I baked about 30 dozens of these mini cookies over a couple of days and brought them back for my relatives and friends in Hong Kong (special thanks to my dear friend Pearl for getting me some beautiful and festive packaging boxes even before I arrived!) Time flies and the year of the Monkey is just around the corner. I just started baking these Chinese almond cookies again. I took some pictures last week when I was preparing them and I’d like to share with you my amended recipe. Do give this a try and make some for your friends and family! May your year of the Monkey be prosperous, healthy, and full of God’s blessing!
Chinese Almond Cookies (Bite-sized)
Makes 48 mini cookies
120 g all purpose flour
55 g ground almond
60 g granulated sugar (I used organic cane sugar)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
60 g unsalted butter, cubed and softened
25 g vegetable shortening
1/3 (about 17 g) large egg, slightly beaten
1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)
48 sliced almonds
For the egg wash
1 large egg yolk, slightly beaten
Notes: The eggs I use each has a net weight of 50 – 55 g.
細砂糖 60克 (EC用有機原蔗糖)
梳打粉 1/8 茶匙
Combine and sift all dry ingredients into a mixing bowl. Mix well.
These chunky almond bits didn’t get through my sieve but it’s okay. Just make sure there is no lumps then throw them into your mixing bowl. They provide more texture to the cookies.
Dump in the butter and vegetable shortening. With a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix with low speed until mixture resembles wet sand. Add egg and almond extract (if using) and continue to mix with low speed until several large clumps form. Gather clumps and use your hands to lightly press them into a dough. Dough should be soft but not sticky. Cover dough with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until firm.
Mine was a triple batch. I divided the dough into three portions and worked with one dough a time after chilling.
Preheat oven to 375ºF/190ºC. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silicon baking mat.
Divide and shape dough into 48 balls. Place balls on the prepared baking tray about 1 inch apart then flatten each slightly (I flattened my little balls with a small medicine measuring cup) . With a pastry brush or a small paintbrush, brush the tops with a thin layer of egg wash. Top each with a sliced almond, pressing down slightly to keep it in place. When dried, brush on another thin layer of egg wash.
Bake for 5 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350ºF/180ºC and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until cookies are golden brown. Turn off oven and let cookies sit in the oven with oven door ajar for another 5 minutes to dry them out. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
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