Recently my church friend, Anna, taught me how to make Macau almond cookies. I didn’t know how easy it could be until her detailed explanation. My immediate thought was like, hm… could I turn it into a sugar-free version? I put my thoughts into action after purchasing mung bean flour from the grocery store. I got several kinds of sweeteners on hand, and the preparation was quite simple. As such, I decided to do an experiment to test them all at once. I will attach a picture at the end of the post so you could see my result and a brief comment after the taste test. Inasmuch as Lakanto is easier to get and the result was quite close to the cookies made with icing sugar, I am sharing with you the sugar-free version made with Lakanto classic sweetener. The recipe below is specifically formulated for the use of this brand of sweetener which is grinded into a power form. Note that, unlike classic cookie dough, you won’t be able to knead the ingredients together to form a dough. Everything is just crumbly and sandy and you will need to squeeze them hard in order to shape the cookies. If your kids have Kinetic sand at home, its texture would best describe it. When shaping, also be cautious about how hard you press the crumbs into shape. The cookies will crumble when unmold if you don’t press hard enough; and conversely, cookies that are too compact would taste dense. So when you make the cookies yourself, avoid pressing the cookies way too long or too hard for fear that they would fall apart. Just keep practicing until you get the hang of it.
Now back to the ingredients. The main ingredient for these Macau almond cookies is actually finely ground mung beans. These cookies were named so because of their almond shapes during the early stage. Mung bean flour comes into two types: raw and cooked. My Hong Kong friends told me that in Hong Kong, mung bean flour is already cooked and could be used right out of the bag. In Toronto, a lot of the time you will find both types in Asian grocery stores. The raw mung bean flour is placed in the aisle where the instant cereal drink mixes and grain/bean powder mix are located. You may also find it at the Indian aisle where various beans and flours are placed (the name is moong dal flour by the way). For cooked mung bean flour, which could be found occasionally, it will be in the aisle where rice flour, sweet rice flour, tapioca starch, and cooked sweet rice flour are located. Pay extra attention to another product with a similar name: mung bean starch. Mung bean flour and mung bean starch are different. Mung bean flour is finely ground split mung beans whereas mung bean starch is the starch extracted from mung beans (just like wheat starch is the starch extracted from wheat flour and they are different). Mung bean flour has a yellowish or creamy white colour and mung bean starch is pure white so you could easily tell the difference. Anna told me that when she first learned to make Macau almond cookies she bought mung bean starch by accident. Her cookies turned out to be rock hard. So make sure you are getting the correct type.
One last note (okay I know I have been yapping a lot). These sugar-free Macau almond cookies won’t be ready to eat right away. The cookies would feel soft when pressed with fingers right out of the oven (the ones made with icing sugar and isomalt both came out hard in comparison and I do not know why). After cooling for a few hours, its texture felt dry and crumbly and I thought I failed at first. But then later I discovered that the cookies changed in texture after resting for a day. I hope you find my notes helpful. If you have tried this recipe, don’t forget to let me know by leaving a comment below, or post to your own IG and tag me (@ec_bakes).
Sugar-Free Macau Almond Cookies
30 g unsalted whole almonds, roasted and chopped
130 g mung bean flour, roasted
50 g extra-fine, blanched almond flour
55 g erythritol and monk fruit blend sugar substitute, powdered (I used Lakanto Classic)
50 g cold-pressed, virgin coconut oil (room temperature)
1 to 2 tsp water
Arrange almonds on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast in a 325℉/160℃ preheated oven for 6 to 9 minutes until fragrant and skin becomes darkened. Cool on a plate completely then chop into big pieces. Set aside.
If your mung bean flour is uncooked: in a large, non-stick fry pan, roast mung bean flour with intermittent stirring over medium to medium-low heat until golden and fragrant. This process takes about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the quantity. Properly cooked mung bean flour smells and tastes nutty so do a taste test if you are unsure. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Sift roasted flour into a large bowl. Set aside.
In a large bowl, stir together the roasted mung bean flour, almond flour and powdered sweetener. Add coconut oil (room temperature) and rub all ingredients together with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse sand or breadcrumbs and would hold shapes only when squeezed tightly with your hand. If the crumbs are still very loose, add water a little bit at a time until the crumbs hold shape when pressed tightly. Make sure the crumbs won’t form into a dough or the cookies will come out very hard.
***for two different flavours, divide the crumbs in half and stir in the add-ins like peanut pieces, roasted sesame seeds and chopped almonds separately.
***the addition of water makes the cookies harder. Cookies made with less (or even no) water give a melt-in-the-mouth texture but crumble more easily during shaping. My personal experience is that crumbs stick less to wooden mold and I was able to make beautiful imprints without adding too much water
For 50-g plastic mooncake mold: place two heaping tablespoons of crumbs (about 23 g) into the cavity of the mold. Pat down with fingertips until the mold is about half-filled. Invert mold onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and press the plunger down firmly to make the imprint. Lift up the mold and gently press the plunger again to release the cookie. If any crumbs get stuck into the mold crevices, simply clear them out with a toothpick.
***mooncake mold makes thicker cookies so I usually mix in the almond pieces at the beginning
For wooden mold: fill mold with crumbs until half full. Sprinkle on a few chopped almonds. Fill mold with crumbs again until heaping full. Press down with your palm and use a scraper to level off the top. Tap both sides of the mold to loosen the cookie. Invert the mold and gently tap the cookie out.
***This mold is shallow so adding the chopped almonds in the middle layer results in a better appearance
Repeat with the remaining crumbs and make more cookies.
Preheat oven to 225℉/110℃ with fan on at least 10 minutes before baking. Bake cookies with the oven door ajar for 30 minutes to dry the cookies and until aromatic, turning the tray halfway for even baking. Let cookies cool inside the oven (still with the door ajar) for 10 more minutes.
Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a cooling rack (the cookies may feel soft right after baking but will firm up within a couple of hours). Store cooled cookies in an air-tight container for at least 12 hours (preferably one day) before consuming. This resting period allows the oil to be fully absorbed into the cookies.
The pictures on the left were made with wooden mold and the right were with plastic mooncake mold.
Here’s my result when I tested with different types of sweeteners. Rightmost row, from top to bottom: allulose, isomalt, erythritol and monk fruit blend sugar substitute (Lakanto), and icing sugar as the control. You could see the colour difference with the cookies made with isomalt giving the palest colour. It had the least sweetness and a melt-in-the-mouth texture. On the other hand, the ones made with allulose were beginning to darken midway and came out all burnt by the time the baking was completed. . The interior was all burnt like a piece of charcoal. I was brave enough to take a bite but immediately spat it out and ran to rinse my mouth. I remember that when I used allulose for my Keto Japanese Cheesecake, I had to tent the cake with aluminum at a very early stage so I sort of knew that allulose would caramelize faster, but I surely didn’t expect the result to be that burnt, especially when I was baking at 275℉/135℃ only. The next day, I came across with this Chinese article which contains an English youtube video here. It said that studies found that allulose cakes caramelize faster and thus are easier to burn. Because of this, I don’t think allulose would be a good choice as I don’t want my almond cookies to pick up too much colour. In contrast, the ones made with Lakanto were a bit darker than the ones made with icing sugar, but the texture stayed pretty close to the original ones. I found it slightly less sweet than the original version so I added more Lakanto for my subsequent trials. I also baked longer with a reduced oven temperature of 225℉/110℃ with fan on.
這是用不同代糖做實驗的結果，最右排四個，從上而下分別是：稀少糖/阿洛酮糖allulose、異麥芽酮糖醇/巴糖醇isomalt、赤藻糖醇加羅漢果混合天然代糖Lakanto和對比之用的糖霜。分别做好杏仁餅後，EC把它們一起送入焗爐烘乾，結果是異麥芽酮糖醇做的杏仁餅最淺色，也最沒有味道，但這個卻有入口即溶的口感；用稀少糖做的在中途已經開始焦化了，到最後簡直完全燒焦成炭一樣， 裏裏外外都是焦的，EC鼓起勇氣咬了一口之後急不及待將之吐出，然後趕緊跑去漱口。記得以前用稀少糖做生酮日式芝士蛋糕時，也是很早便要蓋上錫紙避免上色過深的，因此也略略知道稀少糖會比砂糖更快焦化，但這次入爐溫度只有275℉/135℃，也不算很高呀！後來EC在網上找到這篇文章 ，裏面提及到研究報告指出稀少糖做的蛋糕在烘焙過程中特別容易焦化。若想杏仁餅保持淺色的話，大概稀少糖不會是很好的選擇了。對比之下，用羅漢果糖做的杏仁餅比用糖霜做的上色略深一點，但兩者在味道和質地上很相似，只是用羅漢果糖做的不如用糖霜做的甜，在後來的實驗中，EC增加了羅漢果糖的用量，亦將爐溫進一步調低至225℉/110℃，並開啟熱風，加長時間把餅烘乾。
In this batch I added roasted black sesame seeds.
Two different brands of uncooked mung bean flour. The Indian brand has a very fine, flour-like texture and is my preferred type for making almond cookies.
Cookies will crumble and fall apart if not pressed hard enough during shaping. In this case, you will just need to redo it. Things will get better after a few more practices.