Crisp, buttery and nutty: traditional Chinese almond cookies, bringing good fortune just in time for the Lunar New Year.
A big ol’ eye-roll is what I used to do almost instinctively, when these almond cookies were served up at the end of a Chinese banquet. After the most decadent 5-course meal, after having indulged in lobster, scallops, noodles and more, we end with the flop that is semi-sweet almond cookies and hot bean soup for dessert?!
It seemed so bogus to me that we didn’t finish these Chinese meals with the dessert it deserved. The dessert that would do the meal justice. When I was younger, I wished, just for once, we could have chocolate or ice cream or any other dessert instead.
Thankfully, my tastebuds have matured (somewhat), and I’ve grown to look forward to an end of the meal that isn’t sickly sweet. And if you didn’t know, “It’s not too sweet” is the ultimate Chinese compliment to any dessert.
These cookies are small, but addictive, which is ideal because in this case, more cookies = more good fortune. And good fortune = the top tier of Chinese well blessings. My recommendation? Crunch these on a full belly while counting your fat stacks of lai sees (red pockets).
In the making
✘ You might take these out of the oven and do a double-take of the recipe, because these cookies aren’t nearly as fluorescent yellow as the ones you get from the restaurant. The egg wash does give it a yellowy sheen, but it’s not the egg-yolk yellow that I was used to seeing (and strangely never questioned, in retrospect). Digging through several cookie recipes, I found some called for yellow food colouring – aha! – which was probably best to omit, anyway. My unconfirmed conclusion? It must date back to traditional recipes, when these cookies used to symbolize coins for good fortune.
✔ Word of warning, if you have new dentures like my grandma: the texture is dry, crumbly and crunchy than what you’d expect from a regular cookie. Think, flavour of marzipan, with a punch of almond extract, and a biscuit-ey consistency that’s chewier near the centre.
Chinese almond cookies
- 1 cup butter, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- 1 egg white
- 1/2 teaspoon water
- In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg and extract. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture.
- Roll into 1-in. balls. Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten with the bottom of a cup. Sprinkle with almonds.
- In a small bowl, beat egg white and water. Brush over cookies.
- Bake at 325° for 14-16 minutes or until edges and bottoms are lightly browned. Cool for 2 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.