Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Slightly Less Traditional Chinese Almond Cookies

Lard. The word itself doesn't even sound nice. I'm sure it has virtues that I'm just too stubborn to see, but I... I just can't bring myself to even consider looking for it. The recipe for Chinese almond cookies at calls for lard and several reviews caution against using substitutes, but I just... can't. Here's the recipe as I've interpreted it:

Chinese Almond Cookies

Yields approximately 55 cookies

2 3/4 C  all-purpose flour
1 C  white sugar
1/2 tsp  baking soda
1/2 tsp  salt
1/2 C  Crisco shortening
1/2 C  unsalted butter
1  egg
2 1/2 tsp  almond extract
1/2 tsp  vanilla
whole almonds and sliced almonds
1  egg beaten, for egg wash

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 F (165 C).
  2. Sift flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt together.
  3. Cut in shortening and butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  4. Add egg and extracts and mix until homogeneous (I used my brand new hand mixer with stand/bowl set up on the lowest speed for about two minutes, scraping once).
  5. Roll into 1" balls and set 2" apart on a clean baking sheet (there's no need to grease, plus I used silicone baking mats so you never need to grease).
  6. Brush the tops of cookies with the egg wash and gently press almonds into cookie centers.
  7. Bake  for 15-18 minutes.
  8. Remove immediately to cool on racks.
Almond Cookie Reflections

I wish for a pastry blender every time I encounter dry ingredients that need fat cut in. I don't have a desperate need for this tool, but I want it. This is what I can manage with a butter knife gently chopping through the flour mix, butter, and shortening on my palm. Not too shabby.

The original recipe asks that you sift the flour before measuring it and I just don't see the need to. It measured approximately the same after I'd sifted the first cup, so I didn't bother with the rest until I sifted it together with the dry ingredients.

While rolling the balls (I scooped with a teaspoon then rolled), the dough didn't seem like a delicate thing requiring double sifting and I felt justified in ignoring part of the original instructions (look at how they glisten with fat, mmm).

Sometimes reviews are helpful to read, sometimes they just don't apply to what you did. A lot of people said that the dough was way too dry and that they added another egg or two or some milk. I didn't get any fuss from the dough with just one egg, but maybe theirs was a problem of hand mixing as opposed to throwing it in the bowl and letting machines do the work. I liked the idea of the egg wash and judging by some of the pictures people sent in, I'd say the egg wash was a visual must; the cookies came out nicely golden after 18 minutes.

Reader, now this may shock you but, I've never had these cookies before, so I wouldn't know what the texture or taste is supposed to be like. They are definitely crisp and a bit on the dense side the way I made them. The whole apartment smelled of almond essence while they baked, but the actual flavor is sweet and mild. Tell me what your ideal Chinese almond cookie is like!

As always, if you have any recipes you'd like to see me attempt, please send them my way. Next on the to do list: croissants.

Update: I just tried baking these without the egg wash (I threw half the dough in the fridge the other day) and they come out nicely golden yellow anyway. I think taking a minute or so off the baking time also left them a tad more delicate while still deliciously crisp.

I made these as a goodbye sweet for my friend that's heading back to Texas tomorrow. I hope they take her home with a few good memories of Singapore.


  1. I also have a cookie recipe that uses lard, and I haven't made them yet (mostly because they're a holiday cookie and it's not the holidays).

    However, lard is better for us than we've been indoctrinated to believe. Pure lard isn't hydrogenated, and has good fatty acids in it. There's a good article about frying with lard here:

    I got a small tub of lard from the hispanic section of the supermarket, which means it's hydrogenated. I've been using it to saute and fry things, and it does well. The next time I make pie crust, I'll trade in the Crisco for it... and see how it goes.

  2. Interesting stuff! I'll ask where they hide the lard at the super market next time I swing by (which will probably be tomorrow, even though I just went today, knowing me).

    Yes! Please let me know how the pie crust goes. I've heard that traditional egg tart shells need lard love too, so holler when you post!

    X M