Sometimes, I just gotta brag. My friends, relatives, clients and anyone else for that matter, knows of my self-confidence sometimes soaring out of control, but when push comes to shove, I really am a lot more humble than all that. Except of course, for a few things that are simply beyond reproach. (For those who have tried my cheesecake for example, will attest/swear and otherwise applaud). Forgive my boldness in advance!
As it usually goes with me, I can get a craving for something I want to taste. Currently, I am searching for the most authentic Moroccan Couscous, made in a couscousier of course, with the spices of the north African and Middle Eastern cultures melding into an intoxicating aroma , no..make that perfume, of a stew that steams the couscous… Well I digress, that will be a future blog. So, after having my 153rd try at enjoying Chinese restaurant almond cookies, and being so disappointed, I realised, did you ever have a memory of something that was better than the real something? We all have, of course. So I wanted to make the very best version of this cookie, keeping it authentic of course, but how would the Imperial Court of China (back in the day) have served them to the Emperor?
Normally, I search and collect, read and figure out, try, and try again in developing something that I will be able to call “my own” and know it will become a signature dish of mine. This is half the fun of it all. This time, that did not happen.
Recently I stumbled upon recipes and stories by Garrett McCord on his “Vanilla Garlic” blog. His things are often included on the “simply recipes” site I enjoy. Garrett’s cooking knowledge/techniques are so well founded, yet he takes away any of the intimidation of “the rules”, and just gives us the recipe. Mixed with his innately flowing narrative style of stories, his great recipes are sometimes just adjunct, like dangling participles after a good thread. Great all on their own.
So, in looking for really good Chinese style Almond Cookies, Garrett’s version proved to be the ultimate, and needed no further experiments, trials and surely no input from Brad,, alas, I cannot refer to these as my own, no matter how obliquely. I don’t care about it this time, these are that good. And despite my 98% following Garrett’s recipe, this will, I am sure, become yet another thing I definitely brag about for sure. For sure.
Chinese Almond Cookies (with a couple of small alterations from me…)
- 1 1/3 cups of almond flour, lightly packed (If you don’t have this, wait until you do. This is what Makes These So Good, and not overly sweet!)
- 1 cup of unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 1 egg for dough, 1 egg later for wash
- 2-3 teaspoons of almond extract (I add much more – and it totally works, try 7-8 teaspoons)
- 1 3/4 cups of flour
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons of sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
- Halved almonds ( I use cracked in half, very irregular shaped pc. and toast them gently.)
- ½ to ¾ cup of “Sugar in the Raw®”
1 Place the almond flour, salt, and butter into an electric beater with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for three minutes. The mixture will become course and chunky looking. (Mine tends to combine and go right past the crumbly stage.. stop the mixer as soon as this happens and continue)
2 Add one of the eggs, reserving the other for later, and the almond extract. Mix on low speed until just incorporated.
3 Sift together the flour, sugar, and baking soda then add to the butter mixture at low speed. Mix until just combined.
4 Take the dough and flatten it into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Place it in the refrigerator for two hours to chill.
5 Preheat the oven to 325F. baking sheet (I seem to do OK with ungreased plain sheet) or line with parchment. Place the other egg into a bowl and beat it. (if you have never used parchment paper, try it. you will never go back!)
6 Take pieces of dough and roll them into balls about a half-inch wide. Place them on the sheet about and inch apart and then press them down slightly with a soup spoon to make a concave coin shape. (this is a lot more forgiving, so experiment a little here…)
7 Place a slivered/halved etc. almond onto each cookie and lightly press it into place, then paint the surface of the cookie with some of the beaten egg using a pastry brush or your finger (this will give the cookie a lacquered appearance once it bakes). Sprinkle “Sugar in the Raw®” granules on top.
8 Bake for 13-15 minutes or until the edges just being to tan. Cool on the sheet on a wire rack.
Makes 3 dozen medium (3 ½” diam.) sized, or 5 dozen small (2 ¼” diam.)I make 2 or more batches at once is just as easy, and roll them into logs and freeze. Great as gifts, and very handy. You can trust me on this; Make two batches, make them all, and you will see how fast these go!