Chinese New Year almond cookies

 The almond cookie is my favorite Chinese New Year cookie. These little crumbly cookies are addictive as they can be. Because they are so light with melt in your mouth feel, you can never stop at one. Trust me, before you even realize, you had a already gone through a dozen. These little almond cookies holds it's shape well in the hand but when you pop one of those into your mouth, the cookie crumbles with almond goodness. you grind the little piece of almond with your molar. And when you press it with your tongue against the top of the mouth, the contrasting saltiness within reveals balancing out the powdery sweetness. 

It's almost Chinese New Year again, a major festive season for us. Though, I am summoned back home every year for the the celebrations. I never had time to prepare the usual goodies or bake. It's my grand Aunt that does all the New Year cookies and cakes. For as long as I remembers, every year on Chinese New Year morning, we kids will look forward to the afternoon visit to our grand aunt's place. It's usually the third or fourth stop to visit. By then our stomach will be rumbling with hunger, the intentions are clear - we would immediately dive into the spread, the ang paos are secondary.

The huge dinning table will always be filled with the usual huge spread. Platters upon platters of delicious food and home-baked goodies awaits us. We will have a table to ourselves and ours are extra special with loads of little goodies. Then last year, quietly, my grand aunt passed me a neat hand-written stack of her priced recipes along with some of her old photos. "It's for you to remember me" she said in her graceful voice. I knew her intentions of wanting me to carry on the tradition one day when she's not around. The thought of this saddens me. But I know there's always a big part of her in the recipes. 

All nicely packaged, ready for gifts.
My grand aunts recipe is written in Chinese and I am so lazy to read anything in chinese. Luckily Michael helped me translate so I would not miss out any important note. This recipe also calls measurements from chinese bowl. I've adapted the recipe slightly in modern context.

350g plain flour
250g icing sugar
2½teaspoon baking powder
1½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
- sieve the above 3 times

175g chopped almonds (skin off), 
150g ground almond (extra-fine)
300 mL corn oil (I specify using 金圈牌 corn oil, but any brand will do)
¼ teaspoon almond extract, mix into the corn oil

1 egg
1 teaspoon custard powder
- beat together

Place diced almonds in a single layer on a tray lined with baking paper. Toast the diced almonds at 160 degrees C for 15- 20 minutes until lightly browned. This will improve the fragrance of the almonds.

In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, icing sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt 3 times. Add in the ground and chop almonds and mix well. 

Next, add ⅔ of the corn oil to the dry ingredients. Rub into the dry mixture until it resembles bread crumbs. Add the remaining oil and gather the mixture to form a dough. Gently knead the dough to incorporate dough crumbs. This dough doesn't need refrigeration at all.

To shape cookies, roll cookie dough between 2 pieces of baking paper to about 1cm thick. Dust lightly with flour, Cut out cookies with desired cutters. Gather scraps and continue cutting out dough until dough is used up. 

Brush the first coat of egg wash mixture onto cut out cookie dough. Let dry for approximately 15 mins, then brush on the second layer. Bake cookies at 160 degrees C for about 10 minutes or untill the egg wash is golden brown. (depending on size of cookies). Remove baked cookies and allow them to cool on wire rack completely before storing in air-tight containers. 

Since you are here, also check out the buttery pineapple tart recipe for Chinese New Year.

- till next post, ss.

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