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Chinese Almond Cookies

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Chinese-style almond cookies have been sold in the Chinatown of Los Angeles for over fifty years. When I found this copy cat recipe by Todd Wilbur, I knew I had to give it a try.

One of the ingredients in Todd Wilbur's recipe is lard. From experience, I knew the Armour brand lard just wouldn't do. (In the past, when I used Armour lard in sweet pastries, it seemed to produce weird off flavors.) After asking every one of my local supermarkets and boutique grocers for high quality leaf lard, I realized that I was not going to be able to find it. So, I tried the recipe with butter and with Spectrum Organic All Vegetable Shortening (which is made with mechanically pressed organic palm fruit oil that hasn't been additionally processed in any way). Both recipes were delicious - as expected, the shortening almond cookies had a lighter, crispier texture, but not quite as much fullness of flavor. Many tasters did comment that the shortening made almond cookies had a stronger almond flavor and may have tasted a little sweeter. In the end, the recipe I recommend is has a mix of both butter and shortening. If you do choose to use shortening, I recommend avoiding any that contains partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.

For the all butter recipe, I assembled all the ingredients: 3 cups (375 g) all purpose flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup (60 g) almonds), 1 cup (200 g) sugar, 1 large egg, 12 ounces butter, 1 ounce water, 1 teaspoon almond extract, and 24 almonds.


I used a blender to grind the 60 g almonds into a fine powder. Because the almonds had a tendency to stick to the sides of the blender carafe, I had to use a spatula to scrape down the sides a few times to get an even grind.


This is what the almonds looked like after the grind.


I whisked the flour, salt, baking soda, and freshly ground almond powder together.


Then I used a stand mixer to cream the butter (shortening or butter/shortening combination) with the sugar, egg, almond extract, and water. If the butter isn't fully softened, the sides of the mixing bowl will need to be scraped down once or twice before the mixture will be smooth and without lumps.


I added the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl and mixed briefly to combine. I then formed the dough into 1-in. dough balls. I then pressed an almond or almond half onto the top of each ball. Refrigerating the dough balls for fifteen minutes results in better shaped cookies. If the dough contains no butter and only shortening, refrigerating makes no noticeable difference. For the record, the recipe yields about four half sheet pans with six dough balls each. These cookies spread out while baking, so a decent amount of space (about two inches) is needed between the balls.

I then took another large egg and beat it lightly. Using a pastry brush, I brushed egg onto the surface of each dough ball.


After baking for twenty minutes in a 350°F (175°C) oven, I cooled them on a wire rack.



Chinese Almond Cookies (makes 24 cookies)
Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C)
3 cups (375 g) all-purpose flourwhiskmixform into 1-in. (2.5 cm) ballspress almond onto each ballrefrigerate 15 minutesbrushbake 350°F (175°C) 20 min.cool on wire rack
1 tsp. (4.6 g) baking soda
1/2 (3 g) tsp. salt
1/2 cup (60 g) almondsgrind to powder
6 oz. (170 g) buttercream
6 oz. (170 g) palm oil shortening
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
1 tsp. (5 mL) almond extract
1 large (50 g) egg
1 ounce (30 mL) water
24 almonds
1 large eggbeat lightly

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Written by Michael Chu
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51 comments on Chinese Almond Cookies:(Post a comment)

On March 08, 2006 at 06:53 PM, Sonali (guest) said...
Subject: aluminum foil ?
Looks yummy. Can a oiled aluminum foil be used instead of parchment paper on the baking sheet ?

I would appreciate if you could check out my foodblog & give your feedback. Thanks !

Sonali


On March 08, 2006 at 06:54 PM, Sonali (guest) said...
Oops..forgot to list my blog. here it is :

http://spicehut.blogspot.com


-Sonali


On March 08, 2006 at 07:56 PM, Michael Chu said...
Subject: Re: aluminum foil ?
Sonali wrote:
Looks yummy. Can a oiled aluminum foil be used instead of parchment paper on the baking sheet ?

It is actually not necessary to use parchment paper or foil. I did a batch directly on the sheet pan and it came out just fine. You do spend a tiny bit more energy cleaning the pan because there will be more fat on the pan than if you had lined it.


On March 08, 2006 at 08:14 PM, blessedmomma said...
Subject: grinding almonds, or any other nut for that matter
will I get acceptable results using a small coffee bean grinder or a hand held blender? You know the small wand blenders?
Thanks, Heather


On March 08, 2006 at 10:54 PM, Michael Chu said...
Subject: Re: grinding almonds, or any other nut for that matter
blessedmomma wrote:
will I get acceptable results using a small coffee bean grinder or a hand held blender? You know the small wand blenders?
Thanks, Heather

Chances are if you use an immersion or stick blender you'll make a mess as the almond pieces get flung everywhere. A coffee grinder will work perfectly fine however.


On March 09, 2006 at 02:05 AM, Shannon (guest) said...
Subject: shipping
These cookies are my mother's favourites and I would like to make a batch and send them to her. It would take about 4 days from making the cookies for them to arrive at her door. Will the cookies still be moist if I put them in a airtight container or vacuum bag?


On March 09, 2006 at 01:06 PM, nyangelina (guest) said...
Subject: i love almond cookies
thank you for posting this recipe. I've been looking for this for awhile.


On March 09, 2006 at 05:10 PM, Michael Chu said...
Subject: Re: shipping
Shannon wrote:
It would take about 4 days from making the cookies for them to arrive at her door. Will the cookies still be moist if I put them in a airtight container or vacuum bag?

These cookies were never all that moist (unless using the all butter version - then they are a little tender) - they're light and crispy... Four days should be fine - she'll probably need to eat them within the next two or three days after she receives them though.


On March 10, 2006 at 06:57 PM, *morningstar said...
In the recipe and on the top of the recipe card, it says to bake at 350, but in the recipe card it says 250. Is this a typo?


On March 10, 2006 at 08:46 PM, Michael Chu said...
re: typo

Yes it was. Fixed!


On March 12, 2006 at 05:25 PM, Not An Artist said...
I made these yesterday and they are delicious!

Only one quibble ~ 6 ounces (butter, shortening) is not 120 grams, it is more like 168 grams.


On March 12, 2006 at 07:24 PM, Michael Chu said...
Not An Artist wrote:
Only one quibble ~ 6 ounces (butter, shortening) is not 120 grams, it is more like 168 grams.

Ah, you're right. I was doing some quick mental math on 340 g divided by two is of course 120 g (I'm an idiot :) ). I've made the changes - it's 170 g. That's for catching that error!


On March 13, 2006 at 09:12 PM, Alex (guest) said...
Must the almonds be blanched to make the almond meal?


On March 14, 2006 at 02:50 PM, hitchhiker72 (guest) said...
Subject: Great site
I began reading this site when it just began but forgot about it for a while and only just rediscovered it. It's really gone from strength to strength! Going to try out some of the recipes....

Thank you!


On March 14, 2006 at 07:56 PM, Ol Jac (guest) said...
Subject: Almond cookies @ 250 degrees
We printed out the recipe card and used 250 degees as listed. Argued with my wife who said that nobody cooks cookies at 250, she was right,but they still tasted great...


On March 14, 2006 at 08:13 PM, Michael Chu said...
Alex wrote:
Must the almonds be blanched to make the almond meal?

I don't feel like they need to be. In my case, I used slivered almonds that already had their skins removed. If you don't blanch your almonds the skins will create a slight textural difference in the ground almonds, but it should be acceptable.


On April 10, 2006 at 02:12 PM, Cherish said...
Subject: Can you substitute almond flour?
Can you use almond flour for the ground almonds and/or some of the flour?

Thanks.


On April 10, 2006 at 06:05 PM, Michael Chu said...
Yes, almond flour can be substituted for the ground almonds. In fact, I believe that almon flour is just finely ground almonds.


On October 14, 2006 at 10:50 PM, Toffee (guest) said...
Subject: Almond cookies
I made some one time using almond butter instead of peanut butter in a peanut butter cookie recipe in my red and white checked cookbook. Turned out pretty good and I didn't have to do the grinding thing.


On February 07, 2007 at 06:54 AM, Jacq (guest) said...
Subject: Chinese Almond Cookies
I followed the recipe and made the cookies last weekend, and the cookies taste delicious ! :P I made some modification to the original recipe. I used 1/2 tsp of baking soda instead and add in 1/2 tsp baking powder. I reduce the amount of sugar to 180g instead and increase the ground almond to 80g. Besides, I omit the water too which I find quite unusual to add into cookies dough.


On February 16, 2007 at 06:02 PM, travelerpalm (guest) said...
Subject: ammonium carbonate
Hey, any of you geeks ever use baker's ammonia for cookies?
What do you think it would do to the almond cookie recipe?


On February 17, 2007 at 12:04 AM, travelerpalm (guest) said...
Subject: leaf lard sources in the bay area
You can order leaf lard which you will have to render yourself from:

Place an order for the San Francisco Farmerís Market on Saturday. Pick up there, at the Ferry Plaza . To order, use farmersmarket@nimanranch.com, or call --- by Wednesday of the week you want to pick up.

Schuyler Ingle
Customer Service
Niman Ranch
510.500.0537
www.nimanranch.com


On April 08, 2007 at 05:56 AM, Velva (guest) said...
Subject: Lard substitute
In the past I have had a fair bit of success substituting a combination of half butter and half vegetable shortening for lard. This works especially well for pie crusts. It also makes life much easier when I am cooking for vegetarian friends.


On May 14, 2007 at 10:03 PM, Coffee & Vanilla (guest) said...
I will try this recipe this week... Just got some almond powder and found this site searching for recipes to use it.

Have a great day,

Margot

http://www.coffeeandvanilla.com

http://www.dfunkydog.plus.com/cofeeandvanilla_banner_300x74.jpg


On May 16, 2007 at 06:38 PM, Coffee & Vanilla (guest) said...
Subject: Almond Cookies
I used wholemeal flour because I did not have white flour at home and they came out delicous.

Here is picture.

http://www.coffeeandvanilla.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2007/05/almond-b...jpg

Thanx,

Margot


On July 12, 2007 at 10:54 PM, an anonymous reader said...
Subject: Yummy!
Yummy! yummy! yummy!
My family can't get enough of these cookies! Different from all the other cookies i've tasted. Not so sweet.


On July 21, 2007 at 06:50 AM, bc (guest) said...
Great cookies! Used the variation posted by Jacq. For my oven, 15 min. was plenty. Also, added 3 Tbs. unsweetened coconut and a dash of vanilla extract. Thank you! These were just what I was looking for... BC


On July 25, 2007 at 02:39 PM, megan (guest) said...
Subject: Butter and Sugar Free version
Check out my version which doesn't contain any butter and substitutes agave nectar for sugar.

http://www.veganfabulous.com/?p=27


On October 14, 2007 at 11:43 AM, MissJubilee (guest) said...
Subject: Butter in China?
I gotta say, I love the idea of these cookies, but I don't bake many cookies of ANY kind here (in Henan) except at Christmas, because butter is really expensive in China! My local WalMart-sized grocery store even stopped carrying it for a while and nobody except me seemed to mind. (And it was during November-December last year, so I REALLY minded!) Are there any cookies, besides peanut butter cookies, that are made with OIL? There's plenty of oil here - I got a gallon of peanut oil as a New Year's gift from my school and have barely made a dent in it - but all milk products (and nuts, for that matter) are expensive. I wonder why they make these in Chinatown? Is there some part of China where cows have been raised for hundreds of years, and ovens are commonly used? It certainly isn't here! Huh.
~Miss Jubilee, Henan, China


On November 26, 2007 at 08:32 AM, at (guest) said...
Subject: spectrum organic all veg shortening
pse tell me where to buy above in singapore. i have always avoid trying recipe using shortening as i heard it is unwise to bake with such ingredient.


On November 26, 2007 at 08:37 AM, Michael Chu said...
Subject: Re: spectrum organic all veg shortening
at wrote:
pse tell me where to buy above in singapore. i have always avoid trying recipe using shortening as i heard it is unwise to bake with such ingredient.

If pure palm oil (which is what the spectrum brand vegetable shortening is) isn't available where you are, then you can use the traditional shortening ingredient - lard. High quality lard tastes tastes better in baked goods than vegetable shortenings.


On August 08, 2008 at 02:05 PM, PPP (guest) said...
Subject: Chinese Almond cookie recipe
Last night ... Aug. 7, 2008 ... I decided to print-off Michael's recipe for Chinese almond cookies ... I chose the "printer-friendly" format, & cliked on "print", choosing to make 2 copies of the recipe. To my horror, I saw that the pages being printed off on my printer were numbered "9", as the "last page", & on to "8", etc. I scrolled down the recipe on my computer screen only to notice that there is a tiny little option asking to 'HIDE' the "comments" which were 32 in number ... and this is what the recipe was printing first ... a whole bunch of comments, & using up my printer paper ... I was running out of printer paper, & tried to stop the printing job, but it wouldn't stop ... I am FURIOUS ... Does this Michael not understand that choosing the "printer-friendly" format usually means that ONLY THE RECIPE itself is transmitted to the printer? How stupid is this Michael? And why is the option to "hide" the 32 comments from people who have used this recipe worth printing when the person has chosen the "printer-friendly" format of the recipe, way at the bottom of the recipe, which one sees only after cliking on "print", as I did ... and only because I noticed that the so-called "printer-friendly" format was "9" pages long?!! :angry:


On August 08, 2008 at 04:54 PM, Dilbert said...
this is a well identified problem called "User Error"

/q
I was running out of printer paper, & tried to stop the printing job, but it wouldn't stop ... I am FURIOUS
/uq

two thoughts:
(1) few would consider a nine page supply of printer paper "adequate"
(2) acquiring some basic computer skills - such as how to stop the printer - could be useful.

I also recommend you research the meaning of "printer friendly" -
and perhaps "internet etiquette" while you're on a roll . . .


On August 30, 2008 at 09:39 PM, Edison (guest) said...
Subject: Shortening Question
In the recipe, you metion to avoid using partially hydrogenated vegetable shortening. Why is that?


On August 31, 2008 at 06:25 AM, Richard X (guest) said...
Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil indicates trans fatty acids. Trans fats are bad for you, so you should avoid them. Even though some packaging will say 0 trans fats, they really mean 0.5 g or less of trans fats per serving - who knows how much you're actually using or eating!


On September 03, 2008 at 01:15 AM, Ev (guest) said...
Subject: grinding almonds
Tuesday, September 02, 2008 8:57 PM



I have been trying and trying to solve the problem of:

how to grind almonds to a fine powder, to use in making almond paste or cookies etc:

I have used the FOOD PROCESSOR with the blades, to chop up the almonds but this has left a rather COARSE almond flour.

I used an inexpensive "burr" Coffee bean grinder ( $40.00)
hoping that would work.
It did for the first short whle and then the fats in the almonds accumulated in the BURR mechanism and blocked the Grinder up so it was useless.

I am wondering if a BURR Coffee bean grinder in the $150.00 rqange would work better on the almonds and not get clogged up due to the fatty nature of the almond nuts?

I have NEVER used a BLENDER and wonder if this might be the way?

Also I know , or think I know, that industrially, almond flour is made on a grinder with TWO rollers (stone, I think).

But these are expensive. I mention this as it shows there MUST be a way to make almond powder using a machine.
I mean, almond paste is made in huge quantities industgrially, as well as ALMOND FLOUR.

SO what I am trying to understand is:


1. the BEST way to achieve a fine almond powder: wopuld it be these industiral grinders with the STONE ROLLERS?

2. Or will a small relativley inexpensive KITCHEN appliance do an EQUAL job?


And would a BLENDER be the inexpensive solution?
Say I want to grind 1-2 pouinds of almonds (not all at once!) to make almond flour for cookies or almond paste. Would a blender be a good solution.

I have not used a BLENDER as yet?
Anything to watch out for when purchasing one?

I find it STRANGE that there is so little INFO on HOW to grind almonds to a flour, and that there are so few (if any) machines dedicated to the task.
DOes no one cafre for Almond flour?

I have a KitchenAid and looked to see if there would be an attachment for it to grind almonds.
But the attachement would only grin GRAINS and NOT "oily" nuts.

SO that makes the KitchenAid useless for this task.

Quite frustrating.

Any ideas?

Perhaps purchase two stone rollers?
YOu would think stone rollers would get plugged up as well with the oily almonds.
How can you get a FINE Almond flour from oily almondfs in the first place?

Oh yes, I tried a hand grinder which as burrs in it.
For grinding poppy seeds. That too got clogged up.


SO really this is a "science" to get nice fine fluffy almond flour from OILY nuts.

By the way, when I ground the almonds, I did not blanche (peel) them.

Wonder if that has a bearing on the "clogging" issue?


On September 03, 2008 at 02:06 PM, Dilbert said...
Ev -

not sure if almond ever gets to the "bread flour" stage - there is a lot oil in the nuts.

here's a link on "how to" - curiously similar approaches to your efforts

http://www.trulylowcarb.com/AlmondTLC.htm


On September 05, 2008 at 04:16 AM, Ev (guest) said...
Thanks Dil.


On November 03, 2008 at 04:08 PM, Emilio Rot (guest) said...
Subject: CHINESE ALMOND COOKIES
I wish to know if for this recipe...the almonds are roasters or semi-toasted or no. Also it is very important for to get the ALMONDS in POWER.
Best regard.
Emilio Rot.

PS: Additionally I will appreciate ever so much, if you could inform to me... I am highly interested to grind ALMONDS/NUTS/HAZELNUTS in besides in several grain sizes. Do you know some Chooper or Small Grinding Machine suitable for making it???


On December 03, 2008 at 01:49 AM, Ben (guest) said...
Subject: Chinese Almond Cookies
The recipe has baking soda but no acid for it to react with. One teaspoon is a fair amount - about enough to neutralize two cups of yogurt, buttermilk or orange juice. I've often noticed this in recipes and wondered why -- is it for flavor, or are "non-acids" still acidic enough that adding a lot of soda will give you more lift? Or is it maybe just supposed to be baking powder?

On Trans Fats - Butter has almost as much trans fat as Crisco -- and since butter and tropical oils also have lots of saturated fat, the American Heart Association is still recommending margarine, trans-fat and all. I would just stick with plain Crisco or go with traditional lard (my favorite).

To the tireless almond grinder -- I feel your pain. Have you looked into a home mill used for producing flour? You might consider asking at the King Arthur Flour forum -- lots of hard-core bakers over there who grind their own flour at home (and, I'm sure, nuts). www.bakingcircle.com

Of course, I would just go the easy route and buy almond flour and almond paste online - real cheap if you but in bulk (6-7pounds). http://americanalmond.com


On December 03, 2008 at 01:23 PM, Dilbert said...
according to the FDA ( http://www.fda.gov/FDAC/features/2003/503_fats.html ) butter has no trans fat.

Crisco has been reformulated to reduce/eliminate transfat; many bakers have noticed Crisco does not "perform" as before.


On December 03, 2008 at 03:50 PM, Ben (guest) said...
Subject: Trans Fat
Dairy and meat definitely have trans fat (I can't get the link to work, But see NYTimes Article"Trans Fat Fight Claims Butter as a Victim" 3/7/07) I think the FDA lists trans fat for butter as zero because there is less than .5 gram in the serving size(of 1 Tb). Butter has 3.12 g per stick. The new Crisco you mention has slightly more, but it is still low enough to come up as "0" on the nutrition label.

It's interesting that you say the baking qualities of Crisco have changed -- I think bakers are generally going to have a harder time than people who use Crisco for frying. The former use shortening to improve the end product while the latter just want a sturdy oil that won't go rancid quickly.


On December 03, 2008 at 05:35 PM, Dilbert said...
edited that post to show the link.

as you point out, the definition of "zero" is problematic.


On January 03, 2009 at 06:10 AM, neeki (guest) said...
these are also nice if you bake them with a cashew on top. we buy these (sans almond, with cashew) in singapore for chinese new year.


On March 21, 2009 at 11:04 PM, Elaine (guest) said...
Subject: Chinese Almond Cookies
You can buy "Almond Meal" at Trader Joe's (on the West Coast only, unfortunately). It is just finely ground almonds (including the skin). The skin will actually add flavor, but it will affect the coloration of the finished cookie (no problem for me). Hopefully you have access to a Trader Joe's.

Crisco's new no-transfat formulation does not perform like traditional Crisco. It has ruined my formerly fabulous pie crust, and I think it would adversely affect the Almond Cookies as well. The new Crisco seems to perform more like an oil than a solid.


On March 21, 2009 at 11:16 PM, Elaine (guest) said...
Subject: Chinese Almond Cookies Almond Meal
I just Googled "almond meal" and found out "Bob's Red Mill" sells almond flour/meal. It's pretty expensive compared to Trader Joe's, but at least it is available.


On June 19, 2009 at 08:04 PM, MinkeyMonkey (guest) said...
Subject: High Altitude Chinese Almond Cookies
I just wanted to say that I tried your recipe today and the cookies turned out terrific!

I am at 8250 feet above sea level, so if anyone is wondering if this recipe works, it does!

I swapped light brown sugar for white and used 1/2 cup almond meal instead of grinding the almonds.

Thanks for the recipe!!


On January 02, 2010 at 07:46 PM, chunkie_cheese (guest) said...
Subject: Almond Cookies
Made this, it was alright...but i'll never make it again.


On February 02, 2010 at 08:47 AM, kerching (guest) said...
Subject: baking for chinese new year
I've tried this recipe with the modifications shared by Jacq.. my mum couldn't stop complimenting it! great recipe! Thanks for sharing! I made 70+ cookies that are of smaller size to fit in my containers with smaller mouths..

My pictures:

http://thefledglingcook.wordpress.com/2010/02/02/almond-cookie/


On February 05, 2010 at 05:36 AM, Susan (guest) said...
Subject: Grinding almonds
I've seen other recipes where they have you grind the almonds with the sugar to get the fine grind required for some recipes. (Toasting them lightly to crisp them, then cooling them down helps, and brings up the flavor, too.) The almonds do get much finer and the sugar grinds finer too, which makes blending and disolving it into the butter easier. Shortbread and Sable cookies benefit from a creamier blending of the butter and sugar, I don't think the almonds included would hurt the mixture, since it's got it's own fat to blend in as well. In fact, it might flavor it better!


On August 30, 2010 at 04:06 PM, loisdd@gmail.com (guest) said...
Subject: lard
The first chinese almond cookie recipe I had used lard. (Late 1960s) The were pretty good. I don't know if I'd like them now though

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