Tis’ the season when bakers are secretly—and fiercely if I might add—competing with each other for the title of best holiday cookie. You know who you are! I know a few of these competitors in my small circle of friends and family…but I won’t name names.
Regardless of whether you’re serious about your cookies or not, during the holiday season, bakers tend to go for the sure thing. Time-tested cookie recipes and traditional concoctions. But of course, when you prioritize certainty, you sacrifice points for originality! They’re the been-there-done-that cookies. (As Ina Garten would say) Who wants that? So it’s time for something new, bakers! How about these old-fashioned Chinese-style almond cookies?
What A Chinese Almond Cookie Should Taste Like
A crunchy almond cookie is perfectly crisp and crumbly. To get it right every time, the true Chinese almond cookie requires lard, not butter!
There are too many almond cookie recipes out there that call for butter. In fact, I tried this recipe with both butter and lard, and, let me tell you, there is no replacement for lard! I won’t sugarcoat it for you. (No pun intended…) Lard is what gives these old-fashioned almond cookies their distinctive crumbly texture and flavor.
So if you ask me if lard can be replaced with butter in the comments, the answer will be firm. In this case, no lard, no victory! A little extreme, but it’s true nonetheless!
One More Tip for Success
Another key to this almond cookie recipe is pre-toasting the nuts. Let them cool before using (they are left whole and placed on top of each cookie).
Pre-toasted nuts add a crunchier texture and nuttier flavor, elevating your baked goods to surpass the holiday competition!
Good luck and happy holidays, everyone!
Chinese Almond Cookies: Recipe Instructions
Sift together 1-1/4 cups (160 g) all-purpose flour, ¾ cup (95 g) powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons (20 g) cornstarch, 1 teaspoon (4 g) baking soda, and 1 teaspoon (4 g) baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Sift the mixture together again to make sure that all the ingredients are light and well-incorporated.
Next, beat together the egg yolks with the melted lard (at room temperature). Beat in 1 teaspoon almond extract.
Slowly pour this mixture into the dry ingredients.
Fold the mixture with a rubber spatula, then knead the dough with your hand to create a dough ball. Try not to overwork the dough—it will be similar to a crumbly pie crust in texture. Cover with an overturned plate, and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, and toast the almonds for 5 minutes. Cool completely before using. Beat the last egg yolk, and set it aside.
Now, raise the oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Take the dough, and divide it into 18 equal pieces. Roll each into a round ball (or press/squeeze together into a disc), and transfer to a baking sheet so the cookies are placed at least 2 inches apart (they will spread out).
Brush all sides with the beaten egg yolk.
Press one toasted almond onto the center of each dough ball. They may crack a little bit—that’s ok. Just gently squeeze them back together if there are particularly large cracks. Bake for 15-18 minutes until golden brown.
Bake the cookies for 15-18 minutes until golden brown.
Allow to cool before transferring to a serving plate or airtight container.