Friday, June 22, 2012

Chinese Almond Cookies

© Ellen Blonder, illustration from 
Every Grain of Rice: A Taste of Our Chinese Childhood in America

I spoke at the Mill Valley Public Library last night about my cookbook Every Grain of Rice, and followed up with a pile of almond cookies from a recipe in the book. The recipe, from my father's sister, was originally made with lard, which few people used anymore. For the book, we listed vegetable shortening--Crisco, really. I was thinking about how recipes evolve. This batch was made with organic, non-hydrogenated shortening from Whole Foods Market, which certainly was not available way back when.
Here's the recipe. Please attribute it to the book if you copy it. Enjoy!:
1 cup vegetable shortening (or lard)
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
36 blanched almonds
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
With an electric beater, cream together the shortening and sugar until fluffy. Crack the egg into a small bowl, beat it well with a fork, and reserve 1 tablespoonful. Beat the rest of the egg and the vanilla and almond extracts into the sugar mixture until well combined.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda onta a piece of wax paper. Add to the creamed mixture and stur until just blended. The dough will be crumbly but should hold together when squeezed in a ball.
Form the dough into 32 to 36 balls, each about 1 inch in diameter. Place them 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Press a blanched almond into the center of each ball. The edges of thedough will crack slightly. With your fingertips or a small pastry brush, brush the tops of the cookies lightly with the reserved beaten egg.
Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown. With a spatula, remove the cookies to a rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.

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