When planning the menu for a dinner party featuring Chinese food, I was stumped when it came to the dessert portion of the meal. I could make my own fortune cookies, but then I would have to come up with clever fortunes to go in the cookies. Then there’s the ever present problem of how you get paper fortunes baked into the cookies without starting a fire in an open flame (propane) oven? Too much thought and skill involved. So I dropped that idea. And from my days working in the International District I remembered seeing egg tarts and a type of gelatinous almond concoction being delivered to other people’s tables. The gelatinous dish (Almond Float) especially looked just too scary for me. (I have an irrational dislike for all thing “Jello”, so of course I haven’t tried this Chinese delicacy. It must be delicious because I have witnessed people swooning over it, but like I said – gelatinous substances – eww!)
So I did what I always do when faced with a possible cuisine related disaster; I searched the web for inspiration. And what I found were several recipes for Chinese almond cookies. Perfect. Of course, I had to design the cookies to meet my specifications. I didn’t want to include an egg, which seemed to be in every recipe. I wanted a cookie closer to the flavor and crunch of shortbread. But I wanted to use granulated sugar rather than powdered sugar. I wanted a Chinese cookie, not a Scotch shortbread.
So the result was this cookie which incorporates the granulated sugar taste of a traditional Chinese almond cookie, but possesses the crunch of shortbread. Of course my version retains the almond flavor and look (whole almond on top) associated with the traditional version. It’s just that mine are crunchy, not soft like most sugar cookies, including traditional Chinese Almond Cookies.
So if you are planning a Chinese meal and want a dessert that is semi-traditional, easy to prepare, inexpensive, and sure to be loved by young and old – bake up a batch of these little darlings. They are light and absolutely perfect with a lovely cup of coffee or tea.
And even if you don’t like Chinese food, you are sure to love these almond flavored treats. Now if you don’t like Chinese food or almond flavoring, I can offer you no help. There are just some culinary circumstances that even this overly Pollyanna prone person can alleviate!
- 1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
- ½ c. granulated sugar + more for sprinkling
- pinch salt
- 1½ tsp. almond extract
- 2½ c. unbleached all-purpose flour
- whole almonds
Beat butter, sugar, and salt together until light and fluffy. Add extract. Add flour and work just until combined. Place dough on a long piece of plastic wrap. Using your hands, wrap the dough into the plastic wrap gently shaping it into a round log with about a 1-inch diameter. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
Cut into ½-inch thick rounds. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet about 1½-inches apart. Flatten each cookie slightly with the bottom of a glass. Sprinkle a small amount of sugar on each cookie. Place an almond in the center and gently press down to make sure the almond stays where it belongs!
Bake in a pre-heated 300 oven for 25-30 minutes or until the bottom of each cookie is a nice golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.