Making Chinese Restaurant Almond Cookies
Our favorite and most authentic Chinese restaurant in town has delightful almond cookies (I have a wicked sweet tooth, my nemesis). These almond cookies are apparently quite popular in US Chinatowns, and from what I have been able to gather, are probably a version of a walnut cookie from mainland China. Regardless of where and why they came into existence, they are a delightful shortbread-y sugar cookie (I love cookies). Crisp and soft at the same time. Sweet, but not too sweet. Delicious with coffee, tea, for breakfast, afternoon snack, or all of the above (it happens, don’t judge me). I get butterflies in my stomach just thinking about them. (true story)
So, when I decided I needed to make these, the recipes that claimed to be the most authentic called for lard. Well, I’m definitely more of a butter girl, so that was my first alteration. Second change was doubling the almond extract, because I’m also an extract girl (and the ones from the restaurant have a lot of almond flavor). And, finally, I swapped a little flour for whole wheat, just out of principle–the principle of pretending there is something healthy about these little sweethearts.
This recipe definitely reads and acts more like a biscuit recipe. You cut in the butter just like if you were making biscuits–so it’s a dry dough. After you cut the butter in and it looks like a coarse meal, you will wonder how in the world the dough will ever come together. Well, once you add the egg and almond extract, you will really wonder how. It just simply does not seem like enough liquid. But, it is. You could use a mixer at this point, but this is one of the few cookie doughs that I just use my hands on–it helps to soften up the butter so the dough comes together. It only takes a few minutes. Then, when you are rolling the dough into snakes (I’ve spent too much time with the boys), you may still notice a little dryness until the butter warms up a little more from your hands. Once you cut the snakes and roll each cookie into a ball, the dough is pretty smooth.
Traditional almond cookies have either a whole or sliced almond on top. Since I am on a mission to use up the almond meal from my Almond Milk, I just dipped the balls into almond meal and then pressed them down with a custard cup to slightly flatten them before baking. They do bake longer than most other cookies I make–about 15 minutes, so don’t be alarmed, it’s not a typo. :)
THE RECIPE: Chinese Restaurant Almond Cookies
Makes 30-48 cookies, depending on the size you choose
2 cups white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter
2 tsp almond extract
Almond meal, sliced, or whole almonds
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Cut 2 sticks of butter (1 cup) into pieces and put in a mixing bowl. Sift flours, sugar, baking soda, and salt over the butter and use a dough cutter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
3. Add egg and almond extract. Mix well. Dough will feel initially feel very dry, but will soften.
4. Roll dough into a log/snake, about 1-2″ in diameter. Cut into 1-2″ slices, and roll into balls. This is where you can control the quantity by cutting as many as you would like.
5. Dip balls into almond meal or place an almond on top. Press down slightly with a small bowl or cup. Bake until the edges just start to turn golden, about 15-17 minutes.