Ahh Lunar New Year, the time of lanterns, red dragons, and all things round! Right now, I’m pretty sure there are dragon dances occurring simultaneously in different parts of Chinatown. In fact, some of them will probably be passing by our office street today, to keep things loud and festive with the beat of the drums and all the dancing.
I’m happy I live in a country that celebrates both Lunar and Western New Year. My family is of Chinese descent so my parents pretty much keep track of the lunar calendar, but we don’t celebrate the new year like they do in other Chinese countries where they take the whole week off. We actually follow the Western calendar as our country does, so when the Lunar New Year comes around we just partake in small simple traditions that my grandmother has been practising since as far as anyone remembers.
Anyway, as many of you might know, the Chinese are a very superstitious lot. I’m seeing a lot of people reading feng shui and horoscope books lately in anticipation of their fortune for the year, but in general there are a couple of “universal” superstitions practised during the new year to help keep the household in the most favourable condition.
They say that on New Year’s you’re not supposed to clean or sweep inside the house for fear of sweeping away good luck. Wearing red is also encouraged to draw in positive and auspicious tidings, and that one’s easy enough to get behind. (I am indeed wearing red today.) There’s also this superstition about putting away sharp objects and displaying only round ones around the home; like coins and ponkan [椪柑] or Chinese honey oranges. Lots of people display money trees as well with the smaller round Mandarin oranges hanging from its branches.
The recipe I’m going to talk about today falls into that last superstition. These New Year Almond Cookies are common around this time of the year, especially because they’re shaped kind of like a coin. And if it’s true that these kinds of objects attract good energy, then this is definitely the type of sweet treat you’ll want to be gobbling up in hopes that the more you eat, the more financial success it’ll bring. And I can guarantee you’ll want to eat lots of them anyway. They’re delicious!
I’m not quite sure where this tradition of eating Almond or Peanut Cookies during the Lunar New Year originated; I just know that it’s being done quite extensively. Although I am not saying that these treats are exclusive only to celebrate the Lunar New Year, they just seem to be extra popular around this time. I do recall eating this on a normal day in Singapore because they have stores there that sell pineapple tarts and all sorts of yummy nut cookies.
These cookies are wonderful– in terms of scent, in terms of texture as well. They’re super chewy in the middle but lightly crisp on the outside. They’re beautifully golden as well, which just adds to their “coin-like” appeal. They taste fabulous, especially for almond-flavour lovers like myself. Sweet, with a light butteriness. I personally find it hard to stop when it comes to these kinds of cookies.
These cookies use almond meal (aka almond flour), and I do believe SM Supermarkets carry it these days. But if you can’t find any, you can always buy whole almonds without skin and pulse them through the food processor until they turn powdery. The rest is just a matter of mixing the ingredients together. You can use some electronic equipment like a food processor or mixer, but I like to mix it using my spatula and some muscle. I’m too lazy to clean up my food processor, to be honest. I avoid using it as much as I can these days. 😛
The only pain about this recipe is that it needs to go in the fridge to firm up, otherwise it’s hard to shape into rounds. I’ve never tried to bake these without refrigerating the cookie dough first, so let me know how that works out for you.
New Year Almond Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen cookies
- 1 1/3 cups almond flour, lightly packed
- 1 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
- Pinch of salt
- 2 eggs, divided use
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- Whole almonds
- 1. In a large bowl, mix together almond flour, butter, and salt using your spatula. Make sure the butter is cut into small cubes to make this process easier. The mixture will be quite chunky. (You can also do this in a stand mixer.) The mixture will be rough and chunky looking.
- 2. Add one egg into the mix, reserving the other one for later. Add in the almond extract and mix together until just incorporated.
- 3. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and baking soda. Add to the bigger bowl with the butter mixture and mix until just combined. At this point, the dough will be quite soft.
- 4. Pour mixture out onto a cling wrap and form into a disc. Wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours, up to overnight.
- 5. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 325°F (165°C) and line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, beat the last piece of egg for the egg wash.
- 6. Take out the chilled dough from the fridge. Scoop out pieces of dough and roll them into balls that are roughly about 1 inch in diameter. Place on the prepared baking sheet and gently press them down with your palms to flatten into even round "coin" shapes.
- 7. Once all the dough has been shaped, use a pastry brush to put egg wash generously on top of each cookie round. Gently press in a piece of whole almond on top.
- 8. Bake cookies for 15 to 17 minutes, or until they start to turn golden on top and the cookies look firm all around. Remove and let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
To all of you who are celebrating Lunar New Year today, I wish you a very happy and prosperous one! 恭禧發財!