Saturday, October 13, 2012

Chinese Almond Cookies w/ a Spin

I'm planning on having tea with a few girl friends today. Since we all so happen to be Chinese, I couldn't think of a better way to enjoy our warm cup of tea with the buttery and crispy Chinese Almond Cookie.
Since I've never made Chinese Almond Cookies,  I found as many recipes for it to compare. I ended choosing three that looked best to me. My favorite version is adapted from David Lebovitz which so happens to be non-Chinese because of an extra ingredient, Tahini. After all the modifications I made to each recipe, I figured it doesn't matter if its nontraditional since it tastes delicious. 

Tahini is roasted sesame seeds with some olive oil. It is the secret ingredient to making good hummus and a variety of other dishes and desserts. I made my own by roasting sesame seeds and grinding it with a coffee grinder. You would usually add olive oil to the ground sesame seeds to make it into a paste. I used sunflower oil instead of olive oil since it has a neutral flavor. 

David Lebovitz's Almond Cookie
Taste: Mildy sweet with a very settle almond flavor and strong sesame seed flavor.
Texture: Crispy and tender.
Modification: Replaced all purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour. 

Honey Bee Sweets (HBS)
Taste: Very mild wheat flavor, almost undetectable. Cookie is very flavorful from the butter and almond. Of the three cookies, the almond flavor is most noticeable. This cookie is very sweet even with the reduction of sugar. This is my husband's favorite.
Texture: Very crispy and tender. This one is the crispiest of the three.
Modification: Replaced all purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour and whole wheat flour. Reduced the amount of sugar so ration between flour and sugar is 1:2 instead of 1:1

Blessed Homemaker (BHM)
Taste: Sweet with a strong whole wheat flavor that overpowered almond flavor.
Texture: Most tender of the three cookies.
Modification: Replaced all purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour.
*These are the ingredients I used to make the cookies. For all recipes, I omitted white flour aka all purpose flour for whole wheat pastry flour or a combination of whole wheat and whole wheat pastry flour. I also used homemade almond meal from the pulp I had leftover from making almond milk. You can make your own or buy it from Trader Joe's. 
*As always, use organice ingredients. If you don't like cane sugar, try coconut sugar. 

David Lebovitz (Makes about 35 tablespoon sized cookies)HBS
(Makes 4 dozen teaspoon sized cookies)
(Makes 4 dozen teaspoon sized cookies)
Whole Wheat Pastry Flour1 cup (140g)75g150g
whole wheat flour1 cup + 2 tablespoons (140g)75g
baking powder
1 tsp
baking soda
¼ tsp
almond flour2½ oz (70g) 100g160g
cold unsalted butter5½ oz (150 g) 225g
oil (sunflower/canola/etc)2oz (100g)
sugar¾ cup (150 g) 150g60g
vanilla extract1 teaspoon 1 tsp
saltPinch½ tsp½ tsp
water2 tbs
raw tahini paste¾c+2tbs (200g)
to brush

Method for all recipes
  1. Have baking sheets ready. I use light colored baking sheets and did not grease or use parchment paper. Since my baking sheets are light colored, my cookies will cook slower.
  2. Mix all the dry ingredients together (wheat flour, almond flour, salt, sugar, and cornstarch, baking powders, baking soda and tahini if recipe calls for it). 
  3. Then add butter or oil (whichever the recipe calls for) to the flour mixture. If it calls for butter, break up the butter with a biscuit blender to blend butter into flour. I used a whisk since I didn't have a biscuit blender. The dough will be crumbly, this will make the cookie crispy and tender. 
  4. Kneed the dough until it becomes a smooth dough.
    • For Lebovitz' recipe, add water and form into smooth dough by kneading it. Dampen your hands if it feels too dry. If you add an additional tablespoon of water, it will be easier to work with but your cookie will not be as crispy or crumbly.
  5. Create small balls of dough (I used a tablespoon for same sized cookies) and place it on a baking sheet. Flatten each dough with your finger or spoon. I placed half an almond on my cookies.
    • Fridge your dough for a couple of hours unless you are impatient. By putting it in the fridge, you will have crispier and more crumbly cookies.
  6. Bake cookies at 350F for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

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