Happy Chinese New Year! 2015 marks the year of the goat/sheep/ram and that’s my sign! I’ve never been one for astrology but in the spirit of the new year I read this little profile on the sign of the goat. Even though I’m not a “believer”, I am married to a horse (allegedly a compatible sign), got engaged in February (a goat’s lucky numbers are 2 and 7), got married in November (lucky month), and brown and red were our wedding colors (both lucky colors). I’m also not independently wealthy, which coincides with the prediction that goats “do not have a propensity for good fortune.” Hah.
Astrology aside, when I was a kid, Chinese New Year was a time for feasting and parties. Since arriving at adulthood, I usually pay a nod to Chinese New Year by cooking up something Chinese and wearing a little red. Because being married means no more money-filled red envelopes will be gracing my pocket, the sparkle of Chinese New Year just isn’t the same. 😉 A call to mom to wish her “Kong xi fa tsai, xin nian kuai le!” (translation: congratulations, prosperity to you, and happy new year!) and I call it a day—even if the celebrations technically last for 15 days.
This year, in my nod to the holiday that marks the largest annual human migration, I baked up some Chinese almond cookies. I grew up eating these cookies, and frankly, I’m a little sad I don’t see them around as often as I used to. I’ve never made them before, and I pieced together several techniques and suggestions to make this version. The result was a buttery cookie, crispy on the edges, chewy in the middle, and a punch of almond flavor that whisked me back to childhood. My greatest victory was finding almond extract in the Rabat medina to give these cookies that characteristic almond zing.
I made a batch for Omar to share with his Moroccan colleagues at work and another batch for a small Chinese New Year lunch with a few ex-pat girlfriends from Egypt, Australia, and Indonesia. That’s the thing I love most about sharing food– all the stories, cultures, and friendships that come with it.
- 1 cup almond flour
- 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ⅔ cup granulated sugar, plus an additional ¼ cup for rolling the cookies
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ⅔ cup unsalted butter
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- ¼ cup ground almonds
- Pre-heat oven to 350F.
- In a large bowl, sift together the first 6 ingredients using only ⅔ cup of sugar.
- With a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the sifted ingredients until it looks like a coarse meal.
- Mix in the egg and almond extract with a wooden spoon, then gather the dough up with your hands. The dough might appear too crumbly to hold together at first, but use your hands lightly to form the dough into a ball. Stop as soon as the dough comes together.
- In a small bowl, mix the remaining ¼ cup of sugar with the ¼ ground almonds
- Roll the cookie dough into tablespoon-sized balls, then drop the ball into the sugar and ground almonds, turning to coat.
- Place the cookie on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and press lightly to flatten the cookie, just slightly. I do this with a fork, but the fork impressions don’t stay on the cookie after baking.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes just until the edges are starting to turn golden.
- Remove and cool and wire racks.