Saturday, August 22, 2009

Asian-style Almond Cookies

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If you think this teacup and saucer set is a blast from the past, you are right. It was given to me by my Granny almost 30 years ago. Growing up, I used to spend a lot of my waking hours at her home ... lots of happy memories there. I still remember this particular day she came back from her errands. I followed her into the kitchen and she whipped out this pink teacup set, and to my delight, told me that it was for me. I couldn't stop smiling the whole day.

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I thought the prettiest thing about this teacup was its wide brim which dramatically tapered down to a petite, dainty 'waist'.
Oh, how grown-up I felt drinking from it!

Today, I suddenly wanted to know where and why Granny got it ... so I phoned her. To my utter surprise, she remembered every single detail! Apparently, like many little girls back then, I was very fond of playing masak-masak (pretend cooking). So one day, while she was out, she chanced upon this teacup set at a shop along North Bridge Road and bought it for my masak-masak! She's in her 80s and she still remembers :)

Anyhow, I used to have my afternoon tea served on this set - usually a hot beverage with bread or a slice of sugee cake or traditional Asian cookies.

These Almond Cookies taste very similar to the ones I ate as a child. In those days, lard was commonly used in many baked goods, presumably a cheaper source of fat than butter. Whatever the case, lard made these cookies very crispy and sandy-crumbed, with a distinct aroma and flavour. Can't imagine? Just think of what bacon does for a dish and you'll get the idea.

These days though, lard is seldom used, but you can still re-live the taste of these cookies by using ghee (clarified butter).

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I made a lot of cookies for they finish up too quickly. The sweet-salty-crispy-nutty combination is simply addictive, I kid you not. What's more, there is no need for a mixer! Yes, everything goes into a large bowl and a few stirs later, you are ready to bake. It's that easy.

But wait, there is one thing that always puzzled me about this teacup set ...

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If that is your signature on the teacup, pray tell ...

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... why are there these random smudges of paint on the saucer? They were there since Day 1 and I often wondered why. My favourite childhood conspiracy theory was that the artist used the saucer as a palette and couldn't get the paint off after he was done with the cup! You think? ;)

Recipe
(adapted from here)
- 100g ghee
- 120g caster sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
- 70g ground almonds (today, I mixed 35g finely chopped almond chunks + 35g ground almonds)
- 150g plain flour
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt (do NOT omit this ... without salt, your cookies will taste flat)
- Egg glaze: egg yolk

1. Mix first 4 ingredients, then add almonds and mix.

2. Sift flour, baking soda and salt. Mix and add to above. Mix to form a dough.

3. Scoop dough, shape it with your hands and arrange on lined tray. I used a 1/2-tsp spoon to measure out the dough for even-sized cookies. They expand slightly when baked, so I find that using the 1/2-tsp yields a nice bite-sized cookie. Brush with yolk glaze.

4. Bake in preheated 180 degree celcius oven for 12 to 14 minutes till yolk glaze on cookies look golden yellow and bottoms of cookies are light golden brown. Do not underbake. You do not want a soft centre for these cookies. They are supposed to be nicely crisp and sandy-crumbed throughout.

5. Allow cookies to cool completely on a rack and store in container.

23 comments:

  1. Lard makes everything better doesn't it =) the tea set is beautiful!

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  2. I think the splashes of color are there to harmonize with your beautiful cup..cinched at the waist as you so eloquently described it.
    If I told you that one of my fond(One of 1000) memories of my mom..was to go to lunch once in a while after church on Sunday to Bamboo Village:)
    I could not wait for the almond cookies.I still cannot.
    What a lucky girl you are to still have your nana.I am not surprised that she remembers when she bought you this.We love our grandchildren with all our hearts and some things we buy are more meaningful..this was for your play cooking:) Look at the influence!!
    Look how your play cooking paid off.
    I love this sweet post..the words.. the cup.. the cookies.

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  3. The cookies look delicious! I don't cook a lot (but I do enjoy eating! haha!), reading your blog makes me feel like getting into the kitchen and whipping something up! : )

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  4. Questi dolcetti sembrano davvero squisiti, complimenti. Ciao Daniela.

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  5. What a lovely and precious teacup and saucer set! This is the 1st time I have seen such a unique design for teacup. Your almond cookies looks so delicious! A great treat for teatime!

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  6. I love the dainty-wasited teacup too -- reminds me of Scarlett O'Hara cinching in her waist... Great cookies.

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  7. These look wonderful!! I love almond anything and I like that these seem pretty quick and easy to make. Oh and you know what? I actually have a cup and saucer set that has random little smudges of paint on the plate too. very weird!

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  8. These cookies make a good present! Do you ship to HK? LOL

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  9. These look wonderful...
    I will have to give them a try....we love almond cookies and I have never baked my own...
    L~xo

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  10. pigpigscorner: Thanks! Yeah, char kway teow w/o lard ain't the same! ;)

    Nana: M, you are gift to your alphabet boys as they are to you! I love food that bring back memories ... I think I will keep this tea set for my daughter. Thank you for your beautiful words.

    Alice: Thank you :) Such lovely words!

    Daniela: Bella, mille grazie!

    Food For Tots: Much thanks :) I hope you try them too :)

    Cucinista: Thanks. LOL! Scarlett O'Hara! I must find a Clarke Gable version of this teacup set :)

    Alejandra: Thanks! Really?! Oh wow, what are the odds?!

    Kenny: Let's barter - you send over that fantastic looking tiramisu, I will send over a jar of these cookies :) Deal?

    Linda: Hey, thanks! Do give them a try :)

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  11. Oooh, ghee based cookies are always more delicious than buttery ones- that's my opinion! I know that almonds and ghee form a potent combination- we make almond bars at home :) The cookies look like they're glowing! Beautiful.

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  12. Mia: Please share your Almond Bars recipe if you can ... I am drooling already!!!

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  13. Hi Ju, I left an award for u on my blog. Do go pick it up if you will. :)

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  14. Ohmigosh -- I love the teacup and saucer! They're so quaint! The almond cookies look delish and gorgeous :)

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  15. wow! i'm gonna try this recipe~ looks yummy! ;))

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  16. Looks yummy! I love almonds and cookies! Very healthy combination. I love munching this on my way to work, giving myself a break from the usual stuff I buy from the vending machines.

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  17. i tried this today. and i'm about 70% pass, managed to get the crisp and sandy-crumbed texture. i used a 1/4 tsp drop but i still get uneven shapes, not as round and perfect as yours. mine is a little to crisp, so a slight pressure on the cookie it crumbles in your hand.
    my parents find the cookie a bit sweet even though i reduced 20g, next round will try to reduce 30g see how it goes.
    Thanks for the recipe, it's easy to make and even easier to eat. :p

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  18. LOL!!! 70% pass. ;) Janice, give yourself more credit!

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  19. hi there, can we substitute Ghee with butter?
    Love your recipes!!!

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  20. Anon: Yes, but it won't taste Asian anymore! ;)

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  21. I think I have an answer to whose signature it is on your teacup!!! I think it reads "PERTH WA". As in the cup was made/painted in Perth, Western Australia. Accompanied by the drawings of the Kangaroo Paw which is the state emblem of WA, I think my guess should be right. Did you grow up in Perth? It's strange because we have an area in the city called Northbridge where some of the Chinese grocery stores are but there isn't a road called North Bridge Road! Anyways...I hope that solves the mystery! Thx for all the posts, they're fantastic! xxK

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    1. OMG OMG OMG. I think you are absolutely right!!! I googled "Kangaroo Paw" and it really IS what is painted on the cup and saucer. And the words really are "Perth, WA"!! You are fantastic!!! Thank you SO much for making sense of this "mystery". LOL. For years, I have always wondered. And no, I did not grow up in Perth, although I have been to Northbridge when I visited. I have lived in Singapore all my life. ;) THANK YOU again! Out of curiosity, are you Singaporean or Australian? :)

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