Sunday, February 3, 2008

A new twist to an old cookie

**First off, let me just say, the Australian Open Men's Single Finals was one hell of a game! Novak Rocks!! **

Chinese New Year is around the corner, and I absolutely luuuuuv this time of the year. Cheerful cheesy new year songs, fancy new year decorations everywhere, frantic shopping for new clothes, and best of all, preparations for the feast that spans from the eve of new year's day, to the 15th day of the lunar new year.

It is tradition for our extended family members to exchange gifts during new year, symbolising our well wishes and greetings. As the baker of the family, the task for the making of these gifts almost always lands in my lap. This year, I decided to come up with an ALMOND SHORTBREAD COOKIE, inspired by the traditional Chinese almond cookie.
While delicious, the traditional cookies are heavy and unbelievably troublesome to make, and so I came up with my own version.

This version of almond cookies are elegant, light, and a breeze to make as they are ice-box cookies. Did I mention that I love ice-box cookies? I really really do, mainly because I don't have to drop one-freaking-hundred lumps of cookie dough if I wanted to bake for my relatives. Also, you can make these before hand and bake it whenever you want. Only tricky part is the shaping of the cookie logs; mine tends to run a little too fat, and instead of nice coin-sized cookies, I get huge misshapened cookies. But they are still preferable over drop cookies, but that's just me. If you'll rather drop them, just skip the ice-box stage and do as you please.

Also, the basic dough is really a brown sugar shortbread dough, which is highly versatile, so feel free to bake it in any form you want, and add any nuts [or not] you like to it.


150g softened unsalted butter

63g brown sugar

2 heap tablespoon castor sugar

100g ground blanched almonds

2 heap tablespoon dessicated coconut

60g rice/corn flour

85g plain flour

2 teaspoon almond extract

GARNISH: 50g whole almonds with skin, chopped medium fine

The preparation for this cookie is a little more troublesome than most, but once that is done I promise the rest is a snap.

First, I would toast the whole almonds, but this is optional, though it would greatly improve the taste and textual of the cookie. Simply set it in a 100 degree celcius oven before you begin anything else, so that it's done by the time all the other ingredients are prepared, roughly an hour [or more, if you have the time]

Next, tip the almond ground and coconut into a pan and dry fry over low heat. Stir constantly, as they burn fast. This cookie is all about the aroma, and toasted almond ground and coconut will give off an incredible frangrance. Fry til it starts to brown, then take off heat and stir for another 5-10 minutes, until the pan has cooled down a little. Let stand and allow mixture to cool completely.

Then, cream the butter, sugar and almond extract til creamy. When using brown sugar, always follow up with a few tablespoons of castor sugar, as brown sugar is less sweet than granulated. Mix in the flours, almond and coconut, mixing with the mixer until it all comes together into a soft dough.

Once done, either over a clean flat surface or over a piece of baking paper, shape dough into logs of desired size. If dough is too wet to be shaped, mix in more flour into the dough until of desired consistency. Once the logs are shaped, roll them in the chopped almonds, then wrap in aluminium foil and place in the freezer. Some recipes say to wrap in cling wrap, but I find that foil holds the shape of the log much better.

Let chill for an hour, or until firm. Slice to desired thickness and bake at 180 degree celcius for around 10 minutes or until light brown. This cookie is meant to be pale in colour. Enjoy!

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