When my boyfriend and I got together ten years ago, we thought it would be a fun idea to make a whole bunch of cookies for Christmas.
It made sense. We both liked to bake and since we weren’t going to spend the holiday together (sob!), we could “share the wealth” with our families and friends. Besides, everyone likes cookies.
So we bought butter and sugar and chocolate and I brought down my food processor. We ground nuts and creamed butter and dipped and spooned and flattened balls of dough. We both dug out recipes we loved and it seemed every time we turned around one of us was saying, “Oh! We have to make these. They’re just too good.”
And we baked and baked and baked some more. We had cooling racks on every empty horizontal spot in the apartment. We bought way, way too many zippered storage bags.
Finally, after a couple of weekends of doing this, we took a count of how many cookies we had.
Yes, you read that right. 536 cookies, And that’s not counting the ones we ate along the way.
We gave away a lot of cookies that year. We had our own stash of cookies until March. Let me repeat that. March.
We had cookies until Easter. Easter, people.
And we still love cookies. I don’t eat a lot of sweets, but I will never, ever turn down a homemade cookie. One of the many (ahem) cookies we made that Christmas were these linzer torte bars. Bar cookies are great for when you want cookies but don’t feel like futzing around too much. And these are basically thumbprint cookies without all that faffing around.
Two things, though. The recipe doesn’t call for salt and the dough definitely needs a pinch of it. I know, you don’t think about salt in cookies, but most recipes do call for a tiny smidge of it. You could probably go all hipster and add a very small sprinkle of Himalayan pink salt to the top, but it’s just easier to add maybe an eighth of a teaspoon to the dough itself and not get that huge salt hit on your tongue, which I don’t particularly care for.
And it goes without saying that they’ll only be as good as your jam or fruit spread is. I used Bonne Maman’s apricot preserves in this and it worked beautifully. They’re perfect with a cup of tea.
And I had a stubborn craving for these almond cookies this week, which are also great with a brew. I haven’t made them in forever and once I pulled the recipe out, I remembered why. The recipe, as written, calls for “solid vegetable shortening”, or Crisco.
Eww. I don’t use Crisco. Actually, most almond cookie recipes call for lard, which as you can figure out, has no place in my vegetarian kitchen. So I’ll hold off on making these until I can find a substitute for the solid vegetable shortening. Yes, I can use butter, but butter isn’t used in Asian cooking. Hmm.
Clearly more research is needed. Time to fire up the Kitchen Aid.
Almond Cookies (from Martin Yan’s “Chinese Cooking For Dummies”)
- 1 ¾ cups of all-purpose flour
- ¾ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 cup solid vegetable shortening
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup packed light brown sugar
- ⅛ tsp salt
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp almond extract
- ½ cup chopped blanched almonds
- 32 almond halves
- Sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda into a bowl.
- In a large bowl, beat the shortening, sugar, brown sugar and salt with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and almond extracts; beat until blended. Add the flour mixture and beat until fully incorporated.
- Add the chopped almonds and stir to mix well. Shape the dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to two days.
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Roll about a tablespoon of the dough into a ball and place the balls (ahem) 2 to 3 inches apart on a baking sheet. Press and almond half into the center of each ball.
- Bake until golden brown, 14 – 16 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 7 minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.