Macau Almond Cookie 澳門杏仁餅
By Ellen L.Published: 2015-09-27Chinese Mid Autumn Festival 中秋節 is just around the corner and my little girl is beside herself with anticipation! (It's her favorite holiday of the year plus she gets to stay up late!) The yearly celebration of the biggest moon of the year, the harvest moon, Mid Autumn Festival so much fun here in Hong Kong! There are moon cakes to make, shopping expeditions to make, lanterns to light and little children to dress up in festive Chinese attire , moon gazing outings to plan! After an early preparation of our traditional double yolk lotus seed paste mooncakes and our five nut mooncakes, I thought why not make an extra traditional treat to have on hand in case of the extra munchies? I ended up making some of these delectably light and flavorsome Macau Almond Cookies 澳門杏仁餅, quite easy to make and delightfully easy on the eyes.
|Our neighborhood park's spectacular Mid Autumn lantern this year!|
The main ingredients in this Chinese Almond Cookie Macau Style is simple enough, just two things: almonds 杏仁 and mung beans (also known as green beans or 綠豆). I would have never guessed such simple ingredients to create such toothsome flavors. You have to make flour out of these two main ingredients. In the photos you can see the original to flour stage from left to right. To grind the flours I just used my trusty (and really old!) coffee grinder attachment to my blender and ground away.
For the almond flour the secret is to ground the almonds together with the powdered sugar required in the recipe. The reason for this is that when you grind the almonds oil starts to be released from the almonds and this will complicate your flour making. If, however, you add the powdered sugar to it, the sugar will soak up the almond oil and make it easy to create a light fluffy almond flour. And, at the same time, you are sifting your powdered sugar and getting all your lumps out, which you would have to do anyways.
You can either buy mung bean flour 綠豆粉 or you can make it yourself at home. You will want the mung bean with the skin off and you can check that by the color: green means skin on and yellow means skin off. I couldn't find any to buy so I made it at home. The mung bean flour requires a bit more effort in that you must roast it first to get it all dry and crazily nutty before sending it off to the 'ol coffee grinder (or food processor as most of you all probably already have upgraded to!) I thought that it needed a bit more explanation so I will post on making your own homemade mung green bean flour 綠豆粉 right after this post.
Then you mix it all up and add your cut up bits of lard 豬油 (for the traditionalists like me) or the shortening (which we don't use cuz it's hydrogenated vegetable oil, i.e. partial trans fat possible.) Then mix it all with your fingertips until it is like fine bread crumbs. You want to achieve the stage where the mixture stays together easily when press into a lump, like in the photo above.
Once you the mixture ready, the rest is super fun because you get to use your pretty chinese traditional wooden cookie molds!! Yippee! I love my beautiful wooden molds! (More my chinese wood molds here.) I just love using these molds cause you just get such darn pretty little cookies and moon cakes out of them, the results are almost too pretty to eat. And it's magical to think that I'm making cookies the same way as folks hundreds of years before me did! Cool historical musings!
The trick to using the wood molds is to dust them lightly but thoroughly with powdered sugar before packing in the cookie mixture. And I've discovered the perfect technique to achieve that perfect light dusting of sugar that coats all around the mold: use an old toothbrush! I was struggling with the molds in the beginning, as if you coat the sugar too thickly (see photo above) you will be able to see the extra sugar on top of the cookies even after they are baked. (Not good.) However if you don't have the light coating of sugar you will get a cookie that will never come out of the mold in one piece. (Worse) And thus I discovered a new use for those old toothbrushes that I never get around to throwing out. Just fill a small bowl with some powdered sugar, a tablespoonful or so. Stab toothbrush in powder, then swish around the wood mold until all surfaces are lightly coated. Trust me, it works a treat!
And finally, BANG! Firmly and flatly bang your wooden mold (cookie side down) on a solid surface that can take all the banging you've got to give. Then lift mold up carefully to take a quick peek. If the cookies look at all like they have come down from the mold, stop where you are and wait to see if they will continue to fall out by themselves. If after 10 seconds or so they haven't moved a muscle then help them out by holding the mold at an angle with just the end of the mold touching your solid surface and giving a quick tap with that end bit only. The cookies should fall right out.
If the cookies are determined to stay in the mold give them another firm and flat bang on the solid surface. It takes a bit of practice and you might find yourself accidentally smashing perfectly good cookies through a mistimed bang here and there; I certainly did. But no worries just pack the cookie mixture back into the mold and try again! It's a fun and stress relieving bit of baking fun!
My Macau Almond Cookies came out of the oven looking for all the world like beautifully carved talismans, the whole house smelling of aromatic nuttiness. The best thing for me besides the freshly roasted and ground flavors of this traditional chinese cookie is how delectably tender it is. Oh, it's a delicate cookie and definitely won't travel well, but who cares when you put a nutty, almost creamy yet with the tiniest crunches here and there cookie in your mouth and it just sorta melts away... Darn it all, I just love melt in your mouth cookies, don't you?
Happy Mid Autumn Fesitval to all!
Macau Almond Cookie Recipe 澳門杏仁餅
(makes approx 30 cookies, depending on the size of your cookie mold)
1/2 cup mung bean flour 綠豆粉 (with skin off) (100g) (see our homemade mung bean flour recipe here)
7/8 cup whole almonds (or 1 cup almond flour) (96g)
3/4 cup icing sugar (94g)
5 1/2 tbsp lard (or shortening) (70g)
1 tbsp water
1 tsp almond extract
Oven preheat to 300F or 150C
If using whole almonds grind with icing sugar together in food processor until fine smooth flour is formed.
Mix mung bean flour, almond/icing sugar flour in bowl until thoroughly combined. Cut up lard into small cubes and drop into the flour mixture. Use your fingers to crumble and rub in the lard until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Add all the almond extract and then the water bit by bit until the mixture comes together and holds when pressed. (Add more or less water as you feel is necessary.)
Dust the cookie mold with icing sugar until lightly coated all around. Pack the cookie mixture into the mold lightly but firmly, making sure that all the crevices and corners are packed. The firmer you pack the cookie, the better it will keep its shape. The lighter you pack your cookie the more tender and melt in your mouth it will be. Smooth out the top (or future bottom) of your cookie by a gentle rubbing motion to get rid of excess cookie mixture.
Bang the cookie mold flat on the table to remove the cookies. Put onto a parchment lined baking tray and bake for 25 mins or until just golden brown with the oven door slightly open. Switch off heat and close oven door for 5 more minutes to finish off. Let cool on rack completely.
Store in a air tight container for up to 2 weeks.
More Mid Autumn Madness at The Hong Kong Cookery:
Mid Autumn Festival- A Very Cute Mooncake
Mid Autumn Festival- Chinese Lanterns, Mooncakes and Street Festivities
Mid Autumn Festival- Making Your Own Mooncake
Hong Kong Mooncake Molds 月餅模具
Boiled Water Caltrop 鮮煮菱角
Five Nuts Mooncake Part I 五仁月餅
Five Nuts Mooncake Part II 五仁月餅