CHINESE ALMOND COOKIES

Happy Chinese New Year!   Chinese year 4714 began on February 8, and is the Year of the Monkey.  The monkey is the ninth animal in the 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle (other monkey years include 1920, 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, and  2004).

People born under the monkey sign are purportedly clever, and intelligent, especially in their careers and financial affairs.  “They are lively, flexible, quick-witted and versatile,” and “their gentleness and honesty bring them an everlasting love life.”  But they are also “jealous, suspicious, cunning, selfish, and arrogant.”  They are perfect matches for those born under the sign of the ox and rabbit and are bad matches with those born under the sign of the pig and tiger.  Check your compatibility with monkeys here.

To celebrate the Chinese New Year, I baked a batch of Chinese Almond Cookies.  I remember having these in Chinese restaurants as a kid growing up in New York, but I don’t see them anymore.  Give these a try — who knows, maybe your family will go ape for them.  :)

CHINESE ALMOND COOKIES
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Recipe type: Cookies
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2-3/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, slightly softened
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • ⅓ cup whole blanched almonds
  • 1 egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon water
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Place flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse briefly to combine. Cut butter into pieces and add to flour. Pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add the beaten egg and almond extract, and process until combined and dough forms. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet, flattening slightly. Press an almond on top of each cookie. Using a pastry brush, brush tops of cookies with egg yolk mixture. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until just beginning to brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.
  4. Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies.

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Ready for their egg wash

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The egg wash gives them a nice gloss

Beautifully golden and glossy

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I think they should start serving these in Chinese restaurants again

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Happy Year of the Monkey!

LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF BISCOTTI

When in the course of blogging events, it becomes necessary to create a holiday dish, it’s fun to try to come up with something creative in order to form a more perfect celebration.  For this year’s 4th of July festivities, I’ll be making Red, White and Blue Biscotti, which hit all the high notes with my family.  (I’ve seen it suggested that Chicken Catch-a-Tory would be a good Independence Day party dish, but these colorful biscotti are so much more fun.)  There’s a few steps involved, but the end result is worth the extra time.

Begin with your favorite biscotti recipe, or use the one I’ve provided below.  Divide the dough into thirds, placing each third in a separate bowl.

To color the dough, it’s best to use gel food color, as opposed to liquid food color, for deeper colors:

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Be careful when using the food color, however, as it will stain your clothes, countertops, wooden spoons, fingers, dogs, etc.  Add enough food color to get the depth of color you desire, and mix it thoroughly into the dough (I find a metal fork works best for mixing the food color in):

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To shape the biscotti, cover your workspace with a sheet of waxed paper or parchment, and lightly flour the surface.  Place one portion of dough on the waxed paper, and using your bare arms (which is your right), knead the dough a few times and then roll into a log about 14 inches long.  Repeat with the remaining two portions of dough.  Lay the three logs side by side, and gently twist them to form a single log:

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Cut the log into two pieces and transfer to a baking sheet that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray.  Shape logs into fat rectangles:

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Bake according to recipe directions, then remove from oven and allow to cool on baking sheet.  The dough will have puffed up considerably.

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When cool enough to handle comfortably, slice on the diagonal into 1/2-inch thick slices using a serrated knife.  Stand the slices up on the baking sheet.  (For some recipes, you lay the slices on their side and bake, then turn over and bake longer, but for this recipe, in order for the colors to stay sharp, you don’t want to brown the sides.)

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If you really want to gild the liberty bell, you can spread a little white chocolate on the tops of the biscotti and sprinkle with red, white and blue nonpareils:

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Peaceably assemble (which is your right) the biscotti in a decorative container, and stand back and receive full faith and credit for these crowd-pleasing treats.   If you bring these to a 4th of July picnic, it should be a self-evident truth that they will be a surefire hit.

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I tried to find a knock knock joke to post for the 4th of July, but apparently there aren’t any, because freedom rings.  Happy 4th of July!

PLAIN BISCOTTI
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Recipe type: Cookie
Author:
The beauty of this recipe is that it's a blank canvas -- you can doctor it up as you desire with nuts, flavorings, chocolate, etc. The butter keeps it from being tooth-breaking hard, but still crunchy enough for dunking.
Ingredients
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon almond extract
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Place eggs, melted butter, and extracts in a large bowl, and beat together using an electric beater. Add the flour mixture to the bowl and stir until well combined, and a sticky dough is formed.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently 5 or 6 times. (If making red, white, and blue biscotti, divide dough into thirds and color one third with red gel food color, one third with blue gel food color, and leave the last third uncolored. Form each third into a rope approximately 14 inches long. Lay the ropes side by side and gently twist to form a single rope.) Divide the log into two equal portions.
  5. Transfer the logs to a baking sheet, and using your hands, pat into fat rectangles. Bake until lightly browned and firm to the touch, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the logs from the oven and let stand until cool enough to handle.
  6. Reduce the oven temperature to 275 degrees. Transfer the cooled logs to a cutting board and slice them on the diagonal into ½-inch thick slices using a serrated knife. Stand the cookies up on the cookie sheet and bake again until the biscotti are dry, approximately 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.