Saturday, February 17, 2007

Spicy Almond Sugar Cookies


In honor of the Chinese Lunar New Year (which lands on February 18th this year), I wanted to bake something, well, Chinese. But we Chinese are not widely known for baked sweets except, maybe, for egg custard tarts (dahn taht in Cantonese). Other known baked goods would be fortune cookies and almond cookies. The origin of both cookies is unclear and might be American not Chinese creations. In any case, I decided to modify a recipe I found in a local newspaper for Chinese almond cookies.

The cream of tartar adds a sort of old-fashioned crispness to the cookie and the nutty, spicy brown sugar topping is a departure from the typical whole almond fossilized on top. You can use any spices in the topping, but I used cinnamon, ginger, star anise and clove. These cookies turned out to be more like snickerdoodles than Chinese almond cookies, but my family and friends really liked them. So celebrate the Year of the Boar with something sweet!

Spicy Almond Sugar Cookies
(4 dozen cookies)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened at room temp.
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/3 cup blanched almonds, toasted lightly and chopped
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground star anise
1/8 tsp ground cloves

Egg wash:
1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line cookies sheets with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and almond extract. Mix in the dry ingredients. The dough will be crumbly but moist. Gather the mixture together using your hands or a spatula into a cohesive mass.

To make the topping, mix together the almonds, brown sugar, and spices in a small bowl.

Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch diameter balls. Place 2 inches apart on your prepared cookie sheets and flatten to about 1/2-inch thickness. Then lightly brush top with the egg wash and generously sprinkle with the topping. Bake for 11-12 minutes.


Helene said...

I really dig the combination of spices. There aren't enough recipes with star anise. They look really tempting...!

Abby said...

Ooooh! Yum. They look great! I can't wait to try them - I've never used star anise and I'm excited about it!

Chris said...

Looks yummy! Happy (Chinese) New Year!

Freya said...

I am in love with these cookies! I love the addition of all the spices too!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Those cookies are beautiful! Very yummy...

Vi said...

I love almond cookies, and can't wait to try your recipe. Thanks for the inspiration, and Happy Chinese New Year!

veron said...

Happy chinese new year! this indeed is a very interesting combination of spices and my favorites too!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

A long time ago, Chinese Almond Cookies were my go to cookie; I must revisit my recipe. Yours may not be Chinese Almond Cookies but they look wonderful and make me long for both.

Peabody said...

I love getting almond cookies at the Chinese place.

Patricia Scarpin said...


Even though I am baking cookies right this minute I wish I had all these ingredients to make this recipe too!

gilly said...

Hi Mary - your cookies look lovely - I can see the parallel to snickerdoodles... yum!

I've never used star anise before, so I'll have to pick up some sometime to try! Happy Chinese New Year!

Anali said...

These look great! Happy New Year!

Word Imp said...

Mary, I've always wanted to someone who could play around with a recipe like you do. Unfortunately, though, I seem wedded to the written word and feel too afraid of failure to attempt any alterations. You have a gorgeous blog. I love it.

Ellie said...

These look fantastic! I'm always on the lookout for interesting cookies so will definetely have to give these a shot!

Lis said...

Wow those look terrific! I love the spices *swoon* Happy belated New Year! =)

Susan said...

Chinese almond cookies, Snickerdoodles,any name works for these delicious cookies. Mmmm...spicy, nutty, and sweet--they look wonderful. And I just bought some star anise....

Dianka said...

Love the added spice! Looks great!

samantha said...

hi alpineberry! i found you on foodblogsearch. i made these tonight. totally yummy. was in the mood for something sweet, but a little different AND didn't want to go to the grocery. these hit the spot. cheers!