Several months ago, I read an engaging book called The Fortune Cookie Chronicles.
It told the stories of people who simultaneously won a multi-million-dollar lottery (because they all bet on the numbers found inside of fortune cookies) interspersed with the saga of how Chinese restaurants spread like wildfire across America. It's a very interesting book.
Today, I hope you’ll try the other great Chinese restaurant dessert-- The Almond Cookie.
THE STORY BEHIND MY CHINESE ALMOND COOKIES
Every year ever since I can remember, people have always asked me “What do Jewish people do for Christmas?
I usually answer, “Nothing special,” or “They sit around complaining that all the restaurants are closed.” But, that’s not entirely true...
It’s become kind of a cliché (there are even a few songs on YouTube about this), but many Jewish people eat Chinese food and go to a movie. Why?
It's probably beacuse many Chinese people are Buddhist and do not celebrate Christmas either, so most Chinese restaurants are open!
I’d always assumed this was a New York custom, but when I moved to Virginia, I found out it was more widespread than I imagined.
This year, my family is having a joint Christmas-Chanukah dinner with friends on Christmas Day, so I decided to serve a Chinese dinner (take-out) on Christmas Eve instead.
The dessert, however, is home-baked.
I started baking almond cookies in the 1980s. I was freelancing for Dover Publications and found it in their Around-The-World-Cooky Book .
It was a reprint of a book published in 1948 and each recipe is attributed to the person who submitted it. The original recipe came from Jessie Wong of Cleveland, Ohio. It called for shortening instead butter and all of the ingredients were beaten or kneaded by hand.
WONG’S ALMOND COOKIES
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter or shortening
3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 Tbsp almond extract
1 egg, lighten beaten
34 whole almonds
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet.
In the bowl of a food processor, cream the butter and sugar. Add flour, baking powder and extract and mix well. Turn dough out into a large bowl. Dough will be dry and crumbly. Knead it a few times, then pinch it to see if will hold together. If it crumbles, add a few drops of water.
Make small balls, then flatten them either by placing them on the cookie sheet and flattening them, or flattening them in the palm of your hand.
Use your thumb to make an indentation in the center of each cookie, then brush each cookie with the beaten egg.
Quickly place an almond in the center of each indentation.
Bake for 25-30 minutes in order to develop their characteristic hard crunch. For those with sensitive teeth, bake only 15 minutes for a softer cookie. Remove from oven and let cool on the pan. Makes about 34 cookies.
I like to serve the cookies with Jasmine tea.
HOLIDAY GIVEAWAY UPDATE:
On January 1st, I'll pick one winner from everyone who has left a comment from now until midnight on the December 31st.
Tomorrow, I will be announcing what the fabulous prize is!