Chinese New Year Almond Cookies

Malaysian-Chinese Almond Cookies recipe by

Chinese New Year may seem foreign to many of you – having never experienced the spectacle of a lion or dragon dance, or enjoyed traditional Chinese dishes at a reunion dinner, or received a handful of hong pao 红包 – but if you step inside any home in Malaysia or Singapore that is celebrating the holiday, you will quickly be offered something as familiar to you as if it were Christmas all over again.  Lots and lots of cookies.

Pineapple Tarts, Love Letters, Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies, Butter Cookies, Peanut Cookies, Cornflake Cookies, Almond Cookies, Green Pea Cookies, and more.  They mostly come in miniature, bite-size form, tricking you into devouring the stacks of cookies that leave no room on the table for dinner, and no room in your stomach when you’re finished.

how to make almond cookies

The traditional dilemma has always been – How many can I eat?  But with a new generation, a new question has emerged – Bake or Buy?

That’s a trend throughout the world, where more and more of us are taking a shortcut, buying holiday cookies instead of baking them ourselves.  It has become such a big business in Penang, that you can walk into a pharmacy or a hardware store or a clothing shop, and at the counter you will suddenly find Chinese New Year cookies for sale.

To reverse this unhealthy trend of forgetting traditions by buying packaged cookies that are high in sugar and made mostly of palm oil, I’ve been busy baking cookies as gifts for my family and friends.  It’s just not Chinese New Year unless it’s homemade.

And I started with Almond Cookies.

Malaysian-Chinese Almond Cookies by

For these almond cookies, I cut down on the sugar and replaced half the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour.  Whole wheat flour is much healthier, and complements the flavor and texture of the ground almond.  No guilty conscious when you gobble down a few of these tasty nibbles before dinner.

And to make sure the Bake or Buy question doesn’t come to mind, these cookies require minimal prep work and short baking time.  Even if you only have a couple of hours before the reunion dinner on Chinese New Year’s Eve, you can manage these cookies with ease.

After you've baked them and they’re cooled, place the almond cookies in adorable red paper cups and stack them up neatly in a jar.  You’ll have an elegant, festive gift to share with your loved ones this Chinese New Year, or if you’re thinking ahead, on Valentine’s Day…

Malaysian-Chinese Almond Cookies for Chinese New Year by

Chinese New Year Almond Cookies recipe by Season with Spice
Yields approx. 40 cookies

What you’ll need:
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup ground almonds
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Dash of salt
1/2 cup butter - softened
1/3 cup raw sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste (or 1 tsp of vanilla extract)
40 whole almonds (I used honey vanilla spiced almonds)

1. Sift the flour into a bowl, and mix in ground almonds, baking powder and salt.
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Then beat in egg and vanilla paste (or vanilla extract).
3. Add the combined flour mixture into the wet mixture. Mix just until blended.
4. Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and chill for an hour.
5. Shape dough into balls, about the size of a ping pong ball. Place dough balls about two inches apart on a parchment-lined baking pan, and press an almond into the center of each cookie.
6. Bake at 160C (320F) for 15 minutes, or until cookie is slightly firm. Then turn up the temperature to 180C (355F) and bake for another 2-3 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from pan and cool on cookie rack…or just munch away!