A Westernized Chinese invention, these popular biscuits are found in almost every Chinese restaurant, as well as food shops in Chinatown. In China, real almonds are rare and expensive, so little used. The Chinese use apricot kernels, cooked to eliminate their toxicity, as the Western world uses almonds.
The origins of these almond biscuits are rather murky, but, given the availability and pleasing qualities of the almonds, they were soon incorporated into the cuisine by Chinese chefs. They are a delicious treat and not overly sweet. The original calls for lard, but I have used butter instead, for a richer flavour and more satisfying texture.
115g (4oz) unsalted butter; at room temperature
200g (7oz) caster sugar
40g (1½oz) ground almonds
280g (10oz) unbleached plain flour
pinch of salt
1egg beaten with 2tablespoons of water, for the egg wash
Using an electric mixer or a wooden spoon in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until pale yellow. Then toss in the egg, almond extract and ground almonds. Mix thoroughly.
Combine the flour and baking powder and sift this into the butter-sugar mixture. Toss in the salt and mix. Do not overmix - mix only until the mixture comes together.
Roll the dough into a log about 30cm (12in) long and cut into 16 even pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and flatten slightly. Place on a baking tray. Brush the tops of all the biscuits with the egg wash and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown.