Orange-Almond Coins

橘味杏仁餅

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Yields

    8 dozen quarter

    -size cookies.

Appears in

Though one rarely thinks of butter in a Chinese context, shortbreads, pastries, and sugar cookies made with or fried in butter were an “exotic” luxury item on Chinese tables as early as the ninth century, when the cosmopolitan Chinese of the Tang dynasty were also toasting one another with grape wines and cooling off with sorbets made from mare’s milk and fruit juices.

  • I like to think that the quintessential luxury almond cookie resembled these buttery cookie miniatures inspired by my pastry friend, Flo Braker. They are quarter-size melt-in-your-mouthers, just the type of thing you would imagine a Tang poet might enjoy.
  • These cookies are extremely easy to make. The dough refrigerates and freezes beautifully, and once baked, the cookies will keep for 2 weeks or more. For best flavor, make the dough a day in advance to give the orange peel time to permeate.

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Ingredients

For the dough

  • teaspoons freshly grated orange rind, no white pith included, or teaspoons finely minced, home-dried orange peel, soaked in warm water for about 10 minutes until supple and patted dry before mincing
  • 4 ounces ( cup) unblanched whole almonds
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • pinch salt
  • ½ pound well-chilled sweet butter, cut into small cubes
  • ½ teaspoon orange-flower water

Method

Making the dough

Add the orange rind, nuts, and sugar to the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel knife. Process until the nuts are very finely ground. Add the flour and salt, and process 2–3 seconds to mix. Distribute the cubed butter evenly around the blade, sprinkle the orange-flower water on top, and process until the dough forms a near-ball. Do not overprocess.

Press the dough together with your hands, seal airtight with plastic wrap, then refrigerate 12–24 hours before baking for best flavor. Part or all of the dough may be frozen, sealed airtight and then bagged in plastic. Defrost in the refrigerator before using and shape when cold.

Baking the cookies

Preheat the oven to 325° and set the rack in the lower third of the oven. Line a doubled baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using 1½ teaspoons of dough, roll a ball the size of a large marble between your palms, and put it on the paper. Do not flatten or press it; these are domed cookies. Repeat until you fill the entire sheet, leaving an inch between the cookies.

Bake one sheet at a time for 15–20 minutes, rotating the sheet after 8 minutes to insure even baking. When perfectly done, the cookies will be pale blonde (not brown), and the dough will look a bit dry. Remove to a rack to cool completely.

Once cool, the cookies may be stored at room temperature in an airtight tin. Do not refrigerate. They will keep 2 weeks or longer and grow a bit softer in the tin.

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