Last week Friday, I snuck away to Honolulu for a quick overnight trip...mixing business with fun. I made my usual stops and got to eat stuff not readily available in Hilo. I bought back several kilos of wong tong and two Vosges Chocolate Mo's Bacon Bars.
The trip to Honolulu came a little too late for gao making. I had a meeting on Monday, and I was going to spend last weekend making gao for the meeting and for my gao-eating friends. Kilauea Market was sold out of wong tong, likely because many of the newer Chinese restaurants in Hilo sell gao and jai. No wong tong in the Hilo stores meant I had to shelve/postpone my gao-making. Click here for my gao post from last year.
As a consolation, I made almond cookies. It wasn't gao, but I had all the ingredients on hand. Along with putting me in a festive mood, almond cookies allowed me to take a trip down memory lane.
The almond cookies I remember making at home ALWAYS had the red dot. I know it did because the red dot was MY job. My index finger (well-washed) was the perfect size for the red dot, and back then, a food coloring-stained finger wasn't a problem. . .lotsa food back then produced red fingers (shredded mango, pickled mango, red pistachio nuts). When I got older, I used the handle of a spoon or the fat end of a chopstick to make the dot. And then I progressed to making the almond cookies all by myself.
Commercially-available almond cookies do not always have the red dot. Large tubs of almond cookies sold at warehouse stores do not have the red dot. Some of them have an almond in the center. Overall, those cookies are hopelessly tasteless. Cookies which sometimes come free after a Chinese meal are usually a solid yellow color (at least at the local Chinese restaurants). They also fall somewhere on the tasteless scale. I'm old enough to remember the days when they had both taste and a red dot. I am probably biased, but I think the red dot makes the cookies taste better.
Please don't dismiss this recipe due to the absence of butter. I love butter, but this is one of those cookies where plain, solid Crisco does fine. If you are a butter purist, then go ahead and use butter for a portion (less than half) of the shortening, but my preference is to use only shortening. These cookies are not snapping-crisp, but they are not soft/soggy. They have a melt-in your mouth quality and a nice almond flavor. . .perfect alongside a cup of tea. Jasmine would be my preference. And a warning to those of you who exercise moderation: its practically impossible to eat just one.
click on recipe title for printable recipe
1 1/3 c shortening
1 c sugar
3 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp almond extract
red food coloring
Cream shortening and sugar. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside. Beat egg. Add almond extract. Add to shortening and sugar. Add combined dry ingredients. Roll/scoop into 1" balls and place 2" apart on lightly greased cookie sheets. Flatten slightly. Make indentation in center. Touch indentation with red food coloring. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes (15 minutes for Airbake sheets). Makes about 56 cookies if using a #50 disher.
Someone on another web forum asked me about the kikukat blog model. She is a blue bi-color ragdoll cat. She was born in the spring of 2007. Her mom is Sadie, another gorgeous blue bi-color. Her dad, Shaunbie FancyPants, hails from Manchester, England. He is a mitted seal point ragdoll.