I used to wonder if my disinclination to play Lego with my son for more than 5 minutes made me a bad mother. I’m sure it must be fun as a child to build tall Lego towers, knock them down, and start over again. And again. And again. But any feelings of guilt dissipate when I am doing something together with my son which we both enjoy, which gives weight to the argument that life is too short to feign interest when you could actually be doing something meaningful.
As I am often in the kitchen preparing one meal or another, sometimes the only way to entertain my toddler is to let him help out, and baking with my son is one of those activities where I don’t find myself wishing I was doing something else.
These Chinese Almond Butter Cookies are great to make with kids. The dough is soft and pliable, and my son loves to roll out balls of dough, flattening them with his little chubby hands, and then decorating each one with an almond in the centre. And like a painter focused on a work of art, my little one loves to brush each cookie with egg-wash, a task which he performs with far more concentration (and more egg-wash) than I would tend to give. But these cookies are very forgiving, both to little budding pastry chefs and the grown-ups who end up eating them.
This recipe makes very simple butter cookies which are lovely with a strong cup of coffee, but they lend themselves well to many variations. You could easily add some chocolate chips or sultanas to the dough, or the finely grated zest of a lemon or small orange.
I think these cookies taste best when they are fresh from the oven, but they keep well for several days in an airtight container.
- 75 g (2.3 oz) caster sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 cups plain flour
- 200 g (7 oz) unsalted butter, softened
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 egg yolk for egg-wash
- Whole blanched almonds for decorating
- Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F).
- In a large mixing bowl, mix together the sugar, salt, baking powder and flour. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingertips until the mixture resembles wet sand or breadcrumbs. I prefer to do this in my KitchenAid stand-mixer with the flat paddle attachment.
- Add the 2 eggs and mix until you have a soft dough.
- Shape the dough into a long sausage, about 3 cm (roughly 1 inch) in diameter. Cover the dough with cling film, and leave it to chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
- Remove the cling film, and slice small rounds from the dough, about 2 cm thick. You could use the rounds as they are or, alternatively, roll them into balls to create more rounded cookies.
- Place the rounds on a baking sheet lined with baking paper, flatten each round slightly, and press a whole almond in the centre of each round.
- Lightly whisk the remaining egg yolk in a small bowl, and brush the top of each cookie with this egg-wash.
- Bake the cookies for about 20 minutes, or until they are lightly golden. Allow the cookies to cool on the tray for about 5 minutes before removing.
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