Learn how to make Chinese almond cookies with a delicious buttery flavor and lightly crisp texture. The recipe is easier than you might think! Bake up a batch to celebrate the lunar new year or simply enjoy them with a cup of tea.
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Our local Chinese restaurant places a few individually wrapped almond cookies in their takeout bags. They’re the perfect sweet treat to end the meal, but often one per person is not enough. Fortunately, they’re easy to make at home, and they taste better too.
The characteristic sweet and nutty flavor comes from three types of almond products. In addition, the creaming butter and sugar process creates a light and airy texture with a crispy bite that crumbles. I always love making a big batch to share with my family and friends during Chinese New Year as a festive dessert. They store well too!
Three types of almond ingredients
A small amount of almond extract is hugely concentrated in flavor, adding a strong aromatic sweet smell when baked. Almond flour makes the base of the cookie, providing real ground nut flavor. Almond paste is ground almonds combined with sugar and glucose syrup to make it sweet and pliable. It adds a lasting nuttiness and a hint of chewiness in the center of the cookie.
The creaming technique
To create a light, biscuit-like structure, cream the butter, almond paste, and granulated sugar together. The butter needs to be softened between 64 to 67ºF (17 to 19ºC), just below room temperature. The temperature keeps the fat crystal structure rigid enough to hold air pockets while still easy to whip in a stand mixer. When you bite into the cookie, you want it to have an airy crumb instead of dense and heavy.
Adding flavor and function to the dough
After the creaming process, mix in the egg and almond extract. The fat in the egg yolk adds richness to the cookie. The albumin proteins in the egg whites help bind the ingredients together and set the shape. I use baking soda to act as a leavening agent, which creates carbon dioxide bubbles in the dough that provide lift. Tiny air pockets form which gives the cookie a light texture when baked.
Two types of flour for a crispier texture
All-purpose wheat flour and finely ground almond flour makes the base of the cookies. The gluten bonds that form give a slightly chewy texture in the middle. During the cooling process, the wheat proteins harden and yield a crisp exterior.
I use a super-fine ground almond flour from Bob’s Red Mill. I find this product creates a more delicate crumb. The additional fat in the nuts reduces the amount of gluten-formation as the dough mixes, which yields a more tender consistency.
Shaping the dough
Form the dough into 1 tablespoon size rounds. Slightly flatten them to help create a more even crispness throughout the cookie. As steam releases from the surface, it will leave a crackly top. I add a thin piece of sliced almond for garnish, giving the final nutty distinction. You do not need to chill the dough before baking. This recipe makes a large batch, about 45 cookies. You can also refrigerate the dough and bake it the next day.
Baking the cookies
Right before baking, brush the tops and sides with egg wash. This will create a gorgeous golden-brown surface with a nice shine to it. Bake one tray at a time, rotating halfway for even cooking. The cookies brown quickly after 13 minutes, so keep a close eye on the color change.
Allowing time to cool
Cooling on the sheet pan helps to dry out the cookies without burning them. I find this yields a more consistently crisp texture. This process only takes 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely to prevent the bottoms from steaming and getting soggy.
What to serve this with
Use room temperature ingredients
Let the refrigerated egg and butter come to just below room temperature before using. You can quickly do this by placing the egg in a small bowl of warm water for about 5 to 10 minutes. For the butter, cut it down into slices and place them on a plate to remove the chill faster. When combined with the dried ingredients at similar temperatures, everything mixes better, instead of having undistributed pockets. The dough will also bake more evenly and have a consistent flavor.
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Chinese Almond Cookies
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup super-fine almond flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened to 64-67ºF (17-19ºC)
- 8 teaspoons almond paste
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon water
- 45 sliced almonds
- Set the oven rack in the middle position. Preheat to 350°F (176°C). Line two large sheet pans with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, sift the all-purpose flour, almond flour, and baking soda. Add the salt and whisk to combine. Set aside.
- In the stand mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment, add the softened butter and almond paste. Mix on medium-low speed (setting 4) for 1 minute. There may be some lumps of paste remaining.
- Add the granulated sugar to the creamed butter and almond paste. Mix on medium-low speed (setting 4) until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
- Add the egg and almond extract to the creamed butter and sugar mixture. Mix on medium-low speed (setting 4) for 20 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula.
- Carefully add the flour mixture to the mixing bowl. Pulse the mixer on and off about 12 times. Turn the mixer to low speed (setting 2), mix until the dough just comes together, about 10 to 15 seconds. Stir with a spatula any dry bits on the bottom of the bowl.
- Roll the cookie dough into 1 tablespoon size balls (20 grams), about 1 ¼-inch in size. Place each piece about 2̎ inches apart on the lined sheet pans, about 13 per sheet.
- Gently flatten the top of the dough with the palm of your hand or the flat side of a measuring cup. Do not flatten too much, a little less than halfway down. Press a sliced almond on the top of each cookie.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and water. Brush the tops and sides of the cookie dough with the egg wash.
- Bake one sheet pan at a time in the center of the oven for 7 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake until lightly golden brown, about 6 to 7 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Bake the remaining trays, making sure that the oven comes back up to temperature.
- Storing: Store unbaked cookie dough covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 day. Store baked cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for 7 days.
- Omitting Almond Paste: Use 2 teaspoons of almond extract instead of ½ teaspoon when adding the eggs to the creamed butter and sugar. The nutty flavor might not be as intense and slightly crisper.
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