As far as I’ve been able to figure out, dessert at the end of a meal as a separate course, is not a Chinese tradition. In American Chinese restaurants, of course, you’re likely to get a fortune cookie and an orange wedge. The orange wedge makes sense, but the fortune cookie, with those kitschy sayings inside, is an American thing, I’m pretty sure. Which is not to say there aren’t lots of sweet, desserty dishes in the Chinese repertoire. Today, as our last course at a dim sum brunch, for example, my friends and I ate freshly made bean curd in a mildly-sweet broth. I liked it a lot, but I can’t see most of my fellow countrymen (and women) getting on board that particular bandwagon. So the conundrum: what to serve for dessert at the end of a Chinese-themed meal when most of the eaters are Westerners? Years ago, I loved to pop into bakeries in San Francisco’s Chinatown in search of something sweet, cheap and different. What I often came away with was an almond cookie. That’s something most any American can relate to, and so it’s what I oftentimes serve at the end of a meal when the menu is Chinese. My almond cookie recipe is evolving and while I can’t claim it tastes especially Chinese, it’s a nice, not-too-sweet way to end any meal, Chinese or not.
Preheat oven to 350˚ F/ Yields 20 3-inch cookies
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 3/4 cups lightly-toasted whole almonds (grind most of the almonds to a fine meal in a food processor, but reserve 20 almonds for garnishing the cookies)
1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut, ground to a flour in a blender
2 teaspoons powdered ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
small pinch of salt
1/2 cup almond oil, or light vegetable oil
3/4 cup rice syrup
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 cup soy, rice or almond milk
1. Measure the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Stir together well.
2. Measure the wet ingredients into your blender bowl and blend well.
3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir together thoroughly. At this point, if you allow the dough to sit 5-10 minutes to firm up, it will be easier to handle.
4. Line cookie sheet pans with parchment paper.
5. Form the cookie dough into 20 balls 1 3/4-inch to 2-inches in diameter. Arrange them on cookie pans, spacing them apart to allow room for the cookies to spread out.
6. Press a whole almond into the center of each cookie.
7. Bake in a 350˚ F oven 20-25 minutes or until crisp and lightly golden brown on the bottoms (switch cookie pans from top to bottom half way through the baking time).
8. Cool on cooling racks.