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i like you

Recipe: chinese almond cookies

I appreciate your kindness and encouragement. The fact that so many of you urged me to do what I felt was best for me even though it may not necessarily be the outcome you want says a lot about this readership – that you are all very caring and understanding people. That’s a great feeling for me to know that so many of you who visit this space are good folk. Thank you for being awesome.

The idea of leaving the blog has flitted in and out of the corners of my mind – but it’s usually only triggered when I have to post on deadline (and I’m trying hard to eliminate those) or when I drop a lens cap in cake batter and wonder why I bother with step-by-step process shots. I don’t want to quit blogging, but something has got to change.


we’ve had some impressive colors at sunset lately

and cool clouds too



I do not enjoy writing. I know this may seem surprising because blogging is writing, but I don’t write the way real writers write. I type what I’m thinking in my head and that is merely what I would be saying aloud if I didn’t shut my mouth. I talk. I never shut up. The only reason the blog exists is because I have reasonable typing skills to keep up with my motor mouth. But I do love cooking and photography and archiving and sharing. Writing consumes more time than I’d like because I try to edit my rambling thoughts into something coherent and maintain a fairly regular posting schedule. Without a regular posting schedule things begin to pile up and fall behind, snowballing into a big mess. That stresses me out. I’m OCD.

Anyone who blogs knows that it takes time. This blog, my archive of recipes and random stuff that goes on in my life, is a labor of love… but it’s still labor. I need to change things up on my end which may or may not become apparent here on the blog. I’m working to strike a balance in which I don’t allow use real butter to take time away from important stuff like time with loved ones, my health, my work (this is not my work), and my other passions. So when I said it’s me and not you, I wasn’t just saying it – I meant it. But it certainly isn’t my intention to break up with you… because I like you!


getting some turns in before work

impromptu lunch at l’atelier



As quickly as 2010 flew past me, I’m amazed that it’s still January. Actually, I’m happy that it’s still January and perhaps that is because I’m changing up how I prioritize. It’s also because I have an ass ton of things to get done. Typically, Chinese New Year sneaks up on me and I get all panicky. This year, I’m well aware of its approach and I’ve decided against hosting a big bash – mostly because I like being feeling sane. Of course, we celebrate the arrival of Chinese New Year no matter what. I’m still going to make several of the traditional dishes because there’s all this good luck that you need to get in on!

almonds

flour, almond flour, sugar, almond extract, egg, blanched almonds, baking soda, salt, butter



Just in case you live in a podunk town and can’t find blanched whole almonds at your local store, there’s an easy way to skin almonds yourself (assuming you have whole almonds). That was me a few days ago. Just boil up some water, toss the almonds in and let them sit for a minute or so, drain them and squeeze them out of their skin. Almonds are easy to skin. Pistachios and hazelnuts make me crazy.

mix dry ingredients

adding the water and egg to the butter and sugar



Most of the Chinese recipes for this cookie call for lard, which I didn’t have. Some recipes had all almond flour, others were all flour with chopped almond slivers, and then I found this recipe at Cooking for Engineers, one of the very first food blogs I started reading. Michael’s recipe not only called for almond flour AND flour, but had a butter option too. You know we’re all over the butter here.

pour in the dry ingredients

form dough balls



Michael must make larger cookies than I do because I made 42 and his yield was 24. Large cookies make me nervous because the potential for structural failure is high, so I like to keep mine to a reasonable size. Large cookies are also harder to package and gift. And if the cookie diameter is too big, it dwarfs that ornamental almond on top. I know… shut up, Jen.

each cookie gets an almond on top

brush with egg wash



This recipe worked without any tweaking and the cookies have just enough texture from the almond flour without being overly nutty. I’m biased about the flavor because I love almonds. These cookies aren’t fussy to make at all. So if you want to do your little bit of celebration for Chinese New Year, this is an easy cookie. Chinese New Year (year of the Rabbit) is Thursday, February 3, 2011. We typically celebrate with a big feast on Chinese New Year’s Eve. Just make sure the first thing you eat on Chinese New Year’s Day is sweet – so sweet things come out of your mouth all year!

cooling down

better than the ones in the restaurants



Chinese Almond Cookies
[print recipe]
from Cooking for Engineers

3 cups (375 g) flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (60 g) almond flour (ground almonds)
12 oz. butter, softened
1 cup (210 g) sugar
1 egg
1 oz. water
1 tsp almond extract
42 whole almonds, blanched
1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, and ground almonds together in a bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the egg, water, and almond extract and beat until incorporated. Beat in the dry ingredients until just combined. Form 1-inch balls of cookie dough, placed a few inches apart (for spreading) on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Top each dough ball with an almond and brush the top of the cookie with egg wash. Now you can refrigerate the dough for 15 minutes, but I didn’t (lazy). If you do refrigerate the dough, the recipe calls for 20 minutes of baking time. Since I didn’t refrigerate my dough, I baked for 15 minutes and they were perfect. Makes about 42 cookies. (Michael’s recipe says 24, so I am guessing his cookies are a lot bigger than mine.)

60 nibbles at “i like you”

  1. sara says:

    Wow, these look awesome! Yum yum yum. :-D

  2. Andrew says:

    Jen I absolutely love your writing- it makes me feel like you’re personally talking to me which is why urb is my go to blog! But I do get priorities come first but even still if they’re not as many updates in the future it’ll just make me appreciate new posts even more

  3. Jane L says:

    I love to read your blog, your pictures are so awesome. They are my break during the day, and transport me to a different part of the country ( I am in California). Your cooking make things that look complicated We understand you have other priorities, so take care of yourself.

  4. Rosa says:

    Pretty. Your cookies look wonderful!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  5. Pei Lin says:

    Argh! I have to get to my CNY baking tonight! If not I will never have time to!

  6. Veronica says:

    Wow, they look so familiar! I am not 100% sure about the recipe, but we make something like that in Norway (whole of Scandinavia?) but with just hazelnuts instead! And put a hazelnut on top. I don’t think there is any, or very little flour though, because I have heard people make them for allergic people. So the flour is either changed or totally left out, not that importart for the cookie I guess.

  7. Paulette says:

    I also love your writing and your blog. At the age of sixty-one I have just started to write childrens stories and poem. I sit down and just type my little heart out, in just about the same way you to do your blog. I write from the heart. I have bought every book on how to write when an author in one of my how to books said something that stuck in my mind. He said “don’t write like a writer just write” and I have done that ever since. Yes, I still have to sit down and correct everything, also bring out the good old dictionary to correct my spelling constantly. Remember life is a learning process and along the way we have come across a beautiful blog that moves us to try something new in our lives, whether it be chinese cookies (which I need a good recipe for) or see pictures of beautiful sunsets. Hang in there if you want to and only because you want to. We would miss your blog, but also we would all be unhappy if you did not like what you are doing. Well enough rambling, I need to try these cookies out this week. Thanks for the recipe. A new fan to your site. Take care. Paulette

  8. dario @ foodpixels says:

    Hi Jen, I discovered you and URB fairly recently, but I’m coming back here every time I get an update; this blog is quality and I don’t care if the update is every day, every second day or once a week – I’ll keep coming back.
    I totally understand where you come from, and especially when you say you don’t enjoy writing; I know what you’re saying – I feel the same, possibly even worse because english is not my first language ( I’m 100% italian, only moved to OZ 5 years ago ) and writing a post is not only taking me ages, but it kinda feels like giving birth, to me _ I know because I’ve seen my wife doing it twice :)
    I am sure whatever change you’ll make, this blog will always be a great read – Change is good.
    I love the photos and I enjoy your writing
    Dario

  9. kathy says:

    I like the way Paulette wrote something to the effect of “hang in there because you want to, and only because you want to.” I believe that should be part of people’s philosophy of life.
    Love the cookie recipe. I will be trying it before Feb. 3rd. I also like the idea of eating something sweet first thing in the morning on Chinese New Year’s Day.
    Take Care.

  10. Nan says:

    Beautiful cookies – so buttery and golden brown…

    About the blog. You’re right, blogging is work and does suck up the time. The sticky shutter release drives me nuts. Maybe take the schedule away and write when you feel like it? If you don’t then it’s still all good. Honestly, if you’re concerned about us urb’ers, trot out the older posts once in awhile. But above all else, take care of yourself and your needs. Do what feels best for you! If I’ve learned one thing getting older, it’s that if it’s not fun, why take more of it on unless you have no choice?

    Whatever you decide, thanks for urb – I’ve enjoyed the heck out of it.

  11. Belinda @zomppa says:

    Wow – it is almost Chinese New Year and these cookies are perfectly made. I will have to try these. Your writing is honest and you, so whatever you decide will the best and right choice for you.

  12. Kirsa says:

    Yum ! those cookies look fabulous ! i dunno why, but I love the creamed butter and sugar, when you add the eggs. It’s about texture tought, not taste, heh.

    I’ll have to try these up :)

  13. Leeann says:

    Yum! Thanks for this recipe. One of my favorite cookies and I can’t wait to make them.

  14. TheKitchenWitch says:

    I know how you feel, and I know you’ve been struggling to keep up with the many things on your plate. Because you never do anything half-assed, that’s an enormous burden. But the Jen we love is the one who follows her heart and seeks the passion, and we’ll be here for you wherever you decide to wander. xo

  15. Kath says:

    So that’s probably why I’ve never been crazy about Chinese almond cookies! It’s all about the butter! I haven’t had them made with butter. To me, a cookie is not a cookie if it’s not made with butter!

  16. My Little Expat Kitchen says:

    I like you too :) You know what? Just skip on the writing part for a while. Give us your beautiful photographs and your delicious recipes. Write when you feel like it, when you absolutely need to or when you feel there’s something you *have* to share with your readers.
    Your cookies remind me so much of a Greek recipe for almond cookies. So strange and sο wonderful at the same time. Two completely different cultures sharing a similar recipe.
    Magda

  17. zingara says:

    i’m not an old fan, but i’m a forever fan, now that i’ve found you. i have always loved the chinese almond cookies that were served in chinese restaurants but i haven’t received 1 in years. apparently they ‘ve become too costly to give out. the insipid substitute has been the ubiquitous “chinese fortune cookie” [packaged in a little plastic sleeve]. they are not uniformly good…sometimes, the CFC i’ve received after a dinner is inedible. i used to teach ESL to vietnamese refugees so i began to celebrate chinese NY as well as american NY. i’ll make these cookies for this CNY, feb 2. they look easy & above all, they call for real butter.

  18. Bing Chou says:

    Almost forgot to make plans for Chinese New Year – thanks for the heads up! Looks like these cookies will have to be on the agenda…

  19. Cristina says:

    Awesome! I am invited to my best friend’s hot pot for Chinese New Year and I think I will bring these =)

  20. Margie says:

    Sweet cookie, from a sweet person, but what else would anyone expect? .. If you be gone, I still be here; checking in and following along, even in the archives of space and time. I love your blog, but I love you more. Take care, and know that this hungry bear will meet you back at your campfire upon your return, and if you happen to build camp elsewhere, I’ll get out my compass and trek a new path to your base.
    Go forth and bloom. Your colors are most amazing. I was inspired from the very first day I stumbled upon your blog. Nothing can remove that. The experience is real.
    Thank you, Jenzie!

  21. Bridget says:

    I’ve been having some similar struggles with my blog. I’m just not having quite as much fun with it as I think I should be. I’m definitely not ready to stop blogging, but I do need to change some things. I know I’ve been choosing recipes badly – I got caught up in what would be interesting to other people instead of what I want to make. That’s easy to change. I also think my photography system is flawed. Instead of taking multiple photos of the final product, I think it would be more fun to take just one great shot from the best angle (like you do usually!). But ultimately, for people like you and me who consider blogging a hobby and not a profession, the first priority is that it be enjoyable, and fortunately, we have the freedom to do whatever it takes to make it so.

  22. Troy says:

    I have been reading your blog for the last few months ever since I did a search for a seared scallops recipe. All the ones I found involved way too many ingredients for my liking. But then I stumbled upon your blog and began perusing. Your scallops looked fantastic and involved only the basic spices/ingredients. I wasn’t lazy, I swear – I just wanted to taste the scallops and not have them overpowered by bread crumbs or 309 different spices. Yours were simple and elegant. I also wouldn’t have known about the water-injected part to the scallops. I would have gone away with my ignorance to purchase plump, watery scallops. Definitely not my cup of tea. I made them for my fiance the day I read your blog with parmesan risotto and sauteed asparagus. The scallops were definitely the star of the meal.

    I just want to thank you for sharing a piece of your life with us. Your wit, recipes and genuine attitude are truly wonderful. I hope you take the time to regain your sense of balance in the world. You’re an amazing individual. Hang in there – you have support everywhere in the world. Take care.

  23. Janna says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for awhile, after searching for some simple, Chinese inspired recipes. I was ecstatic when I found userealbutter.

    The only thing I’ve got to say, is take care of yourself first! While I love your blog and recipes you need to do what works for you and not worry about us.

    I have to say that I enjoy your writing! It’s plain, simple, but well thought, well written, and thought provoking. You always make me think! Thanks for being yourself. :)

  24. manisha says:

    You write the best kind of writing: from the heart. Hugs to you!

  25. heather says:

    i’m really glad we don’t have to break up because i reeeeeally like you…and your writing style…and your anal attention to cookie-almond proportions. but all of that is lost if it doesn’t fit in the balance. family, friends, your health & your sanity absolutely come first. if those are all in check, then the food, fun, crafts & authenticity of you that we all keep coming back for are that much more enjoyable. we’ll all be here with you through it or when you get back if you need to take a little hiatus.

  26. Karyn says:

    I’ve noticed lately that you seem different than in the old days, and figured it was just me :) Hope you find that balance – I love your recipes and your “voice” and your beautiful photos and will definitely miss your blog. But if it’s not fun any more, don’t do it. Duh :)

    As everyone else has said, do what works for you. Best to you whatever you decide, and thanks for all of this! The roasted Brussels sprouts recipe is what first brought me here, and you are what kept me coming back (BTW both the boys in my house – the boyfriend and my grown son – are now Brussels sprouts converts all because of you). And as long as I can selfishly check here when I need a recipe for whatever thing is languishing in the fridge waiting for my attention, it will be a poor substitute, but will do.

  27. tz.missjane says:

    Yay! Jen to the rescue with a Chinese Almond Cookie recipe. Yours look much nicer than the ones on the Engineer’s page. I think smaller cookies are better, but you may want to tweek the recipe as it now reads that it yields 42 dozen instead of 42 cookies. Thanks for being you.

  28. Elizabeth says:

    Can you find an editor to do the step of turning your stream of consciousness into the readable blog you have — so you don’t have to do it yourself? We are out there!

  29. Sulki Choi says:

    I was soooo inspired to make these today and I spent around $30 getting all the ingredients but for some reason my cookies aren’t as perfectly round as yours… Should I maybe press on them a bit before I bake them to make them flatter?

  30. Sherry says:

    Surprisingly, I had the idea to make these a few days ago and spent a good amount of time scouring the internet for an acceptable recipe. In the end, I couldn’t decide on one and gave up. And today, I come here and what do I see? It must be fate!

  31. melanie says:

    Just post your amazing pics,and a recipe once in a while.The writing part,I’m sure,must be tough.
    Your pictures are incredible.
    Thanks,for such an amazing blog! I look forward to it,no matter what you do,here.
    Loyal fan forever!
    peace.

  32. lisbet diemer says:

    and a word from your danish reader, you are on my favorit list, and I like your use of words, When you write from your Heart, often it makes for a beautiful colourfull writing. You give me good ideas,and bring along some “good vibrations” together with your recipies. I like your blog a lot, and hope you will keep on writing more if only when your foodie heart “must ” run over with what you just must tell,
    looking forward to more inspiration and beautiful pictures from another world…

  33. Debbie says:

    You write from your heart and from honesty and that is what really matters. I like you, too and these cookies look great!!!! I would love some right now with my coffee!

  34. Regina says:

    I really hope that you can find a good balance between life and your blog, even if that means leaving this blog, I had the same problem with a previous blog of mine.
    Those cookies look delicious, and I don’t even like almonds! I’m definitely going to try this recipe out for my Chinese class for the new years thanks so much!

  35. honeybeecooksjackfruit says:

    Blogging should be for enjoyment and add to, rather than take away from real life… We understand if you need to refocus! I hope you can find the balance, because your blog is wonderful!

  36. noëlle {simmer down!} says:

    I sometimes find it liberating to cook and *not* photograph or post about it; I can just get lost in the chopping and stirring without having to fiddle with plating or lighting or what have you. Of course, maybe that’s just what I’m telling myself lately so I don’t feel so bummed that I haven’t been able to make the time to post as much as I’d like. :)

  37. Ruth Ann says:

    Hey, those almond cookies look yummy!
    I really like the way you write. Your writing just seems real. I hope that you decide to continue your blog with its awesome pictures of Colorado (and other) scenery and recipes that I probably would never think of making.

  38. Jeanne says:

    Jen, I just love your blog, writing, photos, all of it. You and it would be so missed. I hope you are able to strike that perfect balance in your very full life.
    Jeanne

  39. Amy says:

    I am just fascinated by Chinese culture and love learning about it here. Maybe we will celebrate the Chinese New Year- everyone can use a little good luck!

  40. Amanda says:

    While these do look delicious, I feel the need to say something about the body of the post. I have enjoyed your writing immensely, but if the blog is not right for you now, step back from it. A well documented life that was not lived is not a good life. Many of us will be here when and if you come back, if you decide to leave. Sometimes, just a picture is enough of a post. I hope you have a Happy Chinese New Year.

  41. Deb in Indiana says:

    I love almond cookies! and I love Cooking for Engineers, one of the few food blogs (along with urb) that I read regularly. (Maybe because I am an engineer?)

    Michael has been posting again lately – he kinda took a break for a while. But, look, we come back!

  42. Joy says:

    I love this recipe. Your images are just beautiful.

  43. Lael Hazan @educatedpalate says:

    As always, stunning photos. I enjoy almond cookies and believe these will be a great way to celebrate Chinese New Year with my girls. Your writing is engaging and I thank you for expressing yourself. Reading your blog makes one feel a part of your experience. You don’t create a wall, and I appreciate it. Thanks,

  44. Mollie says:

    i’m struggling with priorities too so i feel you… but whatever you do, i like you too! :)

  45. ska says:

    Jen,
    Thank you for putting your whole heart into each and every post. The step by step photos
    are immensely helpful for those of us timidly venturing into unfamiliar territory. Love your
    other non food related photos too.
    Happy Chinese New Year!

  46. Christy says:

    I too have been struggling with my blog for the past few months. I think the winter months have sapped my inspiration mojo. I’m planning on getting back into it soon and hopefully will find something interesting to blog about. I do so hope you keep “chatting outloud” with us. I love your sense of adventure, fun and your OCD moments too. Also, you have such lovely hands, like in the photo above where you place the almond on top of the cookie. Pretty.
    Take Care and Happy Chinese New Year!

  47. Lisa C says:

    Hi and thank you. Xx new to your blURB and feel inspired. So again thank you

  48. Ruthie says:

    Hi Jen,
    I just wanted to say thank you. These days I have a backlog on my google reader, and I just caught up on your most recent posts. It made me think – I’ve been reading your blog for about five years. Strange! I started reading it in high school, all through college, and now I’m in professional school. You’re right – I have noticed a change. There’s been something…less? Of course, that may partly be a change in myself, and my workload, since five years is kind of a long time! One never doesn’t usually realize that time passes in a blogger’s life in the same way it does in one’s own. Weirdly, Kaweah is the one who makes me notice that time passes in your life too (I think you’ve commented on her getting a bit older and the things that go along with it). I suppose it’s because our canine friends have such a shorter amount of time allotted to them to be here on this earth.
    But thanks for sharing your life and your recipes! Interestingly, I’m pretty sure it was you who made me a more adventurous sushi eater. Also, most of my memorable desserts have come from here (although chocolate covered candied grapefruit was kind of a flop…). So, thanks!
    Ruthie

  49. Cakewalker says:

    Terrific post! Love your voice, your truthful expression… I’m going to give this recipe a try for sure.

  50. Lisa C says:

    Made the cookies yesterday and took a couple for my pau pau / gran who had a Chinese bakery in chinatown, got a big thumbs up from her …. My parents also gave high praise, so well done and thanks for the recipe.

  51. eemilla says:

    If only my mom would let me select my baby shower menu; I guess I’ll just have to make for myself and eat them first thing because I certainly need help saying sweet things more often.

  52. Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps | Andrea Meyers says:

    [...] Use Real Butter – Chinese Almond Cookies [...]

  53. minneville says:

    I just made these using your recipes…they are great!

  54. jenyu says:

    Thanks everyone, for your comments and support. You guys are really wonderful and encouraging. I think I’m finding those things that are dissatisfying, and I’m getting rid of them :) xoxo

    Veronica – hazelnuts sound lovely (another favorite nut of mine!)

    Paulette – thank you, and welcome to use real butter!

    dario – thank you, my friend. I know you understand :)

    TKW – love you, hon. mucho mucho

    Magda – I think I might know what Greek cookies you are referring to! I LOVE those.

    Bridget – very true. I guess it’s a matter of balancing the time invested here as opposed to… other things that pay for stuff like mortgages ;)

    Troy – thank you. That is incredibly nice of you xo

    Manisha – *hugs*

    Karyn – Brussels sprouts RULE!! :)

    tz.missjane – ahhh, thanks for that! I corrected it. hee hee (42 dozen – wow!!)

    Elizabeth – his name is Jeremy… and I’m married to him. ha ha ha.

    Sulki Choi – well, you could try to refrigerate the dough like Michael recommends? Or perhaps flatten them more? Are they mounding or just spreading weird?

    noelle – it’s totally true, when I cook without shooting it feels SOOO great!

    Amanda – wise words and I completely agree. Thanks for the reminder.

    Deb in Indiana – :)

    Ruthie – thank you, dear.

  55. Susanne says:

    These were so great! Every recipe I’ve made from your blog has been fantastic. You’re my go-to girl for good food. Thanks for doing what you do! You rock.

  56. sandra ericson says:

    The cookies are just right. the texture is athentic. I substituted one of the cups of flour with rice flour and added an extra tsp of almond extract plu used almonds with skins. I always like to put my own twist on any thing I do but your foundation was perfect. Try it and I know you will be pleased.THANX Sandra

  57. Barb says:

    Nice website. We went out to a Chinese buffet yesterday and I pigged out on 4 Chinese almond cookies. Still hungry for more today I found your blog. These look just like the ones I love. Can’t wait to try them. I am recovering from torn rotator cuff surgery, so it may be awhile until I am able to make them…but I will someday.

  58. Rhea says:

    I was just wondering how long do the cookies keep well for ?

  59. jenyu says:

    Rhea – probably no more than 3-4 days in an airtight container before they start to deteriorate in texture.

  60. Celebrate – April 9 says:

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