It’s our first Chinese New Year in Singapore and whilst we’re escaping to Bangkok to make the most of the very long weekend, it seemed only appropriate to pay homage to the year of the goat and wish you all Gong Xi Fa Cai (Happy New Year) with some almond cookies!
We managed to see the incredible lights in China Town last weekend, with 3 giant illuminated goats standing at the head of Eu Tong Sen Street and hundreds of smaller lit up goats lining the centre of the road together with lanterns strung overhead. The photos above don’t do this incredible sight justice but suffice to say it makes the Oxford Street Christmas lights look pretty average in comparison!
There is so much fantastic tradition and symbolism involved in Chinese New Year, including thoroughly cleaning your house in the days preceding (to sweep away bad luck), lion dances (to evict evil spirits), door to door visits between family members and friends, and gift exchange. Decorations include lanterns together with plum blossom (symbolising luck) and mandarin and kumquat trees (symbolising prosperity) beautifully decorated with red ribbons. The colour red is everywhere, be it decorations or clothing, as it symbolises luck, joy, virtue and truth, and it was believed to scare away bad luck and evil spirits.
Traditionally red envelopes filled with money are handed out at this time of year from older generations to younger, from companies to employees, and (controversially) from married couples to singles.
In addition to money, small gifts are also exchanged between family and friends. Fruit (often oranges), sweets, cakes and biscuits are all popular and the shops are currently filled with exciting red-lidded jars filled with tiny beautiful baked goods and candies. There are also savoury delicacies such as bakkwa, a type of barbecued pork, which, according to my colleague, is only available once a year and increases exponentially in price the closer you get to New Year’s Eve.
Whilst my cookies are probably a little on the large side compared with your average Chinese New Year cookie (I blame
my greediness the lack of small cookie cutter in my life) they’re very tasty none the less!
Deliciously almondy with a hint of marzipan from the addition of almond essence, these cookies are almost like shortbread in texture. I was so tempted to dip them in dark chocolate but sadly Singapore’s weather is not really chocolate-friendly so that will have to wait for another time.
This time last year: Apricot Couronne
Makes 36 cookies (5cm diameter)
130g butter, at room temperature
70g icing sugar
Small pinch of salt
80g ground almonds
120g plain flour
60g almond flakes, lightly toasted
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1. Preheat the oven to 160ºc/140ºc fan/325ºf and line 2 baking trays with baking parchment.
2. In a medium bowl use a wooden spoon to beat the butter, icing sugar, salt and almond extract together until smooth. Add the flour, ground almonds and toasted almond flakes and stir well until the mix forms a soft dough.
3. Take a small piece of dough (about a large teaspoon-full) and roll it into a ball between your hands before pressing out to form a flat circle. Place on the baking tray and repeat with the rest of the dough. Leave at least 1.5cm between each cookie as they grow in the oven.
4. Bake for 20 minutes until slightly golden round the edges.
5. Leave to cool on a wire rack. When cool store in an airtight container for up to a week.