On Monday night this week, I suddenly got into a baking mood and whipped up a batch of Chinese New Year Peanut Cookies. Although I never really need an excuse to make cookies (or eat peanuts!), it was this stunning picture of blogger Penny's cashew cookies on her Instagram feed that convinced me that, yes, I needed homemade Chinese New Year cookies in my life, and fast! I love these crumbly, powdery, peanut-fragrant and ever-so-slightly salty little morsels so very much!
I googled the recipe on my phone on the way home from work, bought the ingredients at my local supermarket after dinner, and got baking! (Just quietly, we also made a batch of David Lebovitz' salted butter caramels that night... it was really a sugar frenzy!)
|Chinese New Year Peanut Cookies|
I ended up using a recipe from Bread et Butter, which she in turn got from Quinn's Baking Diary (not sure where Quinn got the recipe from!) Peanut cookies seem to be pretty ubiquitous though, with each cook having his or her own way of making them. I can't imagine any one person having 'created' the recipe, or having ownership of the idea, if that makes sense. Either way, I adapted Bread et Butter's recipe by changing up the method (processing the peanuts with the sugar prevents them from becoming an oily mess in the processor), and crucially, decorating them with salted peanuts.
|Mmm... peanut sugar dust...|
I also went with tradition, and used lard. I'd originally planned to use peanut oil (and I'm sure just reading those words is enough to send some people into anaphylactic shock!), but I saw this lard sitting in the fridge with the butter at my supermarket and thought: "Cute packaging, why on earth not?"
I'd never baked with lard before (and I'm assuming there are many of you out there who haven't either), so for interest's sake, here's what it looks like:
The whole process is nice and easy - very few ingredients, the dough is all made in the food processor, and I found the dough a dream to work with. It wasn't sticky or messy at all, and rolled into neat little balls very compliantly. Indeed, the longest part of the whole process was roasting the nuts in a frypan before grinding them!
|Pre glaze, pre baking|
"Just had one of your peanut cookies. Amazing. So fresh, so delicate and a perfect balance of sweet and salt... Yummmmy".
Yay! I'm 99% confident that this batch of 40 will all be gone before Chinese New Year on Sunday. And on that note, I take no responsibility if you make these and eat the whole batch in one go. It's entirely possible. ENJOY!
Chinese New Year Peanut Cookies
Adapted from a recipe at Bread et Butter, which itself was adapted from Quinn's Baking Diary
2 cups unsalted raw peanuts
1 cup icing sugar
2 cups plain flour
Pinch of salt
1 cup lard (approx 250 grams), at room temperature
Salted peanuts, for decoration
1 egg, beaten
Preheat the oven to 180C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Roast the peanuts in a dry frying pan or wok, stirring frequently, until fragrant and lightly browned. Tip the peanuts onto a plate to cool slightly.
Tip into a food processor fitted with the double blade and add the icing sugar. Whizz up until you have a delicious-smelling peanut powder. Don't make it too fine - you still want some larger peanut chunks remaining.
Add the flour and salt and whizz briefly to combine.
Now it's time to add the lard. Start with half the amount specified, whizzing to combine, and keep adding more until the dough comes together. (You may not need all the lard - the exact amount will vary depending on the weather, the other ingredients etc.)
Roll the dough into small balls (hehe!) and place on the lined baking tray. Press a salted peanut into each ball. Brush the balls with beaten egg to glaze.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly golden and cooked through. Allow to cool on the tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes about 40
As much as I revel in these little sugary, peanutty, gluten-filled, lard-laced biscuits, I do know that their ingredients do make them inaccessible for many people. So, with y'all in mind, here are a few adaptations I think you could make to suit different dietary requirements. DISCLAIMER! I haven't tried any of these alternatives myself, so can't vouch for how tasty they would be. Think of them as an educated guess, rather than strict guarantees.
Vegetarian: Replace the lard 1 cup of butter.
Vegan: Replace the lard with 1 cup of vegetable oil, (dare I suggest peanut oil?); don't glaze the biscuits.
Gluten-free: Replace the plain flour with a gluten-free flour of your choice, e.g. cornflour or rice flour (I imagine these would make the biscuits even more crumbly, so go with caution!)
Peanut allergies: Replace the peanuts with cashews or walnuts (These are both popular for CNY!)
Nut allergies: I'm really, really sorry. Perhaps try a plain shortbread recipe for a similar melt-in-your-mouth crumbly biscuit experience.
Low sugar: Don't bother.
Low fat: No. Just no.
Low calorie: Are you kidding me?