Sometimes, a girl just needs to bake cookies. Food stylist Karen Shinto and I had a phone meeting recently to sketch out a game plan for an upcoming Asian Tofu photo shoot. After we got all of our work squared away, we chatted about recent food discoveries. One of the things that she mentioned was making a batch of tasty Chinese-style peanut cookies.
Did I want the recipe? Of course! My momma didn’t raise no fool. Karen also sent along these photos too! What a friend.
These cookies came about because Karen had a bunch of peanuts sitting around. Wondering how to use them up, she remembered a short (that’s not a slight on height) Chinese cookie from her youth.
You may be familiar with these Chinese peanut cookies as a Lunar New Year sweet. Hua sheng bing are often sold in tall plastic containers at the markets. I assure you that homemade ones taste far better.
Karen couldn’t wait till CNY to have her cookies. She looked them up online, rummaged through her books, and tinkered in her kitchen to come up with this recipe for Chinese peanut cookies.
After getting her recipe, I thawed my stash of unsalted, roasted peanuts and made some. Wow. They were full of peanut goodness. Karen’s Chinese peanut cookies were rich and lardy tasting but there was no lard. Ground peanuts, cooking oil, and butter enriched the dough. The confectioner’s (powdered) sugar added to the crumbly texture.
Karen used canola but I opted for semi-refined peanut oil that I get at the Chinese market. That type of peanut oil adds a lovely roasty peanut taste and perfume. The cookies came together very quickly. My dough was softer than the one that Karen made (see the photos below). I made two batches while pozole simmered on the stove for dinner!
These peanut cookies have little cracks on the outside. Karen was concerned about the cracks because they didn’t jive with her childhood memory. I tried cutting down the baking powder to 1/2 teaspoon but the cookies still cracked. I think they’re quite lovely and leaving them as is. They add character and evoke the delicate richness of the cookie. Thanks, Shinto, for the cookies!
[4/19/11 Announcement: The National Peanut Board just emailed about a peanut recipe contest called The Skinny on Nuts. Grand prize is $500 and the deadline is 4/22/11. Enter if you’ve got a nifty peanutty recipe to submit! This one belongs to Karen. ]
Chinese Peanut Cookies
Hua Sheng Bing
Karen said that these cookies are best the next day. I ate them a few hours after pulling them from the oven because I could not wait. They were spectacular. I saved half of the dough in the fridge to bake more later. Don’t try to make the dough entirely in the processor as it gets over mixed and prone to becoming oily too easily.
Makes 48 to 60 cookies
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unsalted, roasted peanuts
1 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar
10 3/4 ounces (2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour, bleached or unbleached
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup fragrant peanut or canola oil
1 egg, beaten
1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325F degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
2. Put the peanuts in a food processor and grind into the texture of coarse crumbs. Add the powdered sugar and process until there is a mixture of fine crumbs and powder, stopping to scrape the bottom of the bowl if needed. Do not over process or you’ll end up with peanut butter.
3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder. Dump the peanut mixture into bowl and stir until well combined.
4. Drizzle melted butter and the oil into the bowl. Use your hands to mix and knead the ingredients to form soft dough. It will soften as you knead it. The dough texture feel a bit like coarse play dough. If the dough becomes too soft to handle and feels oily, refrigerate the dough for 15 minutes to firm up. If the dough feels dry, add oil by the tablespoon.
5. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and put them on the baking sheets, spaced 1 1/2 inches apart. If you like, put a little decorative stamp on top. I used the top of a clean and dry Sharpie pen cap!
6. Brush the tops with lightly with beaten egg, then bake for 20-22 minutes until light golden in color. Transfer to racks and let cool completely before eating or storing in an airtight container. These cookies are very delicate and can smudge easily. Be gentle with them.