First and foremost, we would like to wish all our readers 新年快乐 (xīn nián kuài lè)! In other words: Happy New Year! Of the lunar kind, that is. Now, with Chinese New Year in full swing, who isn’t tempted to try out some intriguing recipes for traditional sweets, cakes and cookies?
Growing up in the Southeast Asian countries of Singapore and Malaysia, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to savour a number of delicious Chinese New Year goodies when the occasion arose. I’ve even had the good fortune of coming home from visiting relatives a few hundred dollars richer every year thanks to all of their ang pow (red packets).
The Chinese take their food very seriously and many of their dishes and desserts have certain luck-bearing significance. Take, for example, the famous pink-tinted Longevity Buns (寿桃 shòu táo), shaped to look like adorable peaches and eaten by those who aspire to live a long and healthy life. Or the sweet and sticky New Year Cakes (年糕 nián’gāo) made with glutinous rice flour that symbolise promotion or prosperity. Whether one believes in food having the power to bring such good fortune or not, one thing’s for sure: this yearly tradition of celebrating Chinese New Year is a yummy one.
James and I made a batch of these peanut cookies (花生饼 huā shēng bǐng) to kick start our lunar new year. The peanut is an auspicious symbol in Chinese culture. Like noodles, they represent longevity. They are also said to bring about prosperity, stability and good fortune.
Sweet and buttery soft, these peanut cookies boast a beautiful fragrance and bake to a gorgeous golden brown. Feel them crumble and melt in your mouth as soon as you take a gentle bite. With an intensely nutty flavour and an addictive sandy texture, you’ll be reaching for the next cookie as soon as you finish your last!
Fragrant Peanut Cookies (花生饼)
a delicious Chinese New Year snack symbolising longevity.
2 cups roasted peanuts, ground
1 cup all-purpose flour
A generous dash of salt
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup peanut oil
1 tablespoon butter, softened
Some halved peanuts for cookie tops
1 egg yolk mixed with a bit of water (for egg wash)
If not using packaged ground peanuts:
- Dry roast peanuts in a pan or oven until slightly brown.
- Let cool, then grind into a sandy mixture using a food processor or mortar and pestle. If using a food processor, take care not to process the nuts too long or you’ll eventually get peanut butter! You can leave the mixture a little chunky.
To make the cookies:
- Preheat oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
- Combine ground peanuts, flour and salt together in a bowl.
- Sift in the icing sugar and mix well.
- Add the oil and butter, and mix until combined. Mixture will be a little dry.
- Shape into small 1/2 tablespoon-sized balls. Flatten slightly.
- Place a half peanut in the centre of each cookie for decoration.
- Lightly brush cookie tops with egg wash (doing this will give the cookies that delightful brown glaze on top).
- Bake for 20 minutes or until brown and slightly cracked on the tops.