Chinese New Year this year falls on Monday, 23 January. Around Chinese New Year there are lots of gatherings, visits to friend and relatives to exchange wishes for the new year and eat! The Chinese love a bit of symbolism, so a lot of the things we eat during the new year have a special, generally auspicious meaning. You will find a lot of sweet treats offered during the new year as they symbolize a rich and sweet start to the new year.
So here is a sweet festive treat to welcome in the year of the Dragon in 2012 – Chinese Walnut Cookies.
Chinese walnut cookies are a popular treat and it’s something that I like to bake for Chinese New Year as walnuts symbolise happiness of the entire family. Walnuts are also considered a symbol of intellectuality as their shape resembles a brain. Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are an essential nutrient for the human brain. Anyone who has grown up in an Asian family knows how much emphasis is placed on education and producing smart kids. So not only do you get a rich and aromatic cookie from the large amount of egg yolks and walnuts included in the cookie dough, you also score two symbolism brownie points.
Do you think walnuts look like brains?
Chinese Walnut Cookies
• 150g shortening (grated to make easier to cream)
• 50g butter
• 150g caster sugar
• pinch of salt
• 4 egg yolks
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 300g plain flour
• ½ teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 tablespoon cornflour
• 1 tablespoon milk powder
• 250g walnuts (lightly toasted in the oven for 7-10 minutes until aromatic – 200g crushed and 50g kept whole)
• egg wash (1 egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon of water)
Tip: I grate vegetable shortening to make it easier to cream.
Sift the flour with cornflour, milk powder, salt, baking soda and baking powder together in a bowl.
Use an electric beater to cream shortening with butter and sugar until fluffy. Add in 4 eggs yolks and cream till smooth. Fold in sifted flour mixture, then add in 200g crushed walnuts and mix together well until it comes together and forms a dough.
Roll tablespoons of the dough into a ball and press lightly to form 1 ½ inch discs and place onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper (if the dough is too soft to roll into balls, chill in fridge for 10-15 minutes to make the dough easier to work with). Press into each cookie a piece of walnut. Brush some egg wash on top of each cookie.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for around 15 minutes, or until golden brown.