Gluten-free, dairy-free Chinese almond cookies

Chinese almond cookies in a plastic containerThese cookies were born of disaster. I had actually made another batch of almond cookies beforehand, using a grain-free recipe. The pictures of the cookies from that recipe showed nice, firm little balls. I followed the recipe quite exactly, I thought, and put them in the oven a few inches apart, at the indicated temperature, thinking they would take 20-25 minutes to bake. Within minutes, my husband noticed they had melted and spread flat, all fused together. Because they had been in the oven such a short time at that point, I turned off the oven but left the cookies in there thinking they might need a little more time to bake properly. Not long after, I smelled something burning. Although the oven was off, it was hot enough to continue baking the now super-thin cookies, which had burnt to a crisp. Grr!

I was, however, determined to have almond cookies. I love almond cookies, though almonds are moderate in FODMAPs so I can only have a limited quantity. So I started over, consulting a number of different recipes to figure out what the problem might have been. The first thing I decided was that grain-free was out. The cookies needed more structure. The second thing I decided was to use vegetable shortening (vegetable fat) rather than butter, as that tends to produce a more tender cookie that spreads less, because it melts at a higher temperature than butter does. I also added an egg. All three decisions turned out to be right.

Child's hand putting almonds on cookiesMy cookies came out almost perfectly lovely – firm enough not to crumble even when transported but tender enough that even my toddler, who doesn’t yet have all her teeth, loved them. They tasted great too, and it was a struggle to keep myself to two small cookies at a time, which I figured was probably a safe threshold for FODMAPs.

You may note I said almost perfectly lovely – the one minor issue was that the almonds I pressed into the tops didn’t stay in very well. Next time I will have to eliminate the whole almonds, cover them partially with dough, or work out some form of glazing to make them stick better. However, loose almonds or not, they were good.

This batch was adapted from a Chinese almond cookie recipe by, apparently, Sou Chan. Interestingly, the top picture there doesn’t actually involve whole almonds though the recipe calls for them. So I’m sure you could skip them if you didn’t want to deal with almonds potentially falling off.

Baked almond cookies on trayChinese almond cookies (Gluten-free, dairy-free)

Makes about 36 smallish cookies

  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 3/4 cups ground almonds/almond flour
  • 1 medium egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup (75 grams) vegetable shortening, cold – chop into small pieces if really firm, though I use Trex vegetable fat, which is naturally quite crumbly, so I didn’t bother
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • About 36 whole almonds
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F/170 C/150 fan. Put non-stick baking paper on two baking sheets.
  2. In large bowl mix together the rice flour, sugar and almond flour. Add egg, vegetable shortening and almond extract. Mix well with a wooden spoon until you have a dough that easily forms balls that hold together easily but crumble a bit if poked – note, “crumble a bit” doesn’t mean “fall apart.” If your balls fall apart, add a little cold water or better yet, more almond extract. If the balls feel very moist and don’t crumble at all, add a little more almond flour.
  3. Shape into small balls and place on baking sheets 1-2 inches apart. Press an almond into the top of each cookie, covering up sides a bit to help them stay in place.
  4. Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden brown.

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