Last night Jacob and I invited a Chinese friend, Amber, over for dinner. Upon seeing me in the kitchen getting ready to bake with a huge chunk of butter, she said, "I don't think I've ever tasted butter before."
Stunned, I asked her to clarify. She thought for a while, and said, "Unless you count the butter that's baked into bread," she said. "But not in anything else, I don't think."
It's true that not much savory Chinese food uses butter, as even a minor ingredient. And while bakeries abound here, selling a plethora of breads and cakes, not many Chinese are accustomed to spreading butter on rolls or toast. But last night Jacob and I had planned a Western-ish meal, and made liberal use of butter in our side of haricot verts. Thankfully, Amber didn't mind, and seemed to love the change of butter as the cooking agent, as opposed to peanut or vegetable oil.
She got another chance to taste something very buttery when I brought out my dessert, orange-almond lace cookies. (It was another way for me to use up orange peels, like in my orange sesame brittle.)
Butter is pretty much the star ingredient in lace cookies, with sugar and flour in the supporting roles. This recipe from Bon Appetit adds egg, to make the cookies a bit sturdier and harder to break. However, the cookies are still very delicate, requiring a bit more care when taking removing them from the baking sheet. But the crispness and the sinfully rich taste make them well worth the trouble.
Orange-Almond Lace Cookies
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Makes about 4 dozen mini lace cookies
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups (250 g) finely chopped almonds
1 1/2 cups (300 g) sugar
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten to blend
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Stir butter in a small pot over medium-low heat until melted, then remove from heat. In the same pot, stir in almonds, sugar, flour, orange zest, and salt. Then add in egg and mix well to combine. (Wait a minute or two after removing butter from heat to add egg, otherwise the heat may prematurely cook the egg.)
Drop generous teaspoonfuls of batter onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing 2 to 3 inches apart. Cookies will spread a lot during baking.
Bake cookies until lacy and golden brown, about 7 to 8 minutes. (Watch them carefully; the thinness of the cookies means they can burn easily.) Gently slide the parchment paper with cookies onto rack; cool completely. Transfer cookies to paper towels. Repeat with the remaining batter, lining a cooled baking sheet with clean parchment for each batch.
Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temp a week, or frozen for up to a month.