Sunday, February 14, 2010

Kung Hee Fat Choy!

happy chinese new year and valentines day! i don't usually post about things that i haven't actually made myself, but my aunty wanda made these cookies the other day that were too hard to resist. she was inspired by this article in the honolulu advertiser about the tradition of almond cookies for chinese new year. it turns out it's an americanized cookie - traditional chinese nut cookies were made out of walnuts - but i'm grateful for the switch, since walnuts make my tongue swell. inspired by the morning newspaper, and taking advantage of her newly-retired lifestyle, she called my aunty billie - popsie's sister, for her masterful almond cookie-making tips. included in the expert tips is:
  • you HAVE to use crisco. yep. you can't make crispy almond cookies without crisco. so take a deep breath and get over it.
  • you should HANDLE them. i always assumed handling the cookie dough too much would make the cookies tough, like pie crust, but it turns out you should roll these cookies between your palms at least ten times each, till you can feel them change texture. 
  • to make them all uniformly flat, you ball them onto the cookie sheet and then drape a dish towel over them all and use a rolling pin or drinking glass to flatten them all at once. this also gives them a nice waffle texture. 
these cookies are awesome. here's the recipe aunty wanda used, courtesy of the honolulu advertiser:

Brenda Leong's Almond Cookies

• 1 cup butter-flavored solid shortening (she uses Crisco)
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 1 large egg at room temperature
• 1 tablespoon almond extract
• 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• Red food coloring blanched almonds.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Using an electric mixer (preferably a hands-free stand mixer), cream shortening and sugar very well. Add egg and almond extract and cream again until built up and smooth. Mix together flour, baking soda and salt and gradually add to batter while mixing. Form and decorate cookies with food coloring or almonds on ungreased cookie sheet. These cookies spread. Be sure to place them 3 inches apart. Bake at 325 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Makes about 30 cookies.

the brilliant innovation that aunty wanda put on these cookies is the heart stamp. chinese almond cookies traditionally have a red dot in the middle, and since it's also valentine's day today she made the red stamp into a heart by carving the end of a carrot and dipping it in food coloring. genius!
happy year of the tiger, everyone!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

baby hat in a night


i had one night to make a baby present. my friend ikaika was having a first year birthday for his son, ka'uhane here on o'ahu and i found out the day before. good thing babies are small. i recalled my friend sandra saying she had a crochet baby hat pattern that she was able to make last minute - two in one night, maybe even - for a baby party recently, so i asked her to send it to me - thanks sandra!

i love the pattern, those little ear flap/tie things are super fun, though i didn't exactly stick to the pattern. i'm not good on checking gauge, and the crochet hooks i was borrowing from grandma ho were all sized in japanese, so i have no idea what size hook i was using. plus i really don't have a clear reference for how big a one-year-old's head would be, so the sizing is all an approximation. i added the little lines in the middle by crocheting into just the back loop of each stitch - something i had accidentally taught myself to do all the time, and my guatemalan host mother helped me figure out why all my crocheting looked ridged like that.
i got the idea for the variegated outline from the photos sandra sent me of her hat - that's my favorite part. so i used some extra yarn i have from the owl sweater i'm *still* working on for myself, and picked up a little hank of variegated yarn to accent.

i didn't have a baby head to model the hat on, so this stuffed dog had to stand in.
now upon meeting ka'uhane i have no idea of the hat will actually fit, he's a big boy. but it was a fun late night project to give me an excuse to get caught up on season 5 of lost.