A life consumed by food. A lifetime consuming food.
Not only would my dad, but other relatives as well, tell stories about growing up poor. They told me about how there would be little money to buy food, so little that groceries would be unaffordable at times. During these times of hardship they would have plain rice topped with lard for dinner. I raised my eyebrows in disgust at the thought of lard. My dad would also boast about the distinctive aroma and how light and flaky the cookies he ate as a child were. Of course, the flavour and texture which he so enjoyed was thanks to the lard that the cookies were made from.
Nowadays, the choice fat of yesteryear is making a comeback, changing the attitudes of lard naysayers like myself. I guess I was only conforming to the majority when I was previously repulsed by lard, because I didn’t know why it was thought to be so unhealthy.
I wanted to make the almond cookies as close to what my dad would remember eating as a child, so I decided to use lard. I know I previously said I wanted to render my own lard, but a Chowhound thread led me to Killarney Market in Vancouver, which carries a wide selection of Latin groceries, including naturally rendered lard. With my tub-o-lard in hand I went home and tweaked a few recipes to come up with my own version of Chinese almond thumbprint cookies.
I presented the cookies on the way to my dad’s birthday dinner, and it was my mom who had more to say about them. Upon taking her first bite she commented that they were light and flaky, and then asked what I used to make them. I told her I used lard, and for health reasons she immediately prohibited my dad from eating the cookies (not because she thought lard was worse than other fats). My dad mostly kept quiet about the cookies. After I told my mom I had made them especially for the celebration, she restricted him to a one cookie limit. But, I have a feeling he’ll be eating more than one.
The cookies were very simple to make, and were better once they had time to cool off. However, there were a couple of inconsistencies when it came to baking and storing the cookies. Using the half sheet pan browned the cookies much faster than when I used my three-quarter sheet pan, due to better heat circulation in the oven. Next time if I bake them on a three-quarter sheet pan I would bake them at 375 °F.
Storing the cookies in an air tight container overnight caused the cookies to lose their crispness. I had to re-toast the cookies to crisp them up, but that extra step also gave them a darker tan. In the future, I would be wiser to store the cookies in a paper bag to preserve their texture.
Chinese Almond Thumbprint Cookies