Last night I went to see the free outdoor movie in Bryant Park. HBO screens classic movies on a huge outdoor screen in the park on Monday nights. It's one of my favorite things to do during the summer in New York. Last night the movie was Harold and Maude. My friends and I spread out on a big blanket on the grass below the skyscrapers along with thousands of other people. (Here's a picture I snapped last night.) Somebody brought wine that we drank from classy paper cups and I brought Macanese Almond Cookies, 杏仁餅 (xing ren bing), for everybody to eat while we watched Maude seduce Harold. Maude is 80 years old and Harold is 18 and the whole thing is kind of creepy-- Harold pretends to kill himself 10 different ways-- but it's a comedy and definitely funnier when you're watching it with thousands of other laughing people. We didn't get to the park early enough to get a spot close to the screen and I could hardly hear the dialogue from the speakers but I found the Harold and Maude movie script online on my iPhone and I read along with the movie.
I first ate Macanese Almond Cookies on a trip to Macao. Macao is group of Chinese islands with amazing food about 45 minutes off the coast of Hong Kong by ferry. Macao was settled by Portuguese pirates in the 1500s and the food on the islands is a mixture of mediterranean and Chinese cooking-- imagine Chinese fried rice with olives and Portuguese sausage! Unlike other places in China, restaurants in Macao serve quite a few desserts and there are even European-like cafe's that sell pastries with coffee. These Macanese Almond Cookies are popular with tourists from Hong Kong to bring back as gifts for friends. They are sweet, dry, and grainy (similar to Pecan Sandies or Italian Butter Cookies) and they are made in beautiful wooden moulds that shape the cookie into small jewel-like shapes. I think they are best eaten with tea or wine.
When I made these cookies yesterday, I didn't have a traditional wooden mould to shape the cookies (and I doubt you will either) so I used a small paper cup with the top cut off to be about 1/2" deep. They don't look as ornate as the cookies sold in Macao but they still look and taste pretty great. If you're in New York City from June until August, I definitely recommend checking a movie screening in Bryant Park (Macanese Almond Cookies optional).
Macanese Almond Cookies
2 cups mung bean flour
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup ground almonds (about 3/4 cup peeled almonds ground in a food processor)
2/3 cup shortening
1 tsp almond extract
2 tbs water
1/4 cups almonds roughly chopped
1 small paper cup (base of the paper cup should be about a 2" diameter)
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Use a sharp knife or a pair of scissors to cut the top portion of the paper cup off, leaving only a 1/2" deep cookie mould. Discard the paper scraps.
In a large mixing bowl mix together the flour, sugar, and ground almonds. Using your hands, mix in the shortening until the dough looks like sand. Add the water and almond extract and continue mixing with your hands until thoroughly mixed.
Place about 5 chopped almond pieces into the paper cup mould. Over the mixing bowl, press a handful of the dough into mould and use your fingers to pack the dough into the mould and then level it off. Place the mould upside-down on an ungreased cookie sheet and slowly remove the mould. Repeat this process with the remaining dough. Bake the cookies for 25 mins and then let them cool for 30 minutes before eating.