Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cashew Nut Cookies (腰果酥)

Happy Chinese New Year!  We had a big family lunch for the Year of the Snake today, and so I turned to a tried and true recipe for which I also happened to have all the ingredients: Cashew Nut Cookies.

This recipe is easy, and turns out deliciously light, crumbly cookies, pretty much what you might call nutty, bite-sized shortbread.  I love how they get that cracked look too, just like the store-bought ones from the Asian grocery.  They are not very sweet at all, so if you have a sweet tooth, you might want to use a bit more sugar.

Cashew nut cookies.
Cashew Nut Cookies (腰果酥)
Adapted from My Kitchen Snippets, January 2009

Makes 80 bite-sized cookies.

270g cashew nuts, roasted and salted (70g are for the garnish)
250g plain flour
60g cornflour
1/2 tsp baking powder
210g butter (or lard for a more authentic flavour)
100g sugar (could increase to 120g)
1 egg, separated (the egg white is the the glaze and could be substituted - see Q&A below)
1/2 tsp vanilla essence

  1. Pick out the best-looking whole cashew nuts for the garnish.  Halve them lengthwise, where they naturally want to split.  If a nut doesn't split cleanly, try again with another nut, so you have 80 beautiful halves and maybe a few more to spare, and set aside.
  2. Measure out 200g of the rest of the nuts, using up the broken bits, and either grind or finely chop them.
  3. Sift flour, cornflour and baking powder into the same bowl as the ground nuts and mix.
  4. In a separate large bowl, cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy.  Add in egg yolk and vanilla essence.  Mix well.
  5. Stir in the dry ingredients and mix well.  Here, I get my hands dirty and turn the crumbly clumps into a dough ball.
  6. Chill dough in fridge for 40 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 180°C (or if using a fan-forced oven, 160°C).
  8. Shape dough into small balls, around 2cm in diameter, and place onto lined baking tray.
  9. Press a cashew nut half into each cookie ball, so that it is slightly flattened and cracks a little at the edges.
  10. Beat egg white and brush onto cookies.
  11. Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown.
  12. Cool and store in airtight container.
What is the best way of splitting the cashew nuts in half?
What worked for me was using a thin-bladed knife (e.g. a filleting knife) and pushing the tip into the inner curve of the nut along the join line. The two halves then naturally separated.

How far apart should I place the dough balls on the baking tray?
There just needs to be a little gap between each cookie after you have flattened them with a cashew half.  These cookies basically hold their shape.

The dough balls don't need to be this far apart.  They don't spread on baking.
Should I apply the egg wash before or after I press the cashew garnish on?
While the original recipe calls for brushing the beaten egg onto the cookies before pressing on the cashew halves, I found the appearance of the cookies to be more appealing when the glaze is applied right at the end.  You could argue that the nut would stick on more firmly with egg between it and the dough, but I think the nuts will stay on anyway, especially if you make sure the egg wash runs into the crack between the cashew and the rest of the cookie.

Cookie comparison: eggwash applied before cashew (left) and eggwash applied afterwards (right).
I have too many egg yolks from some other baking.  Can I use a yolk for the glaze instead?
Yes, you can.  The original recipe calls for whole egg.  I decided to use the leftover white to reduce waste, though it produces a lighter-coloured finish.  The cookies above were actually glazed with half a yolk and one egg white beaten together.  The more yolk you have, the more golden the end result will be.  If using just yolk, you can also thin it out with a little water or milk.


  1. These look great and I like that the ingredients list is very accessible. I'm always wary of bite sized things. I eat much more when things are bite sized.

    1. Unlike shortbread which is generally pale, I found these much nicer browned. I know what you mean about bite-sized things, but I find it pretty hard eating half a large cookie too.


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