Chinese New Year Party – Almond Cookies and Mango Coconut Cupcakes

Chinese new year was on February 10 – it is the year of the snake. I was planning on having my party on February 9, but unfortunately there was a huge blizzard in Boston and the MBTA shut down and a driving ban was implemented. Therefore, the party was rescheduled.  I finally rescheduled the party for two weekends after (it even snowed a little that day) and I did appetizers and desserts.

Here is my appetizer layout! I’ll post a tutorial on the panda origami later. Also, great trick I learned off of Pinterest was to use wrapping paper as the table runner/cover. I just happen to have on hand this beautiful red and gold foil wrapping paper, so I laid that over some placemats to cover the table and keep it heatproof.

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I made 50 chicken spring rolls (cut them in half) and over 100 fried pork dumplings. I left my hubby in charge of the sauces – spicy soy scallion sauce, spicy sesame chile sauce, regular soy scallion sauce, and sesame sauce. Close-up of the spring rolls – cut on a bias.

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And close-up of the dumplings. I actually made these the day before and boiled them. Then the day of the party I fried them about 30 minutes before to heat them up and make them crispy.

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I had some snacks around like rice crackers and Doritos (not really Chinese, but one of my favorite chips).

Here is my dessert table. I put the red packets (hong bao) on the same table and they were meant to be party favors for the guests. These symbolize good fortune for the next year and are usually filled with money. Mine were filled with chocolate coin candy and lychee hard candy.

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For dessert I made Chinese almond cookies and mango curd-filled coconut cupcakes with a mango swiss meringue buttercream. Originally I was going to make the almond cookies and a sweet black bean pastry which is a more traditional Chinese dessert; however, somehow every Chinese store I went to did not have sweet black bean paste. They aren’t Chinese, but they have the same flavors as most Chinese desserts – coconut and mango. To top it all off, I had a drink station with a lychee grapfruit cocktail. I made it without alcohol in case some people didn’t want it, but it was definitely a great mixer with vodka. Since this is a baking/dessert blog, I’m going to stick with the dessert recipes. Plus, I don’t really measure when I make the spring rolls and dumplings, so I don’t want to give people the wrong recipe. Leave me a comment if you really want it! I’ll try to estimate values.

First, my mom’s recipe for Chinese Almond Cookies. These are the original! She probably brought the recipe with her when she left Taiwan.

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“Xing nian kuai le” means Happy New Year in Chinese. Here is the original recipe:

Wang Family’s Chinese Almond Cookies

杏仁餅乾

Yield:  About 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 sticks (1 c.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 c. granulated sugar
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • 1 2/3 c. flour
  • 2/3 c. chopped almonds
  • 1 egg, well beaten for glazing

Directions:  

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In the bowl of a stand mixer or using a handheld mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes on medium speed. On low speed, beat in salt, milk, almond extract, and flour until combined. Add in chopped almonds.
  2. Prepare two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Using a teaspoon, scoop mixture and roll into a ball about 1 inch in diameter. Place on prepared cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Press down slightly so top is a little bit flat, but don’t press flat. The dough will spread during baking.
  3. Brush each cookie lightly with beaten egg. Place chopped or slivered almonds on top for decoration and garnish.
  4. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until lightly brown. Allow to cool on cooling rack.

I’ll admit, I forgot to buy the chopped almonds, so I used peanuts instead. I thought it tasted delicious still and I only got called out twice at the party – “Did you use peanuts in here?” Damn, and here I thought the almond extract over came the peanut taste. I’ve made it many times before using the correct ingredients and either way, it taste delicious. The dough is an interesting texture, it will be pretty soft and you will be able to see/feel the chopped nuts.

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I actually like using nuts with the skin on so you get some color. You can also use blanched almonds and have a whiter cookie. This cookie is interesting because there is no leavening agent. The cookies become very crispy and they flatten out nicely.

DSC_0423_webYou’ll want to press them down just slightly, enough that you can brush some egg on top and sprinkle the almonds, or do the flower design I did below. Don’t press them down too far though, you’ll want them to still be about half inch high.

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This is how they look after they bake.

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The egg glaze gives the Chinese almond cookie its classic look with a slightly orange/brown gloss on top.  You can see the chopped nuts inside.

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Now for the mango curd-filled coconut cupcakes with mango swiss buttercream! Whew, that was a mouthful to say.

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I found the recipe for each component from three different sites. The coconut cupcakes I found from muchadoaboutpie, the mango curd is from thebakerchick, and the mango swiss buttercream is from crumbsandcookies.

Coconut Cupcakes

From muchadoaboutpie.wordpress.com

Yield:  24 cupcakes

Ingredients:  

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 sticks (1 c.) unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 c. flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 pinch of salt
  • 1 c. sweetened, flaked coconut
  • 1 c. coconut milk

Directions:  

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a muffin pan with 24 liners. Whisk eggs and sugar together in a large bowl until combined well. Add vanilla and melted butter, whisk until combined.
  2. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt; mix until well combined. Add coconut milk and stir until smooth. Last, fold in coconut flakes. Fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 full and bake for 12-16 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Mango Curd

Adapted from thebakerchick.com

Yield:  about 2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 15-ounce ripe mango, peeled, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or lime juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 large egg yolks

Directions:  

  1. Puree first 4 ingredients in processor, scraping down sides of work bowl occasionally. Add yolks; puree 15 seconds longer. Strain through sieve set over large metal bowl, pressing on solids with back of spatula to release as much puree as possible. Discard solids in sieve.
  2. Set metal bowl over saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water); whisk puree until thickened and thermometer registers 170°F., about 10 minutes. Remove from over water. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

You could actually reduce this recipe by 1/2 and be able to fill 24 cupcakes. I had a lot of curd leftover.

Mango Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Adapted from CrumbsandCookies.Blogspot.com
Yield:  makes about 3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar or white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
  • 3/8 cup mango puree

Directions:

  1. Heat egg whites and sugar in a mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water until sugar dissolves, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
  2. Using your electric mixer, whisk on low speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and whisk on medium-high speed until stiff glossy peaks form and mixture is cooled completely, about 10 minutes.
  3. Reduce speed to low and add in the butter 2 tablespoons at a time, beating to incorporate fully after each addition. Don’t worry if the buttercream appears curdled at this point, it will become perfectly smooth again. After beating in all the butter, beat in the mango puree.
  4. Keep beating until the mixture is smooth and spreadable. If your buttercream still remains soupy, it is too warm and needs a bit of chilling. Maybe around 15 to 30 minutes in the fridge. Use immediately or refrigerate in a tightly sealed container for 3 to 5 days.

This is actually me adding the coconut milk to the cupcakes. The cupcake batter was pretty yellow for some reason. The coconut milk lightened it up. If you haven’t use coconut milk before it comes in cans in the International aisle usually. It is chunky looking, very thick, and white. It adds a nice coconut flavor and also fat to the cupcake.

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Then the mango curd. Mmm, fresh mangos. I peeled them first and then cut around the seed.

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If you haven’t cut a mango before, the seed is a large, flat oval shape, so on the flat side there will be more mango meat than the other side. That’s the best place to cut first and you get the huge chunks you see above. Blend it in a food processor and then use a sieve to filter out the fibers.

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I didn’t have a sieve, but I have the thing above that I use for spooning dumplings out of boiling water. It worked though! The swiss buttercream you will make like any normal kind (I have a past post here with more direction – Swiss Meringue Buttercream) and then add more mango puree. Then I used a melon baller and scooped out holes in each cupcake. I then overfilled them with mango curd. I did that on purpose because the mango color was so pretty I wanted it to show a little underneath the buttercream.

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Then I used an open star tip and pipped the swiss meringue on top.

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Finally, the lychee cocktail!

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Lychee Grapfruit Cocktail

Ingredients:

  • 3 cans (20 oz) lychee in syrup
  • 1-1.5 liters grapefruit juice
  • 2 grapefruits, peeled and segmented
  • 1 lb crushed ice (enough to chill the whole jug)
  • Seltzer water (optional – amount to taste)
  • vodka (optional)

Directions:

  1. Mix lychee syrup (set lychee fruit aside) and grapefruit juice. Put in about 1.5 cans of the lychee fruit in and set aside the other half for garnish. Mix in grapfruit segments.
  2. Put ice in. Add vodka first if you are using it. The amount is to taste. Then add the seltzer water. You’ll want to add seltzer water to dilute the mixture because it would be very sweet otherwise. This part you can do to personal taste  as well.

Hope you enjoy! The party was a lot of fun and everyone had plenty of food to eat. Needless to say, the cocktails went fast.

Happy Chinese New Year – Xing Nian Kuai Le! Please take a virtual red packet to go…

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11 thoughts on “Chinese New Year Party – Almond Cookies and Mango Coconut Cupcakes

  1. Those cookies look divine! And I totally want your pork dumpling recipe!! please please please! And I totally understand about the not measuring, that is everthing I cook! Hope you and Patrick are doing well 🙂

  2. Pingback: Chinese Almond Cookies – Quick Round 2 | Cupcake Artist

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