Happy Lunar New Year!! Today marks the start of the Chinese Lunar New Year and while I may not be Chinese, today's definitely a big deal in Hawaii and it's one of my favorite days to celebrate. Trust me when I say that Chinese New Year was (and still is) likely one of the most exciting days of the year. I remember looking forward to this day every year because it was the one day of the year that the lion/dragon dancers would come dancing through the halls of my elementary school. Catching that first glimpse of red and gold (from the lion/dragon costume), was enough to electrify the entire class. The sound of the drums echoed in the hallways and enchanted the student body. Ooohs and aaahs and joy-filled laughs could be heard for miles. And that's just the beginning. The rest of the day was filled with delicious Chinese treats like gau (mochi cake), dragon's beard candy (kinda like cotton candy, but not), or almond cookies (which were definitely my favorites). You're starting to understand why I looked forward to this day every year huh?
Well, as if all of that wasn't magical enough, there were red envelopes to look forward to. If you aren't familiar with the tradition of hong bap, let me just tell you a little bit about it. Basically, little red envelopes, usually adorned with Chinese characters for luck, were stuffed with new bills and gifted to children. I'm not even going to pretend that this didn't tickle and delight me. My friend Kammy and I would collect all our envelopes and open them gleefully at the end of the day. Which is why, this year, I thought I'd do something a little less traditional, but something that's forever tied to my Lunar New Year memories, and make these Almond Shortbread Cookies with Royal Icing. The almond flavor is a nod to the cookies I grew up loving and and they are shaped and iced to resemble the red envelopes I once loved. I've adorned these "envelopes" with the Chinese character for Year of the Monkey, as, errrr, well, it's the Year of the Monkey (duh)!
Today's post was created in partnership with KitchenAid®. Head on over to their blog, The Kitchenthusiast™, for this recipe and step by step instructions, including an animated gif that will help you with the tricky business of piping 猴 (the Year of the Monkey)!! Before you hop on over, a couple words of advice. If you're planning on adorning your cookies with 猴, definitely practice writing it a few times on a sheet of paper and then piping it out onto a sheet of parchment. It took me a couple tries to get my writing right, so don't get frustrated if you don't get it on the first try. Also, note that I wanted to give my cookies a stuffed envelope texture, so I smoothed my icing with offset spatula to add dimension, but this is not necessary. If you want a smoother more traditional texture, simply thin out your icing a little, which will allow it to flood the cookie more evenly. Happy Lunar New Year, guys!! :D