Downtown Kanazawa is experiencing its seemingly annual winter butter shortage. The grocery stores I frequent have signs that read “one package per customer” and explain that the shortage is due to conditions in Tohoku, where much of the nation’s dairy is produced. My friends in other cities report that they’re having no issues finding or buying butter–maybe the shortage is from all the bakeries in town making Christmas cakes?
As a result of butter’s becoming increasingly expensive and hard to find here, I’m trying to cut back. I have a collection of recipes for muffins, quick breads, and pastry crusts that take yogurt, oil, or applesauce instead, but all my standard holiday cookie recipes take butter. This year, I’ve decided to work on some Japan-friendly non-butter cookie recipes in hopes of saving my wallet and my holiday spirit.*
@kimiecat on twitter suggested a variety of substitutes for butter in cookies, and one that I really wanted to try was avocado, specifically for the almond cookies my family makes. As I wrote last year, the original recipe is for press-cookies that are dyed green and pressed into the shape of a tree.
These avocado-almond cookies aren’t tree-shaped, but they are green! If you don’t want to or can’t find green food coloring, the cookies will be yellow-green from the avocado. I prefer a deeper green color, so I added some Japanese-style powdered green food coloring, though you could use American-style liquid food-coloring if you have it.
Speaking of the flavor, the avocado flavor is subtle, mostly covered by the almond extract and ground almonds, but some of my friends who tried it still got a hint of it. This is not a recipe meant to hide vegetables in sweets–I happen to think the hint of avocado combined with the almond in this pillowy cookie provides an interesting flavor balance.** The biggest difference is that the avocado won’t solidify like butter when chilled, so, rather than cut-outs, these are drop cookies. The tops have a nice glossy sheen to them that develops after cooling and looks great with sprinkles. Much like my “Christmas” celebrations, they’re not quite what I grew up with, but they’re my own take on a tradition I like.
Notes for Japan: with the low yield and the lack of spreading, these cookies are easy to make in 2-3 batches in the moven. Avocados are readily available in most places–I usually had no trouble getting them in the country and they are everywhere in the city. Ground almonds, almond extract, and sprinkles can be found in the baking goods section of the supermarket. The small batch size is also good because the cookies are best fresh.
Avocado Almond Cookies
Yields: 20 very small cookies
Active: 20-30 minutes (mixing, decorating, and baking)
Inactive: 1-2 hours (refrigerating)
Loosely based on “Almond Cookie Cutouts” on A Taste of Home
6 tablespoons avocado (about 1.5 avocados), mashed (abokado, アボカド)
200 g (1 cup) brown sugar (sanontô, 三温糖), or brown beet sugar (tensaitô, てんさい糖, 甜菜糖)
1 egg (tamago, 卵)
1 teaspoon almond extract (âmondo essensu, アーモンドエッセンス)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (banira essensu, バニラエッセンス)
190 g (1.5 cups) all-purpose flour all-purpose flour (komugiko, 小麦粉)
30 g (1/4 cup) cornstarch (kônstâchi, コーンスターチ)
25 g (4 Tablespoons) ground almonds (âmondo pudôru, アーモンドプドール)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder (bêkingu paudâ, ベーキングパウダー)
Optional: Green food coloring (shokuyô midori, 食用緑)
Decorations: Sliced or chopped almonds (âmondo, アーモンド), sprinkles (supurê, スプレー), etc.
1 medium bowl
1 small bowl
A potato masher (optional) (poteto mashâ, ポテトマッシャー)
Parchment paper (kukkingo shîto, クッキングシート)
OR greased cookie sheets (kukkî shîto, クッキーシート)
1. Wash the avocados, then cut lengthwise into half. Remove the pit and set aside. Scrape out the flesh with a spoon. Discard any off-color spots or stringy bits. Mash the avocado with a fork or potato masher until smooth. Measure 6 tablespoons of the avocado into the larger bowl. If you have leftover avocado, place it and the pit (or some lemon juice) in a small sealed container and refrigerate.
2. Add the sugar and mix well.
3. Add the egg, almond extract, vanilla extract and mix until incorporated.
4. Add the dry ingredients (flour, cornstarch, ground almonds, baking powder) and stir until incorporated.
5. Optional: add the food coloring. A small sprinkle of the powder or 1-2 drops of the liquid is usually enough; adjust to preference.
6. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. This will make the batter easier to scoop.
7. Preheat (yonetsu, 予熱) the oven to 180ºC (350ºF).
8. Drop the cookies by rounded teaspoonful about 2 cm (1 inch) apart onto the cookie sheet or parchment paper. Decorate with sliced almonds or sprinkles.
9. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the bottoms are lightly browned but the tops are not. Slightly underdone is better than overdone with these cookies. Cool on a wire rack.
10. These cookies are best served warm and fresh, but will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for ~3 days.
* I don’t celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, but rather as a secular-ethnic hybrid holiday season that lets me enjoy some of the traditions of my European-mutt family alongside Japanese New Year. I believe that to gather your loved ones together at the time of the solstice–the darkest days of the year–to eat, drink, make merry, and be warm, is a wonderful thing, and I don’t think that this practice ought to be limited to religious celebrations.
**Avocados are one of the big four of the latex-fruit allergy, so please tell your guests about the ingredients before serving.
Nutrition Information: for 1 cookie