You can probably make these using either all butter or all lard instead of half of each. If you want them to be more traditional, use only lard and substitute ammonium carbonate, or baker’s ammonia, for the baking powder and baking soda, which was more widely used in the past before baking soda and baking powder. Feel free to incorporate actual almonds rather than doing what I did, which is to just use almond extract. I think pressing an almond in the centers of each cookie just prior to baking would be the way to go.
Baker’s ammonia is different than the ammonia you use for cleaning and can often be found in Mediterranean grocery stores. It makes baked goods very light and crisp. I’ve not used baker’s ammonia before, so I don’t know how much of a difference it would have made for these cookies, since they are already fairly light and crisp. Another way to increase the crispness in this particular recipe though, would be to use just more granulated white sugar in place of the brown sugar. I’ve not tried this, but I know that using white granulated sugar generally results in a crisper cookie compared to one that contains brown sugar.
You can render the lard yourself through a lengthy process using a large heavy pot or slow cooker. Your local butcher may be able to sell you the type of fat that you need to use, called leaf lard, which is the fat around the kidneys of a pig. Or you can also just buy perfectly rendered leaf lard, conveniently sold in one pound tubs (or larger) by some butchers. I’ve never actually rendered fat before, but you can find numerous blog sites with instructions. I think my hesitancy has to do with the fear of possibly gaining a “piggy” smell in our apartment that might linger for a long time.
Contrary to popular belief, while not considered a “health food”, leaf lard is actually lower in cholesterol and saturated fat than butter. These cookies are surprisingly light and crisp; I’m not sure if this is because of the leaf lard, but I may start using leaf lard more and more. I added more salt, but find it more pleasing that way. Feel free to dial the salt back to 1/4 teaspoon.
Also, I didn’t mean to deceive anyone by including tea in the photos, as if to imply that tea is part of the ingredients list. I simply included my tea in the photo because a) that’s what I happened to be drinking at the time and b) I’ve seen variations of this cookie recipe being described as “tea cookies” presumably because they go well so with tea, and c) it turns out they do go very well with tea! 😉
almond sesame seed cookies (makes about 4 dozen small cookies, adapted from this the spruce eats recipe)
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
2 Tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces leaf lard, solid
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
white sesame seeds, ~1/2 cup
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. If using, mix in the 2 Tablespoons of sesame seeds. Set aside.
In another bowl, cream together the butter with the lard and the sugars until fluffy and light. Add the egg and almond extract and mix in.
Fold and stir in the flour mixture with the butter/lard mixture, just until a dough starts to form.
Divide dough into 4 equal amounts and form each into 4 small logs, roughly about 6 inches each. Each log gives you about 11-12 cookies. You can use a ruler to divide by 12 if you want to be exact. I may do this next time because it kind of bugged me that I got only 11 cookies from 2 of the 4 logs with some of the cookies from those logs being larger than others.
Wrap them in parchment or plastic and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or until more hardened. I left mine overnight in the fridge because refrigerated leaf lard isn’t quite as hard as refrigerated butter, and I knew that meant they would spread a lot more if not completely cold.
Heat oven to 325 degrees F.
Slice each log into about 1/2″ thick cookies. If you’d rather have more dome shaped cookies, weigh them out using a scale to ensure that they are all the same size, and roll them into a ball before adding sesame seeds. Dip or dunk each cookie into a small plate or saucer of sesame seeds. Place each cookie evenly spread out on one ungreased baking sheet. Bake for about 15-17 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack before storing in an air-tight container.