Li hing mui is a salted, dried plum that has delivers sweet, sour and savory flavors all in one. A powdered form is frequently found in Hawaii, where it is sprinkled on top of sweets like shave ice, pineapples and gummy candy. Just as salty and sweet is a good combination in most desserts, the li hing mui powder not only accentuates the sweet flavors in anything it is put on, but it becomes quite addictive after a few bites. I picked up a big bag the last time I was in Hawaii and have been slowly making my way through it, but I haven’t used it much in baking until recently. It turns out that the red powder is a very fun addition to baked goods, giving them that same mouthwatering feel that you get when the powder is combined with candies and fruits.
These Li Hing Mui Sugar Cookies are covered in a li hing mui sugar that gives them a sweet, sour and savory outer layer to contrast (in color, as well as flavor) with the buttery cookie dough underneath. The cookie dough itself has a vanilla base and is accented with sweetened, shredded coconut and toasted macadamia nuts. The macadamia nuts should be chopped into fairly fine pieces before stirring them into the dough. Their large size makes the pop out a bit too much if they’re left whole, and chopping them ensures that you get some macadamia nut in each bite. The dough is rolled in the li hing mui sugar before baking. The powder can be found on Amazon and other stores online, or you can plan trip to the islands to pick some up.
Because they have a sugary coating, the cookies can get a bit crisp if they are left in the oven for too long. Ideally, the cookies will be set and have a very faint hint of golden brown at the edges when you pull them out of the oven. They’ll set up more as they cool and, when stored in an airtight container, will stay tasty for a couple of days after baking.
Li Hing Mui Sugar Cookies with Macadamia Nuts
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup finely chopped toasted macadamia nuts
1/3 cup sugar, for rolling
2 tbsp li hing mui powder
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, adding them one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract and mix until well combined.
With the mixer on low speed, gradually incorporate the flour mixture until the dough comes together and no streaks of dry ingredients remain. Stir in coconut and macadamia nuts.
In a small, flat dish, combine 1/3 cup sugar with li hing mui powder. Stir until powder is well distributed.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls and roll in the sugar to coat completely. Arrange cookies on prepared baking sheet, leaving about 2-inches between the cookies to allow for spread.
Bake for 11-14 minutes, until cookies are set and very light golden around the edges.
Allow to cool for 3-4 minutes on baking sheets, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes about 3 1/2 dozen.