It was a need for something crunchy and sweet to go with homemade peach ice cream that finally made me follow through. I’d been toying for months – since April 1, 2014 to be exact – with posting a sweet treat flavored with cardamom.
On April 1st my friend John sent me this note:
Cardamom, the forgotten spice. Why?
Here was my Facebook reply:
As you can see, that’s not what I’m posting today. But it’s still on my to-try list.
And then there was this spectacular Cardamom Vanilla Bean Layer Cake competing for my attention. “How would this recipe be as cupcakes?” I mused.
But I haven’t tried that either.
We were having a few friends over for an American-style BBQ – grilled chicken and corn-on-the-cob, potato and green salads. What better dessert than homemade peach ice cream? And what better to accompany it than flaky, crumbly shortbread?
Then I started to think about cardamom.
I don’t know why cardamom is an often overlooked spice for cookies and pastries. To me cardamom is to sweet what bay leaf is to savory.
When you make this shortbread, I recommend using cardamom seeds fresh from the pods – it’s worth the effort. That way you’ll get a slight crunch and pow of cardamom flavor in a bite or two of every cookie. To get the seeds out, pretend that you’re cracking a pistachio out of the shell, using your thumbnail to pierce the pod and then prying it open using your thumbs and forefingers.
I’ve called for the seeds of 5 pods because that’s what I used. Next time I wouldn’t mind if the cardamom was an even more prevalent flavor – maybe 8 or 10 pods. But that would be only for devout cardamom lovers, otherwise stick with the more subtle version in this recipe.
Cardamom Vanilla Bean Shortbread
- 5 cardamom pods
- 2 tablespoons demerara or turbinado sugar divided
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at cool room temperature (227 g)
- 1 cup powdered sugar (113 g)
- generous pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups All-Purpose Flour (241 g)
Remove seeds from cardamom pods and place in small bowl. Discard pods.
In a blender, combine 1 tablespoon of the sugar and the cardamom seeds. Blend for about 1 minute, until cardamom seeds are distributed throughout. Return mixture to small bowl and stir in remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar. Reserve.
Add butter, powdered sugar, salt and vanilla extract to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
With a small paring knife, slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Use the dull side of the knife to scrape out seeds. Add seeds to butter mixture in mixing bowl, separating any large clumps.
Beat mixture until smooth. Add flour and beat until the dough comes together.
Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
When you're ready to bake:
Preheat oven to 300 °F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Remove dough from refrigerator and transfer to lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle evenly with half of the cardamom / sugar mixture.
Roll the dough 1/4-inch thick and use a 3 by 1-inch cookie cutter or pizza wheel (for rustic rectangles). Sprinkle with remaining cardamom / sugar mixture.
Transfer cookies to prepared baking dish and prick all over with a fork. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until lightly brown around the edges.
Transfer shortbread to a wire rack to cool.