I've had cardamom on the brain recently. And I blame Padma Lakshmi.
We weren't even talking about food–we were discussing jewelry for a Wall Street Journal fashion piece, for heaven's sake.
But then the "Top Chef" host started describing a long gold chain that she liked that's flecked with little gold nubs. "Like cardamom pods," Padma explained.
I immediately began thinking about cardamom cookies and haven't stopped since.
I've always wondered why you don't see the spice used more often in baking or called out in restaurant menus. (Outside of Indian restaurants, that is.) I was delighted last year to see it make an appearance in an inventive orange-cardamom jam cocktail at Double Crown in New York. (You take a teaspoon of the spicy jam and mix it into a vodka concoction. Quite brilliant — and refreshing, to boot.)
In my own kitchen, as much as I love cardamom, outside of curries and Singaporean stews, I pretty much just use it in cookies and, sometimes, pancakes and waffles. It's such a robust spice I often shy away from tossing even a smidgen of it into something just for kicks.
This weekend, however, I met someone who encouraged me to broaden my horizons with cardamom.
I'd brought my go-to cardamom cookie — made with toasted walnuts, mounds of sugar and a heady amount of the spice — to a dinner party. (Padma has a similar cookie — made with cashews instead — in her cookbook "Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet.")
After sampling one, Dagni, a native Minnesotan of Norwegian descent, began rhapsodizing about the spice. My Hubbs, who is a quarter Norwegian (and has the height to prove it), and I joined her.
It was a bona fide Cardamom Love-Fest, I tell you. All that was missing was the "I Heart Cardamom" T-shirts.
Dagni reminded us that the Vikings had brought cardamom to Scandinavia. "You know," she said, "I have a great recipe for cardamom bread."
And then she said the magic words: "It's easy."
Done, done and done. As soon as Dagni sends over said recipe, the cardamom love continues.
For now, here's the recipe for my tried-and-true cardamom cookie:
Bon Appétit, December 2000
Yield: Makes 48
One recipe, two different looks: Half of the cookies are rolled in granulated sugar mixed with cardamom; the rest are sprinkled with a powdered sugar-cardamom mixture.
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups walnuts, toasted, finely chopped
Mix 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cardamom in large bowl. Mix 1/2 teaspoon cardamom and powdered sugar in medium bowl. Set mixtures aside.
Combine remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons cardamom, butter, vanilla extract, lemon peel and salt in another large bowl. Using electric mixer, beat at medium-high speed until well blended. Add flour and chopped nuts. Beat until smooth dough forms, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally. Gather dough into ball and wrap in plastic; chill 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment. Using hands and generous 1 tablespoon dough for each cookie, roll dough into forty-eight 3/4-inch balls; transfer to baking sheets. Bake cookies until golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes on sheets.
Add 12 warm cookies to large bowl of granulated sugar and cardamom and toss gently to coat. Repeat with 12 more cookies. Let remaining 24 cookies cool completely on sheet. Sift powdered sugar and cardamom mixture over. (Can be made 3 days ahead. Store in airtight container.)