Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Cardamom biscuits

I love the flavor of cardamom, which is so unlike any other spice I've tasted. I particularly like the way it tastes in sweet baked goods, and these biscuits really give the cardamom a chance to shine through.

A couple weeks ago I made something similar with a bit less cardamom and some orange peel added in, but I like this version much more - the cardamom is so good that when you add other flavors it takes away from the biscuits, at least in my opinion. As with so many other dishes, it is best to just keep it simple and let the quality of the ingredients do all the work.

Ingredients for about 50 biscuits:
200 g. all-purpose flour
175 g. butter, at room temperature
100 g. regular sugar
1 spoonful of vanilla sugar*
1 egg
About 15-20 cardamom pods
A pinch of salt

*If you don't have vanilla sugar, you can substitute this with vanilla extract or just leave it out. However, it's really easy to make your own vanilla sugar - just buy a vanilla bean, split it open lengthwise, and put it in an airtight container which you then fill with regular sugar. After about two weeks, the vanilla sugar will be ready for use, and you can keep using it for just about as long as you want, adding more sugar when the sugar starts to get low, and adding another vanilla bean if necessary.

Bruise the cardamom pods by pressing down on them with the flat side of a knife. They should crack open a bit, but not entirely (you don't want the seeds to fall out). Heat a small pan over medium heat, and add the cardamom pods to the pan. Dry-roast them for about 5 minutes, until they start to brown.

Turn the heat off and set the cardamom pods aside to cool. Meanwhile, sift together the flour and salt.

When the cardamom pods have cooled a bit, open them up and remove the seeds. Grind the seeds up thoroughly with a mortar and pestle, or any sort of makeshift grinding materials (a thick bowl and potato masher would probably work fine).

Mix the ground up cardamom in with the flour and the salt. In the bowl of a mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla sugar.

Lightly beat the egg and then stir it into the butter and sugar. Add the flour mixture in batches, beating on a low speed after each addition. When all the flour has been added, mix until just combined - don't overbeat.

Form the dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least half an hour, more if desired.

When you're ready to bake the biscuits, preheat your oven to about 355ºF /180º C. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and tear off a little bit. Roll into a ball and place onto the baking sheet, pushing down a bit to flatten the bottom. Repeat this until all the dough has been used and you have a lovely little quincunx of cardamom balls.

Place the biscuits in the oven and bake until they start to turn goldeny - about 10-12 minutes.

Remove from the oven and after about a minute, remove from the baking sheet onto cooling racks. Let cool and then serve or store in an airtight container - the cookies should last several days at room temperature.

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