Monday, 4 July 2011

Cardamom biscuits

Did you ever use cardamom? I did, but I never really tasted it until I tried this recipe.
Maida Heatter’s Brand-New Book of Great Cookies p169–70

A freezing Sunday evening at the end of a weekend lacking in that indefinable something a lot of them lack in these days, and a sudden need to get into the kitchen accompanied by Björling and de los Angeles doing that lacking-sound-quality but still-bloody-heartrending Madama Butterfly, and make what Maida calls rolling-pin cookies, usually to be avoided like the plague due to an inexplicable lack of marble worktop.

½ teaspoon freshly ground cardamom seeds (about 2 teaspoons of pods, seeds extracted and ground in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, then sifted)
2 ¼ cups plain flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
125g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon baking soda, or what we would call bicarbonate of soda, not baking powder. Sigh.
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup packed brown sugar (I used light muscovado)
1 large egg

Preheat oven to 180C. 

Sift the flour and cream of tartar; set aside. I actually followed the instruction to sift this time, as the proud new owner of a big shiny drum sifter.

Beat the butter until creamy and add the cardamom, bicarb and salt. Beat in the sugar, then the egg. Add the flour and mix in just until incorporated.

Halve the dough for ease of handling on a postage-stamp-sized work surface, and roll to about 5mm thick. It's quite a sticky dough, and the rolling pin kept sticking to it; for the second half I rolled it out on baking paper.

 I punched out circles with a glass, and placed them the recommended 1½ inch apart on the baking-paper-lined sheets and into the oven for 20 minutes, only twice as long as recommended. They didn’t spread or puff up as described; it seems I made the classic error of reading ‘baking powder’ for the bicarb, thanks to the USian betwixt-and-between ‘baking soda’.

They were the sort of unassuming neat flat golden disc that is what it is, and exactly the sort of unchallenging baking the evening called for. The cardamom gave them a nice warmth and also misled several colleagues who held them in esteem for their gingeriness. The texture was crispish and shortbready and pleasant even with the incorrect raising agent, other than which I have every confidence they would have been infinitely more fascinating.

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