Archive for: cardamom
Whether you call them ginger cookies or molasses cookies, these chewy and spicy cookies are a fantastic cold weather cookie. I tend to think that it is because all of the spices in them, which seem very satisfying when the weather is cool. Cold weather is also the perfect weather for doing some baking, and that alone is a good enough reason to get in the kitchen and try making your own batch of these Orange and Spice Ginger Cookies.
The cookies include ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, orange, vanilla and anise, so while they are called “ginger cookies” and there is a good amount of ground ginger in them, ginger is not the dominant flavor. Instead, these cookies just have a wonderful blend of spices that gives them a lot of complexity, rather than just one note. The orange goes extremely well with all of the ground spices, and the vanilla extract rounds the flavors out a bit. I like how the hint of licorice flavor from the anise extract blended well with the molasses, but this is an optional ingredient and can be left out if you don’t have any.
The cookies don’t have a long baking time because they can dry out quite easily in the oven. They should be moist inside, and that helps give them a nice chewy texture, while the sugar coating gives them a little crunch. These cookies keep extremely well when they are stored in an airtight container and should keep for more than just a few days. This makes them a great choice for holiday baking because they can be done in advance, and they also ship very well. The spices change and mellow slightly as the cookies age, and they become slightly chewier, too.
Sugar cookies are the kind of cookies that appeal to just about everyone. They can seem plain, but a buttery sugar cookie that has just a hint of vanilla to it can prove to be a very satisfying snack, even if it isn’t loaded up with chocolate chips, nuts or other goodies. Of course, because sugar cookies are relatively plain, they are also an excellent canvas for other flavors in a way that cookies that include everything-but-the-kitchen-sink aren’t.
Cardamom Sugar Cookies are a wonderful way to showcase the versatility of the sugar cookie, spicing up a classic recipe to make them just a little more unique. Cardamom has a very fragrant, almost perfumey flavor to it and it blends very well with the vanilla extract that is already in the cookie dough. The finished cookies look like sugar cookies, but offer a much more interesting and more complex flavor than you’re going to get from any “plain” sugar cookie!
I used a combination of butter and vegetable shortening in these cookies for two reasons. First, shortening actually helps keep the cookies a little chewier than butter alone would. Second, the shortening has a much more neutral flavor than butter, so the sugar, the vanilla and the cardamom are all able to stand out a little more in the finished product. The recipe will still turn out if you use all butter in yours, and it can be made with all shortening for a slightly softer overall cookie, as well.
Sweet potato pie makes a nice change from pumpkin pie when you’re looking for a fall dessert to serve at a family dinner or to bring to Thanksgiving. Similar to pumpkin pie, sweet potato pies are made with pureed sweet potatoes and spices that are mixed into a custard with eggs, milk and sugar before baking. Also like pumpkin pie, many sweet potato pies tend to be a little on the bland side. To remedy this in pumpkin pie, I’ll add more spice to boost the flavor, and I do the same thing when making my sweet potato pies.
This Brown Sugar Cardamom Sweet Potato Pie has a lot of flavor and it mostly comes from a relatively small amount of cardamom. Cardamom is a spice with a very strong and slightly citrusy flavor. It pairs very well with earthy sweet potatoes and really brightens up the overall flavor of the pie, not to mention that it is a slightly unusual spice for this type of pie and will set yours apart from a typical pie. The other flavor element here is the brown sugar, which adds a rich sweetness to the pie. Canned sweet potato puree is a very reliable base for this type of pie. If you are using homemade sweet potato puree, you might consider pressing it through a strainer before using to keep the pie as smooth as possible. When baked, the pie should have a creamy texture that is a bit lighter than your usual pumpkin pie and that makes a lovely contrast to the graham cracker crust.
In addition to the brown sugar in the sweet potato pie mixture, there is also a layer of brown sugar added to the bottom of the pie plate before baking. I actually got the idea to add this layer to the bottom of the pie from Cook’s Illustrated. Their recipe ends up giving you a layer of melted syrup on a pastry crust, but since I like to do my sweet potato pies with a graham cracker crust, I ended up using a slightly different technique. I add a thin layer of brown sugar to a cooled graham cracker crust, the pop the crust in the oven before I add the filling to warm up the sugar layer. This keeps the sugar sticking to the bottom of the crust, rather than mixing in with the filling when the sweet potato mixture is poured in. The sugar doesn’t form a truly distinct layer in the pie, though it does add some additional sweetness. What it does do is help keep the graham cracker crust crisp and helps prevent the filling from soaking in and making it soggy before the pie is even served.
Pie pans will vary in depth. Try to resist overfilling your pie crust for best results, even if that means you need to discard a few tablespoons of sweet potato pie filling.
You can’t go wrong with Maida Heatter. I’m sure that there are recipes of hers that are not universally popular (Check out the judging panel’s comments in Cathy’s Mondays with Maida to see if they ever find a bad one), but I have yet to try a recipe that does not work. And, of course, I love just about all of them.
Case in point, these cardamom cookies struck me as calling for an unusual mixing process. The spice, baking soda and salt were creamed into the butter before the sugar was added. Perhaps this is for more even distribution of the spice in the cookies? In any event, I went ahead with the recipe as written with only two small changes. First, I slightly increased the cardamom and did not use fresh ground. Too lazy for that. It is well over 100F here today and I am not grinding spices. Please overlook the illogic in refusing to grind spices but unhesitatingly running my oven to bake. Second, I added some vanilla because I think that cardamom and vanilla are an amazing combination.
If you do not know who Craig Claiborne is, take a peek at his biography. Among other things, he definately knew a good cookie. You can read the original recipe text here, where it is reprinted from Maida Heatter’s Brand-New Book of Great Cookies. I simplified the originals into drop cookies because, to blame the heat again, I didn’t feel like rolling them out.
The cookies are slightly chewy, slightly crunchy and slightly shortbready. They’re also very good – no “slightly” about it.