The Spice Trail: Chocolate Walnut Cardamom Cookies

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Ready for the oven. GET IN MY FACE.

Things which I am told which I am not sure are true:

  • “If you shave it, the hair grows back thicker”
  • “Don’t go swimming for two hours after eating or you’ll get CRAMPS AND DROWN.”
  • “If you swallow gum, it will stay in your tummy for seven years.”
  • “Ground cardamom’s a waste of time. Never as good as freshly ground.”

Wait, you haven’t heard the last one?

I’m serious – alongside nearly every recipe I’ve seen which has the delectable sweet spice in it tells me it’s a matter of simplicity to shake open the pods and grind them up. But the rather grim reality is that you spend about 25 minutes with a small knife and a grinder, getting peppery bits of cardamom all over the kitchen surface (nearly everywhere, in fact, but the mortar you want it in), and usually I manage to slice open a finger, thumb or palm of my hand while trying to get into the bastard little green pods.

Now I’m not gonna lie – the smell of freshly-freed cardamom seeds flying over the kitchen is really nice. But for a mere £3 or so you can buy Steenberg’s Ground Cardamom which is sort of pricey but saves me time, effort and band-aid expenditure which is valuable. My Scandinavian bun dreams are now a blissful and gorgeous reality, and I can’t wait to add a cardamom twist to more recipes.

There’s a lot of comment on why and how Scandinavia has such an affinity with this Indian interloper – theories involving Vikings and trading routes abound, but in truth there’s no real knowing why and how Scandinavia has become the key export market for this spice in Europe.

In baking, cardamom has an affinity with chocolate, sugar and nuts. So it was a natural step to use it in my very favourite cookie recipe together with creamy milk chocolate and crunchy sweet walnuts. I’ve adapted one of my favourite recipes from Lily Vanilli, whose cakes, books and general life achievements give me a little sick-tummy-with-jealousy feeling which means I love her but also sort of want to murder her and steal her life. (disclaimer: please note the use of “sort of” – I’m not a weirdo!).

A perfect teatime treat with a cuppa – served in the family china if you’re feeling posh.

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Pornography: the teatime edition

Chocolate-Walnut Cardamom Cookies

Makes around 18-24 large cookies, depending on how big you go – fortune favours the brave!

430g plain flour

1.5 tsp bicarb of soda

pinch of fine sea salt

240g unsalted butter, softened

230g soft brown sugar

200g caster sugar

2 eggs

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1.5 teaspoon ground cardamom

140g milk chocolate, chopped into little chunks (you can use a mix of dark and milk if you like – be a dear and buy fairtrade, kids)

100g chopped walnuts

Method:

  1. Beat the butter until soft and creamy and add the sugars bit by bit, until light, creamy and fluffy-looking. This should take a couple of minutes, and do yourself a favour by using an electric beater.
  2. Beat in the eggs and vanilla, then sprinkle in the spices, followed by the flour, bicarb and salt. It should form a nice firm dough.
  3. Scatter over the chocolate and nuts and fold them in, so you have a lovely sweet-smelling dough.
  4. Here’s where I deviate from the recipe – don’t bake these straight away. Take your dough and pile it onto a large piece of greaseproof paper (split it into two if you need), then roll it up into a sausage, twist the ends and pop in the fridge to firm up. If you like, wrap in foil and leave in the freezer – it will happily stay here for 2 months.
  5. Why do this? Two reasons – firstly, cookies always work better when the dough is a little chilled, in my experience. And if you’re cooking a few snacks at a time, you can cut beautifully-shaped biscuits off your log of joyful treatyness. Second, the cardamom spice intensity increases the longer the dough rests, even while it’s in the freezer. So the longer you leave your log, the better your cookies taste. Läcker, as they say in Sweden.
  6. When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180C and line a baking tray with paper. Slice off rounds of frozen dough onto your baking sheet and cook for 10-12 minutes. The dough will be quite soft when you take it out, so leave to firm up for a minute before sliding the cookies onto a wire rack to cool.
  7. Your cookies will be chewy, warm and beautifully toothsome. Enjoy.

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    Your friendly log of cookie dough, ready for slicing…
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