Monday, July 18, 2011

Cardamom Shortbread Cookies

Quick post today to break up the parade of ice creams. Last week, Mother Humble came through the door and thrust a half eaten cookie at me, insisting I try it.  She had been at the Bastille CafĂ© in Seattle earlier that day, enjoying some yummy french treats, including this rather ordinary looking cookie.

For whatever reason, my general ban on food--particularly half eaten sort--fished out of purses wasn't being rigorously enforced and I scarfed the cookie down.

While it was no science cookie (making a new batch soon!), I had to agree with her, it was quite good.  Sandy, buttery, laced with cardamom and worth reproducing.

So this weekend I spent a day cloning these cookies--as well as angrily testing and retesting some new cake recipes but that's for another post. Now, usually I use a rice/AP flour combo in my shortbread but this time I thought I would try adapting an interesting CIA recipe base that used equal parts cake and bread flour.   The resulting cookie is not only delicious, but also bakes up beautifully.

Cardamom Shortbread Cookies
adapted from Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft
yields 5 dozen 2" cookies
227g bread flour
227g cake flour
generous pinch salt
312g butter, cool but pliable enough to beat*
340g sugar
57g egg yolks
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamon
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or vanilla extract

egg white
turbinado sugar

*What does that mean?! Essentially as cool and firm as your mixer can handle. Butter that still has some chill just creams so much better.

(Variations -- Chai spice: replace the cardamom with chai spice powder. Citrus: Replace the cardamom with two tablespoons orange, lemon or lime zest. Vanilla bean: Omit the cardamom and add an additional 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla bean paste)

In a medium bowl, sift together the flours and the salt. Set aside.

Cut the butter into pieces and add to your stand mixer with the sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy (roughly 5 minutes). Then beat in the egg yolks, cardamon and vanilla paste/extract.

Add the flours and then mix briefly on low speed until just combined. Add a few drops of water (less than a teaspoon) to the mix if the dough seems overly coarse.

Divide the dough into two or three equal portions and roll into 1 1/2" diameter logs.  Wrap with wax paper and chill for at least 20 minutes. (Tip: For perfectly round cookies, periodically remove the wrapped dough from the fridge and roll on the counter top. This will prevent/correct any flat sides as the dough firms up.)

Once the dough has chilled, remove from the refrigerator and brush lightly with beaten egg white. Coat the log in sugar and re-wrap with the waxed paper and return to refrigerator until ready to bake.  You can store these cookies for up to 5 days before baking, tightly wrapped. 

When ready to bake, pre-heat your oven to 350°F. Remove the chilled log from the refrigerator and slice into 1/4-1/3" thick rounds.  Arrange the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment, giving them room to spread.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until edges are golden brown. 

Enjoy (with or without purse lint).


  1. OMG! this are so good! thanks for sharing, im going to try them soon!

  2. This looks very much like Martha Stewarts French butter cookie but like they would have their own unique flavor with the cardamon and lack of brown sugar. I will have to try this one soon. I love the added crunch of raw sugar around the outside of a butter cookie. So very nice.

  3. Looks delicious! I've always wanted to try a dessert with some cardamom. :)

  4. These look gorgeous, and I fell in love with cardamom this spring when I put it in my Easter bread. But how does the equal parts cake and bread flour thing work? I know the flours have different protein contents, but wouldn't that just cancel each other out?

  5. just purchased ground cardamon "to have"…well "have" is here..& since i was muffin baking all weekend i so look forward to this recipe!

    how are baby h & little h doing?

  6. You know, this is very similar to a cookie recipe I got for Christmas last year, only that one wasn't spiced and was filled with bits of pistachio and dried cranberry.

  7. Geeklady,

    I was wondering the exact same thing re: the bread and cake flour. After all, an average of the protein in these flours would likely be closer to pastry or all purpose. So why not just use those? Or why not use all cake flour (which is often done), since that would minimize the gluten formation and ensure a fine short dough.

    My best guess is that it may have something to do with workability and flavor. The dough is pretty easy to handle and bakes up really nicely with smooth tops, clean edges and a even, sandy crumb (better than some of my all purpose flour shortbreads). The cookies are also sturdy! Which I like, since I'm already thinking of them in terms of gifts. Flavor-wise, bread flour will add the pleasant flavor of hard wheat. This could help mask the slightly metallic flavor of heavily bleached and processed soft wheat cake flour.

    Though high gluten flours are odd in short doughs, the use of egg yolks and a rest in the refrigerator would aid in relaxing any undesirable gluten.

    So yea, that's my best guess right now.

    I've seen these cake/bread flour combos popping up in several cookies now. The NY Times best chocolate chip cookie recipe is also a cake/bread flour recipe. Though, I have not tested it myself.


    We're doing great! The baby is such a sweet and calm little guy. He has been very accommodating of all my cooking this week. He likes to observe.

  8. I think we may just be kindred spirits! I too am a biologist (well in training! im going into my 3rd year at uni :) ) and also have a major addiction to shortbread, ive never tried it with cardamom though and thats an addition ive been wanting to try for a long time. This looks like a lovely recipe indeed :)

  9. Hahaha I love that your mom tries to force-feed you food that has settled into the depths of her giant handbag, too. But hey, a little lint never hurt anybody, I suppose, and these cookies look amazing! I love cardamom and chai spice. Thanks for figuring out the magical recipe!

  10. this recipe is so yummy!
    thanks for this nice idea and have a great day!

  11. These were really yummy sweetie. Thanks for reproducing the tidbits of yummy food that I save for you in my purse!

  12. These look great! I'm always looking for more uses for cardamom! I'll definitely try these soon.


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