There are some memes floating about on the internet that I take as a personal affront – just Google ‘cardamom meme’ to see what I’m talking about. Offending memes usually depict someone in pain with a caption indicating that the anguish has been caused by biting into a sneaky cardamom pod. This apparently irksome experience is actually one I have always sought out. There is little containing cardamom I wouldn’t eat (I am sure this will become ever more evident the further into this blogging business I go). In fact, I challenge anyone reading this to test my willingness to eat something cardamom-centric.
Cardamom is native to southern India, where it has been cultivated for thousands of years. The spice is the seed pod of a large bush festooned with delicate white, deep pink, and yellow flowers. Introduced to Europe around 1300 BCE, cardamom was used by Ancient Greeks and Romans medicinally and in perfumes, but never quite achieved as illustrious a role in their cuisine as it did in India. In Scandinavia, however, cardamom quickly became a baking staple after it was allegedly brought there by Vikings returning from the Siege of Constantinople. Before the early 20th century, India led the cultivation of cardamom, but after a German plantation owner introduced the spice to South America, Guatemala quickly took over as the world’s biggest producer. Guatemalan cardamom still constitutes the greatest percentage of world production to this day, seemingly much to the chagrin of India’s cultivators (according to this very salty article in the Times of India).
The recipe below is an ode to one of my favourite sweet cardamom combinations: cardamom, white chocolate, and orange. These biscuits taste like all the best bits of an Indian sweet, with an extra dose of citrusy brightness from the orange zest. They are ridiculously easy to make as the use of a food processor eliminates the need for softened butter. I chose to go with circles of about 5cm in diameter, but this dough holds its shape beautifully when baking so the sky is the limit. I also topped mine with gold-leaf to be FancyTM, but this adds literally nothing to the overall taste. It is also worth noting that the yield of this recipe is extremely high. Like, you will have a heck of a lot of biscuits at the end. You’re welcome.
For the biscuits:
½ tsp salt (leave this out if you use salted butter)
2 tsp baking powder
150g granulated sugar
½ Tbsp ground cardamom
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
225g butter, cubed
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the dipping chocolate:
300g white chocolate
½ tsp ground cardamom
Finely chopped pecans or pistachios
Sprinkles, or other decoration of choice
Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, cardamom, and zest in a food processor or large mixing bowl (if using an electric hand mixer). Add the butter and pulse until it becomes very well incorporated and looks like compact beach sand. This will take longer if you are not using a food processor, but persevere because it’ll be worth it in the end. Crack in the egg and pour in the vanilla, then pulse until it holds together. Tip the dough out onto a piece of greaseproof paper and gather all the straggly crumbly bits together. Cut the mass in half, then roll out each piece between two sheets of greaseproof paper until your desired thickness (I went with about 0.5cm). Slide the two flattened pieces of dough onto baking sheets and put them in the freezer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile heat the oven to 180C. Once the slabs of dough are frozen, cut out your shapes of choice and place on a lined baking sheet, with about 5cm between them. You can re-roll and cut the scraps quite easily. Freeze for 5 minutes before baking – this is important as it helps the biscuits maintain their shape. Bake for about 12-15 minutes (depending on the thickness) until they are golden and smell glorious.
Once the biscuits are completely cool, prepare the chocolate for dipping: melt the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, then stir in the ground cardamom. Remove from the heat and apply to the cooled biscuits in whatever way you please (dunk, drizzle, submerge, line, gild, enrobe, slather etc.), then decorate with chopped nuts, more orange zest, and sprinkles. Wait an hour or two for the chocolate to set before eating.