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December 6th, 2009 – Day Six

December 6, 2009

Cardamom is one of my favorite herbs/spices.  Expensive, second only to saffron, it is worth it in my cook book.   Cardamom is native to the tropical rainforests of India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Sumatra and was first imported to Europe around 1200.  The Vikings really liked it!

Cardamom comes from the seeds of a ginger-like plant.  The small, brown-black sticky seeds are contained in a pod in three double rows with about six seeds in each row.  For the most flavor, buy the pods.  They are easy to split and remove the seeds.

What, say you, does this have to do with Christmas and the Advent Calendar?  Christmas cookies, of course!  My favorite for Christmas are plain sugar cookies with colored icing, cut out in festive shapes.  That recipe is in last year’s Advent Calendar.  I found a wonderful spin off that I plan to add to my holiday repertoire this year:

Cardamom-Orange Sugar Cookies


  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • Raw sugar

Whisk flour, cardamom, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar; beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in finely grated orange peel and vanilla. Add egg; beat to blend. Add 1/3 of flour mixture; beat on low speed just to blend. Add remaining flour in 2 additions, beating on low speed just until blended. Refrigerate until firm enough to shape, about 1 hour.

Divide dough in half. Form each half into ball. Flatten into disks and wrap in plastic. Chill until firm enough to roll out, about 45 minutes. DO AHEAD: Dough can be prepared 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated. Let chilled dough stand at room temperature until soft enough to roll out, about 15 minutes.

Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out 1 dough disk on lightly floured surface to generous 1/8-inch thickness. Cut out cookies using festive cookie cutters. Carefully transfer cookies to prepared baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Sprinkle with raw sugar. Gather dough scraps into ball. Flatten, cover, and freeze dough until firm enough to roll out again, about 10 minutes.

Bake cookies until light golden brown, about 16 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through baking for even cooking. Carefully slide parchment paper with cookies onto racks to cool completely. Let baking sheets cool completely, then repeat process with remaining dough, lining sheets with fresh parchment between batches. DO AHEAD: Cookies can be made 3 days ahead. Store cookies in airtight containers at room temperature.

For cookies with a more classic holiday look, make a quick glaze by mixing powdered sugar with a bit of milk. Spread the glaze on the cookies, then sprinkle with colored sugar or top with small candies. To add even more color, tint the glaze with food coloring.  (Recipe from Epicurious)

Photo from Gourmet
4 Comments leave one →
  1. Liz Earnest permalink
    December 7, 2009 2:28 am

    WOW You are a wonderful ecrivaine, but more, a phenomenal story teller – and you already know my penchant for stories well told! Cardamom – “Who knew?” The mystery of the “pickle” accompanied by other old Christmas and Advent traditions! I particularly loved the study of the wee book(s) of the hours. A fantastic study of the art of Pucelle (funny, in my french lang. experience that means little flea). It really took me back to finding out the stories of French art when I lived there. Something to explore are the vast doors of many French cathedrals.
    They are covered with these bas relief sculptures of stations of the cross etc. and are immensely interesting, as well. In particular, the doors of Autun, France cathedral.
    Thank you for these wonderful Advent gifts of reflection. Liz

    You are very welcome – my pleasure. You have such lovely memories of your life in France. I am sure they are fun to look back on. Why in the world did you come back to Milwaukee?!
    Ecrivaine??!! Don’t I sound posh!

  2. Liz Earnest permalink
    December 7, 2009 2:33 am

    Forgot to thank you for the recipe (sp.) for sugar cookies. I’m not much of a cookie baker, but I excel at appreciation of good cookies, nudge, nudge! Lovely, Liz

    Nudge taken!

  3. December 7, 2009 8:04 am

    I am so enjoying following you through this month! From medieval France to Bob Dylan, German pickle ornaments and now cardamom, a spice that I love; it is so distinctive. May have to “borrow” this recipe. Thank you!

    Hi ds, so nice to hear from you 🙂 I am having a lot of fun.
    Go ahead and borrow the recipe – I did!

  4. December 10, 2009 10:30 am

    Qugrainne, this is just wonderful. My dad’s side of the family was Swedish – his parents came to Minnesota in the early 1900s, separately, and then married and moved to Iowa.

    A staple at our Christmas table was cardmom seed buns – but grandma never wrote down her recipe and none of us ever watched to see what she was doing.

    This year, I’ll make these cookies and see if that doesn’t satisfy my taste for a bit of “the old country”. I never would attempt some of her traditional dishes – jellied pressed meats, potato sausage, and so on – but I make a couple of her cookies, and this will be a fine addition.
    I hope these cookies work for you, Linda. I have some of my grandma’s recipes. My favorite is her meatloaf, which has a secret addition of ground, smoked ham. It is fabulous! I also make her gingerbread, which brings me back to childhood, when the aroma comes from the oven and I close my eyes.

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