…well, I can try, at least.
A few general words on how to buy and store your baking spices:
Like most spices, buying whole, fresh or recently dried pods/seeds and grinding them at home just before you need them is usually the best course of action, but if whole is not available, ground will make do. My recommendation is to buy only small amounts of pre-ground spice at a time (bulk stores may have it in the spice aisle), store in a cool, dry place, and use it up within 6 months.
First up: CARDAMOM!
I put cardamom first on my list, as it’s my absolutely favourite spice next to vanilla. I was introduced to it while in pastry school, and completely fell in love with its flavour profile and its somewhat exotic nature.
Cardamom seems to be the trendy “spice of the moment”in the culinary world (both cooking and baking), with one article claining consumption of the spice is up an amazing 657% in the last two decades! It is being used more and more in savoury dishes as opposed to only in baking recipes during the winter holidays.
There are two distinct types of cardamom: Eletarria cardamom, known as green, or true cardamom, and is the type most often seen in North America; and Amomum cardamom, which includes black cardamom, brown cardamom, kravan, Java cardamom, Bengal cardamom, Siamese cardamom, white cardamom, and red cardamom. Each has their own subtle flavour differences from one another, but in Canada, the green cardamom pods seem to be the most available. Again, as above, if pre-ground is all you can get, then so be it, but keep in mind that a) cardamom quickly loses its flavour once ground, and b) often the pre-ground cardamom found in grocery stores is a cheaper variety where the pods and seeds are ground together, as opposed to just the high quality seeds. For recipes that require whole cardamom pods, 10 pods yield about 1-1/2 teaspoons of ground cardamom.
Cardamom is one of the most expensive spices by weight, with only saffron and vanilla more so.
|Garam Masala blend|
Cardamom is used primarily in Danish baking, as well as North African, Saudi Arabian, Asian and Indian cooking, and in spice blends such as garam masala, berbere, and curry powder. I personally tend to use cardamom as a substitute for cinnamon in much of my baking, as it has a somewhat similar flavour profile, yet with that indefinable “wow” factor that really gives it a kick and has people coming back for more!
Cardamom is noted as floral, soapy and perfume-like, with grapefruit notes (I tend to think of it as if cinnamon and pink peppercorns had a love child). It is similar to ginger, and has a menthol undertone.
Allrecipes.com notes the perfect spice partners with cardamom as allspice, black and red pepper, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, fennel, ginger, paprika, saffron, and turmeric.
Now for the recipe! This delicious cookie from Bon Appétit Magazine really showcases this amazing spice. Give it a try and let me know in the comments how you liked it; it’s a great Christmas baking recipe.
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups icing sugar, divided
- 1 cup pecans
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
- Arrange racks in lower and upper thirds of oven; preheat to 350°F. Line 2 heavy duty baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Whisk first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl.
- Combine 1/2 cup icing sugar and pecans in a food processor; pulse until coarse meal forms.
- Using an electric mixer, beat butter and vanilla in a medium bowl until creamy, 2–3 minutes. Add nut mixture; beat to blend. Add dry ingredients; blend well (dough will be moist but still crumbly).
- Transfer to a work surface; knead to form a ball, about 4 turns.
- Measure 1 rounded tbsp. of dough; form into a ball, then roll into a 1 1/2″-long log. Gently bend into a crescent shape, pinching ends to taper (cookies may crack slightly). Repeat with remaining dough, spacing about 1″ apart on prepared sheets.
- Bake, rotating sheets halfway through baking, until bottoms are golden 12–15 minutes.
- Sift remaining 1 cup powdered sugar into a shallow wide bowl. Working in batches of about 8 cookies each, roll warm cookies gently in powdered sugar to coat. Transfer to wire rack to let cool.
- Roll or dust cooled cookies with powdered sugar a second time for full coverage.