As the cold weather approaches, I am turning to my spice rack for inspiration to warm up traditional recipes.
I love shortbread biscuits and recall it being one of the very first things I learnt to bake at primary school. We would take in our 50p coins – which used to be considered a lot back in those days – our contribution towards the ingredients, and our teacher would show us how to make the dough. An assistant would then roll them out for us – well we were only five at the time! – while we eagerly chose which cookie cutter we would use to cut the shapes. I always opted for the star or rabbit shaped cutters, they even had alphabet ones to teach us letters and words.
After creating our shapes, we would carefully lay them out on a baking tray before the teacher placed it in the oven. We would break for lunchtime and in the afternoon be given our cookies with milk as a small treat. They also gave us a small batch to take home and share with our parents.
So today, as I reminisce about the old days, I wonder what can I do to those shortbread biscuits to make them even tastier and then it hits me, what about cardamom. The use of this spice is common in India, where the biscuits are made with ghee (clarified butter) instead of butter and are better known as Nan Khatai.
The method below makes 10-15 biscuits depending on the size of your biscuit cutter. They go really well with masala chai or a strong cup of coffee.
- 200g plain flour, sifted
- 125g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 75g golden caster sugar
- 1tbsp cardamom pods
- Preheat the oven to 180C, Gas Mark 4
- Deseed the pod and grind the seeds in a pestle and mortar until it forms a fine powder. Sieve and set aside.
- Cut the butter into cubes and place in a large mixing bowl. Cream together with the sugar, until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- Add the flour and cardamoms to the bowl and knead the mixture until it forms a dough.
- Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 3mm thickness and cut into shapes using a biscuit cutter.
- Place on a baking tray that has been lined with parchment paper and bake for 10-12 minutes. The biscuits should be a lovely pale yellow colour not golden brown.
- Leave to cool on a wire rack. Do not handle the biscuits until they have hardened and cooled, otherwise they will fall apart.
1. When creaming together the butter and sugar, do not over mix. 2. Warm hands can affect the biscuit dough, you can overcome this by running your hands through cold water before handling the dough. 3. If you have difficulty rolling the dough, place it between two parchment papers and roll as thinly as possible. 4. These biscuits are equally tasty with a rosewater glaze. All you have to do is mix icing sugar with 1/4 teaspoon of rose water and 1tsp of water until it forms a paste. Add more water if the icing hasn't fully dissolved. Spread the glaze over the biscuits, add decorations such as sprinkles or silver balls if you wish, and leave to dry.