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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Cardamom-Semolina Shortbread Cookies

I so wanted to like these.  Shortbread is my favorite cookie, and cardamom my favorite spice.  But alas, it wasn't to be.  I didn't think it was possible to have too much butter in a cookie, but these have it.  Not only was the dough (call it more of a batter) extremely soft and sticky, the cookies themselves tasted downright cheesy.  You can't even taste the cardamom or orange-flower water due to the overpowering butter taste. It lingers on the fingers long after the cookie is gone.

Speaking of orange-flower water, I take great exception to anyone who suggests orange extract or orange liqueur as a suitable substitute.  Obviously these people are just making stuff up.  Sure, you could substitute those other items, but you might as well be substituting cinnamon, or anise extract, or black pepper for that matter.  Orange extract has a concentrated orange oil flavor; orange liqueur has a sweet, less-concentrated orange oil flavor.  Orange-flower water tastes NOTHING like orange oil!!  The best substitution to retain the flavor profile would be another flower water or flower extract.  Another clue that this author didn't know what he was putting together was the quantity.  I suspected that a measly 1/2 teaspoon wasn't going to have an effect.  I even doubled it, and it is still undetectable.  (I hate it when people just make stuff up.)

So the butter quantity was off, the flavoring quantities were off....  What went right?  Well, I liked the addition of semolina flour.  It gave a grainy, sandy texture and helped (along with all that butter) to create a very delicate cookie that melts in your mouth.  However, I recommend finding a happy medium and reducing the butter to about 1 1/2 cups.  (If you choose to use salted butter, as I did, that will also help to balance the salt quantity.  A cup of salted butter has too much salt for this recipe, so stick with unsalted if you use the full amount.)  These cookies also lend themselves nicely to the use of cookie stamps, so if you have a pretty one, use it!

I should mention that I also greatly reduced the sugar, just for personal preference.  After making these delicious Brazilian guava cookies that used only a tablespoon of sugar per cup of flour, I will seriously rethink sugar quantities from now on.

Here's what I used:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup semolina flour (pasta flour)
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cardamom, divided
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
2 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon orange-flower water, orange extract, or orange liqueur (such as Cointreau)

Whisk all-purpose flour, semolina flour, and 1 teaspoon cardamom in a large bowl; set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat butter, salt, and 3/4 cup 2 tablespoons sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add egg yolks and orange flower water and beat to blend. With mixer on low, add dry ingredients and mix just to blend.  (It will be sticky.)  Place dough on a large sheet of parchment paper. Using paper as an aid, roll up dough into a 1 1/2-inch diameter log. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°. Mix remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 tsp. cardamom in a small bowl. Slice dough into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. (If using a stamp, cut slightly thicker so that the cookies are about 1/4" thick after pressing.)  Dip 1 side of each round in cardamom sugar and arrange, sugar side up, on 2 large baking sheets. Bake until golden brown and firm, 20-25 minutes.  (The thinner cookies I made baked for only 13 minutes.)  Carefully transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool.

Conclusion:  There are lots of delicious shortbread cookie recipes out there, and lots of delicious cardamom recipes as well. I recommended a pass on this one.

Recipe:  Cardamom-Semolina Shortbread Cookies via Bon Appétit


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