Cookie Calendar: Cardamom Butter Squares

The holidays can be a tricky time to introduce new flavors. People are so caught up in tradition that there can be a revolt if, say, the mashed potatoes are missing on Thanksgiving, or if no one bothered to bake the sugar cookies with butter icing.

By the way, you vultures out there -- you know what the secrets to those particular sugar cookies that show up in our family home are? Pillsbury place-and-bake refrigerated dough and a ton of margarine.

Nonetheless, those sugar cookies are sure to be the first to go, leaving behind the more specialized confections I slaved over for hours and filled with the highest-quality ingredients: pure unsalted butter, exotic spices, dark chocolate, and so forth.

Such is the sad story of my Cardamom Butter Squares, a cookie that I believe must be destined for a comeback soon as I know Scott at least is fond of the warm flavor of cardamom.

If your family hails from the Middle East, Asia, or Northern Europe, you might already have cardamom-spiced treats in your holiday repertoire. These cookies will add a little variety with their unusual square shape and chocolaty topping.

Cookie Tip #4: For the love of butter, use a double boiler to melt chocolate for cookies! I know many people recommend the microwave (though no one in their right mind recommends straight-up on the stovetop), but it's such a fiddly process, heating for a minute, stirring, checking. It's hard to know for sure when to stop if you haven't already done it a million times, but if you heat too much the chocolate turns into a burnt mess. A double boiler doesn't take much more time, and by constantly watching and stirring, you get a better sense of when the chocolate's reached a perfect drizzling consistency. All you need to do to make a double boiler is put about an inch of water in a saucepan and then put a heat-safe bowl on top. The bowl bottom should not touch the water. Bring the water up to a simmer and start melting the chocolate in the bowl. Presto!

Cardamom Butter Squares
Source: Gourmet

For cookies:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • ¾ teaspoon salt

  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cardamom

  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened

  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

For espresso and chocolate icings:

  • 1 teaspoon instant-espresso powder

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 1 ½ to 2 tablespoons milk

  • 1 cup confectioners sugar

  • 3 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), melted

Special equipment: 2 small heavy-duty sealable plastic bags (for icing, not pleated)

Make cookies:

Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cardamom, cinnamon, and allspice in a bowl.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes in a stand mixer (preferably fitted with paddle attachment) or 4 minutes with a handheld. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low, then mix in flour mixture until just combined.

Form dough into 2 (12-inch) logs (1 1/2 inches in diameter), each on its own sheet of plastic wrap. Use plastic wrap and your hands to roll, press, and square off sides of logs. Chill logs on a baking sheet until slightly firm, about 1 hour, then smooth logs with plastic wrap and flat side of a ruler to achieve straight sides. Chill logs on baking sheet until firm, about 1 hour.

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350°F.

Cut enough scant 1/4-inch-thick slices from a log with a knife to fill 2 large ungreased baking sheets, arranging slices about 1 inch apart (chill remaining dough, wrapped in plastic wrap).

Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until edges are golden, 10 to 12 minutes total. Cool on sheets 3 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely. Make more cookies with remaining dough on cooled baking sheets.

Ice cookies:

Whisk together espresso powder, vanilla, and 1 1/2 tablespoons milk until espresso powder is dissolved, then add confectioners sugar and enough additional milk to make a thick but pourable icing. Spoon into a sealable bag and snip 1/8 inch off a bottom corner.

Spoon melted chocolate into another sealable bag and snip 1/8 inch off a bottom corner.

Pipe some espresso icing and chocolate over each cookie and let cookies stand on racks until icing sets, about 2 hours.


Yvonne M. Parnes of Batavia, Ohio, got the recipe for these rich, buttery cookies in an e-mail from the McCormick spice company. We like them plain, but drizzled with espresso icing and bittersweet chocolate, they are truly out of this world.

Cooks' notes:

  • Dough logs can be chilled 5 days or frozen, wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap, 1 month (thaw in refrigerator just until they can be sliced).

  • Cookies (with or without icing) keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, in an airtight container at room temperature 1 week.

Download Cardamom Butter Squares into MacGourmet.

No comments: