Cardamom-kissed sugar flavors these mascarpone crisp cookie curls. Fragrant and reminiscent of both pastry and shortbread, these are a delightful addition to dessert served alongside a cup of coffee or tea.
Thursday night I tucked my son in after explaining the virtues of gift-giving, teachers’ gifts for the last day of school before break slid into his backpack. I curled up in bed and slept soundly.
The morning held the promise of the last packed lunches for two weeks, of nights sipping hot chocolate while watching Rudolph in claymation. Our bluish-white LED lights twinkling in the grey predawn on our tree-atop-a-table. I was eager to have a break from the daily routine, hopeful that the change of pace would finally give me some hint of seasonal cheer. Yet, as I crossed the dining room to head into our makeshift garage-turned-cold-storage, I saw a sad, small orange blob at the bottom of our hydroponic fish tank resting peacefully on the green-tinged rocks, his white belly lifted towards the plant roots.
My already sagging seasonal joy deflated completely as the air in my lungs was forcibly sucked out. The small people on my heels soon saw what I was staring at, the tears falling quietly as we retreated to the living room couch where I could wrap my arms around their tiny shoulders and reassure them with sentiments I’m not sure I believe.
It may seem small, the loss of the family fish. However, during a season where I’m more misanthropic than merry and bright, the sadness in my home served to solidify my thoughts on the season, and soon I had let the bitter taste in my mouth consume what was left of nostalgia. I turned my head to where our plastic play nativity lay on the bookshelf scattered and tossed about, and I spied the glittering piece of Christmas coal hanging from the lower branches of the tree, which suddenly seemed sad and somber in the sun.
Picking myself up after the kids had departed, I resigned to baking. We are celebrating a bit early this weekend. Following an all-day baking party with one of my sister’s on Saturday, we’ll head to my aunt’s on the river and cuddle around her inviting kitchen, dipping fruit in orange liqueur-laced chocolate and crunching on cookies. My kids will squeal and chase each other up and down the steps, and there is an air of inevitability knowing that it is just a day away.
After steeling myself to face the midday crowd at the grocery store, I headed out in hat and scarf for a few last-minute additions to my cookie plan. Soon butter was between my fingers, bold and yellow, mixing with flour and mascarpone. The soft scent of the flour and the tang of cultured butter mingled together as the oven preheated behind me. The cardamom crushing releasing a spicy aroma that overtook all the rest.
Soft and pliable, some sense of self was restored as I rolled dough into sugar, sliced it with string, and then again pulled the shapes through the spiced pile of sugar. As I waited for them to bake I swept the floor and wiped down the counters, a contentedness washing over the room.
My kids returned from school, knocking snow from their boots. I welcomed them into the kitchen where spiced swirls sat alongside glasses of milk, and I listened as they told stories of snowball fights and spelling tests. The fish tank still sits empty in the corner, but the hearts were a little warmer in our space as we cluster together over cookies and milk.
- I used Kerrygold’s Unsalted Butter (which they were nice enough to send me) for these cookies. With a higher percentage of butter-fat, it doesn’t spread as much as your standard butter in the store. It’s also made from milk from grass-fed cows and then cultured, which gives it more depth of flavor and a distinct tang. The result is flaky, crisp cookies. Cookies made with American butter will still be delicious, but they may spread more in the oven and lack a bit of the richness and complexity you get with this butter.
- Let’s talk sugar. I bake primarily with organic cane sugar or naturally dried cane sugar. They tend to have a bit larger crystal and are darker than your regular granulated sugar, tan rather than white. Since the dough doesn’t have sugar, you get all the sweetness and flavor from whatever you’re putting on the outside. Other varieties are welcome, but be sure to choose a granulated form and be prepared for color variations in the final product depending on what you use.
- Cardamom continues to be one of my favorite spices, and so it really should be no surprise to see it sneak into my cookie baking rotation. I considered other flavors, and you certainly could change the flavor profile of these crisp treats easily, just by adjusting which spice you add to your sugar.
- Floss in your cookies. Yes, I used non-flavored floss to slice these cookies. It’s thin and sharp, and it slices through the dough easily without resistance. You could also use a thin string or piece of thicker thread for this task. I like that the floss is coated, which means it doesn’t leave behind fibers as it cuts through the dough.