When Was the Last Time You Had Shortbread?
Surprised to find a recipe for shortbread on this website?
Don’t be. While I won’t claim that shortbread is healthy for you, it’s one of the easiest desserts to make, and it uses real ingedients, so you know exactly what you’re eating—not to mention that cardamom lowers blood pressure, prevents blood clots, and protects against cancer. No nasty preservatives, no bleached flour, no conventional nonorganic butter.
Here’s my inspiration: afternoon tea was the theme of my book club’s most recent meeting.
When I was in middle school, making tea was a regular ritual with a good friend of mine, whose father was British. It didn’t have to be afternoon tea—we also had evening tea, middle-of-the-night tea, and breakfast-in-bed-after-a-sleepover tea. We even had a Mad Hatter birthday tea party. She gave me the first cup of my teacup collection, which now has six carefully selected pieces.
Then, when I went to college, I became friends with a wonderful Brit; the ritual expanded to afternoon tea in the New York and London Ritzes—not an inexpensive experience, but a wonderful one nevertheless.
What follows is a pictoral ode to afternoon (or anytime) tea.
Cardamom Almond Shortbread
(inspired by the Chef Next Door)
If I’ve had an amazing meal, I’m not usually a big dessert person (which is not to say I don’t get late-night cravings for ice cream and Oreos). However, shortbread is somehow light and rich at the same time, and it goes perfectly with tea and is the easiest thing in the world to make: two reason why I made it for the tea party theme at my book club.
In addition to its many health benefits, cardamom has an amazing sweet, spicy flavor that is like nothing else. Don’t be intimidated by the pods; they’re easy to crush and extract the spice from/
- 2 sticks unsalted butter at room temp
- 1 cup confectioners sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp almond extract
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 12–15 cardamom pods
- slivered almonds
- Preheat oven to 300. Lightly grease two 9″ cake pans with butter.
- Grind cardamom pods using a mortar & pestle. Remove pods and then tip the innards into a sieve. Shake back and forth to get rid of any chaff; pick out bigger pieces.
- Mix butter, sugar, and vanilla and almond extracts in a medium bowl (an electric mixer is best for this). Continue beating and add flour. Add cardamom seeds and almonds. Mixture will be stiff but should solidify into a ball.
- Divide dough in half and press into cake pans. Flatten with a large spoon or the bottom of a measuring cup, then prick with a fork a dozen times or so.
- Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Immediately tip out onto a cutting board. Slice into eighths and serve with English Breakfast Chai (below).
English Breakfast Chai
- 2 Tbsps loose-leaf English breakfast tea
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 6 cardamom pods
- 6 black peppercorns
- cream and sugar to taste
- Put tea, cinnamon, cardamom, and peppercorns in a regular-sized teapot.
- Bring water to a boil then remove from heat; as soon as boil subsides pour into teapot.
- Let steep 5 minutes under a tea cozy and serve with cream and sugar.