Recipe: Cardamom Cookies

Why you should bake: Because nose-tickling cardamom evokes sense memories of winter, and holidays. And these chewy, brightly flavored treats are the essence of holiday cookies.

Degree of difficulty: Easy. It’s a drop cookie. Even the press-the-dough-with-a-glass step is a snap.

What we didn’t tell you: The secret to these cookies is fresh, full-strength ground cardamom. Buy it in the bulk section at a nearby natural foods co-op. You’ll save money – by buying only what you need – and the inventory will be fresher than with those small, individually packed containers on supermarket shelves.

Fun fact: For baker Matt Boisen, the recipe started with a journey to Denmark. "Cardamom and marzipan, they were the two things you smelled everywhere," he said. "Every bakery, every confectionery. I was buying it all up." Later he ran across a recipe in a Danish cookbook that jogged two happy memories: It recalled the frosted spice cookies that his aunt Beverly, a prolific baker, often made at the holidays, and it also reintroduced the lure of cardamom to his taste buds. As for cardamom, "I know a lot of people run away from it," he said with a laugh. "But to me, it's intoxicating. When I'm making these cookies, I could eat the whole batch. Besides, I like to try something different. They're not like chocolate chip cookies. That's all my mom ever made, and I got burned out on them. No one can convince me to ever have another one of those."


Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Note: This 2008 finalist is from Matt Boisen of Owatonna, Minn.

For cookies:
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 c. sugar
1 egg
For icing:
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. milk
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 c. powdered sugar

To prepare cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, whisk together baking soda, cardamom, cinnamon and flour, and reserve.
In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter until creamy, about 1 minute. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and beat until thoroughly combined.
Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated.

Roll dough into balls and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Carefully press dough with flat bottom of a drinking glass and bake until lightly browned, 14 to 16 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

To prepare icing: In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and vanilla extract until light and fluffy. Add milk, cardamom and cinnamon, and beat well. Reduce speed to low and add powdered sugar to reach desired consistency. Spread icing on cooled cookies.