Rich toasted hazelnuts and the unique punch of cardamom make these cookies a perfect, not too sweet accompaniment to your morning coffee or afternoon tea.
Whenever I use cardamom I think of the Ocean Roll at Sparrow Bakery which is (quite dangerously) now walking distance from my house. If you live in Bend or visit often you already know about the Ocean Roll. It’s super famous here. For those of you don’t, think cinnamon roll but with flaky croissant-like dough and a slightly less sweet but still sugary glaze studded with cardamom seeds instead of cinnamon. I was highly suspicious of it at first. Cardamom was not a spice I was very familiar with and I didn’t think I liked it. In fact, when I first started visiting the bakery (years before it was walking distance) I always opted for the Chocolatine. It was a sure thing. Think croissant with chunks of bittersweet chocolate but rolled like a cinnamon roll. Right up my alley. There was no reason to try anything else and frankly, I thought the hype over the pastry with the weird spice was over the top. I actually even still thought it after I tried it the first couple times. I’m not sure when I became a total convert but now it’s the only pastry I order when I go there and it’s the only pastry I tend to think about on a pretty regular basis.
I have no plans to try and replicate the Ocean Roll. When something has reached its perfect state it’s best to leave it there. It has inspired me though to buy cute little cardamom pods at Savory Spice Shop, crush them open and use them in various baked goods, chai, and simple syrup. The other day I thought they might be nice in the hazelnut shortbread cookies I’d planned to make and it turned out I was right. I love it when that happens. I use both the whole seeds and ground cardamom in this recipe so if you’re not a huge fan you could use one or the other for a less forward flavor. You could also omit it altogether and still have a very fine cookie but then it wouldn’t remind you of an Ocean Roll at all.
Hazelnut Cardamom Shortbread Cookies
(makes 25 – 30 cookies)
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup ground toasted hazelnuts (about 1 1/2 cup whole hazelnuts, maybe a little less, should yield this amount)
seeds from 6 – 8 cardamom pods (about 1/4 teaspoon)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
Beat softened butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Finely chop the toasted hazelnuts.
A food processor, multi-function blender, or electric chopper/grinder makes it much easier but a sharp knife, elbow grease, and a little patience will work too.
Break open cardamom pods with a firm press of your thumb and the back of a spoon as shown. Measure out about 1/4 teaspoon.
Roughly chop the seeds into the hazelnuts just so they break open a bit.
Add the vanilla extract, hazelnuts and cardamom seeds to the fluffy sugar and butter mixture.
Measure flour, salt, ground cardamom, and cinnamon in a separate bowl and combine with a whisk or fork.
Add the dry ingredients to form a firm dough.
Divide the dough into two equal parts and roll in 2 -inch diameter logs
Wrap the logs in plastic wrap or parchment paper and chill for at least an hour.
Slice chilled dough in 1/2-inch rounds.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place the cookie rounds on it, leaving about an inch space between them. (See picture below)
Sprinkle the center of each cookie with a pinch of turbinado sugar.
Bake in preheated 350-degree F oven for 20 – 25 minutes. They should be golden in color and the edges should be cracking.
Allow the cookies to cool completely before serving.
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