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 ingredients, 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
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: reason two why I made it. As I’ve said before, I’m a lazy baker.
As for flavoring the shortbread, I have been on a chai kick lately, and so I had cardamom on the brain and in my taste buds. In addition to its many health benefits, cardamom has an amazing spicy flavor that can go either sweet or savory. It’s really like nothing else. Don’t be intimidated by the pods; they’re easy to crush and extract the spice from, and it’s actually kind of fun.
You’ll probably have some leftover cardamom pods, which you can use to make English Breakfast Chai (recipe below) or Kiran Tarun’s delicious Spiced Turmeric Milk.
Cardamom Almond Shortbread
- 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 degrees and butter two 9-inch round cake pans, then line with parchment. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar; add vanilla and almond extracts. Add flour and mix until combined.
- Crush cardamom pods and remove seeds; discard pod shells. Mix seeds and a handful of almonds into batter with a wooden spoon.
- Separate dough into two bowls and press into parchment-lined 9-inch cake pans, pressing against the sides with a saran-wrapped measuring cup. Bake 35 minutes.
- Let rest 3-4 minutes, then turn shortbread out onto a work surface and cut into triangles with a pizza cutter.
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.