This recipe for pistachio and cardamom shortbread cookies has been tossing around my head for months. I could imagine what they would taste like: buttery-sweet shortbread with a hint of cardamom, encased with a ring of salted pistachio.
Cardamom was a little difficult to track down. My grocery store didn’t carry it in the spice section, so I ended up purchasing a bottle of organic ground cardamom on Amazon.
I used salted pistachios in this recipe, because I prefer a little salt in my sweets. It brings out the buttery taste of the shortbread and plays up the nutty pistachio crust. Use unsalted pistachios if you want a less savory version.
These cookies were fun to make. The dough is easy to work with and once you roll it up in plastic wrap and allow it to chill, cutting the cookies is a snap. To get that beautiful pistachio crust, the chilled dough log is rolled back and forth in crushed pistachios right before slicing the cookies and baking them. A single whole pistachio pressed into the center puts them over the top.
As I was photographing the cookies, my 15-month-old snuck his little hand into the shot. At first, I pushed his little grabby fingers away, but eventually let him steal a cookie. How could I not? The resulting image melts my heart. I just love those fat little fingers!
My whole family loved this recipe and I hope you do too. The cookies aren’t too sweet, and they are full of sweet nutty flavor. Enjoy!
Yield: 24 cookies
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, cream the butter until light in color and smooth. Add the vanilla bean seeds, orange zest, salt and cardamom.
Sift together the powdered sugar and flour. Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture until it comes together into a dough. Form into a log about 2 inches thick and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/ 180 degrees C.
Unwrap the cookie log and allow to soften for 5-10 minutes, enough so the outside becomes slightly tacky. Roll the log in the chopped pistachios, pressing down softly so there is a thick coating. Slice into 1/4-inch pieces and place on a cookie sheet 1-inch apart. Press a whole pistachio into the middle of each cookie.
Bake for 10-20 minutes until the edges are very slightly brown, rotating the pan halfway through.
Recipe adapted from Saffron and Pistachio Shortbread Cookies by Yossy Arefi
I think I’ve been approaching this “learning to bake” thing backwards. Here I am, 100+ recipes into my blog, and I’ve made 8 cakes and only 2 cookie recipes. Baking cookies is so much easier! That said; this chocolate espresso crinkle cookie recipe is a little challenging. Not because the recipe is hard to make, but because they are delicate once baked. In a good way.
These chocolate espresso crinkle cookies have 3 kinds of chocolate, barely held together with a bit of flour and butter. They are addicting in so many ways. With dark, rich chocolate, a light cake-like consistency, and the added caffeine-boost of espresso; they were gone in days. Two days.
So my warning: Don’t make these cookies if you plan on having them around for a little while. It won’t happen.
Do make them if you want to eat a cookie that you can’t buy in a grocery store—that tastes 10x better than any cookie in the grocery store. If you have little ones, tell them these are “mommy’s and daddy’s cookies” because you will want them all for yourself and they shouldn’t have caffeine anyway. If you have guests over, impress them with your sophistication and great baking abilities because these look so gorgeous. I’m a fan. Can you tell?
Slightly adapted from David Rocco’s Chocolate Espresso Cookies
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, instant espresso, baking powder, and salt, using the back of a spoon to press any lumps through.
In a separate mixing bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until light in color and fluffy. Add the egg and melted chocolate and mix until combined. Add the dry ingredients and 1 tablespoon of milk.
Fold in the chocolate chips.
The resulting dough will be sticky. Wrap it in plastic wrap and chill in the freezer until firm, about 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F/177 degrees C.
Using your hands, shape about 1 tablespoon of dough into a 1-inch ball. Roll the ball into confectioners sugar 2 times. Let the balls sit in icing sugar as you proceed with the rest of the cookies. They should be completely covered so you can't see any cookie dough.
Place on a parchment lined (or silpat) cookie sheet 2 inches apart.
Bake about 12-15 minutes until the cookies are cracked but not browned on the bottom.
Allow to cool.
Quiche-making a few times a month is one of my favorite ways to save time in the kitchen (I spend way too much time cooking). Not only I end up with several servings of breakfast (and lunch), quiche has a way of making a hectic day somehow more refined. It’s easy to keep ingredients on hand to make a good quiche, like this one with asparagus and bacon. A fresh vegetable is usually the star, with eggs, a good cheese and frozen pie crusts.
While I firmly believe in cooking from scratch, cooking is mostly a chore, which is why I use store-bought pie crusts. Making a crust from scratch would significantly reduce any time-saving I may accomplish, and I’m not sure the self-satisfaction of cooking from scratch (in the case of a pie crust) is worth the end result.
In this case, I found a new brand of premade pie crust in my grocery freezer section. It was an organic spelt pie crust. I have no idea what spelt is, but the organic label sold me, being that my only other options were Pillsbury (my least favorite brand) and a beaten-up Marie Callender (my usual).
help roughing up the edge of the crust to make it look hand-made. It’s kind of a rustic look, due to the fact that I’m completely incapable of making uniform edges on pies.
Once cooked, the crust was surprisingly good—not grainy or “healthfoody” at all. It worked well with the asparagus and bacon. I also tried a new quiche recipe, substituting a good amount of Greek yogurt for the milk and cream. It turns out I prefer the milk and cream, but I wrote the yogurt option into the recipe in case someone wants to give it a try.
If you are quiche-making, I recommend baking two. Double this recipe or make another flavor, like this mushroom and Gruyere quiche. You can freeze one for later. Thaw it out and reheat in the oven for best results.
Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C
Chop the bacon and cook in a skillet on medium heat until crispy. Remove to a paper towel, leaving 1 tablespoon of fat in the pan.
Chop the asparagus into 1-inch pieces, reserving 8-10 spears to decorate the top. Add the chopped pieces to the hot skillet and cook for 5 minutes, until they are deep green in color, but still firm. Remove from the pan.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half-and-half (or yogurt + milk), salt and pepper.
Assemble the quiche: Add half of the cheese to the bottom of the crust, bacon and chopped asparagus. Pour in the egg mixture. Top with cheese, and then arrange asparagus spears on top.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, until the top is golden and the center no longer jiggles. Cool before serving.
I made my first Love and Duck Fat post on July 27th of 2013, almost five months ago. Looking back, I was a new stay-at-home mom without a purpose besides caring for my little one. Lost in my new routine of baby feeding, housework and preparing meals; I needed something to funnel my creativity into – something that wasn’t all about baby. At my husband’s urging, Love and Duck Fat was born.
I’m still a stay-at-home mom, with a 14 month old little guy who makes messes faster than I can clean them up. Even so, a lot has changed in 5 months (that’s all?). I’ve learned a lot from writing this blog (like how to make a really good cake) and I look forward to my next big milestone: my 1 year anniversary post.
To celebrate my 100th post, I baked myself a chocolate chip cake. Yay me! It’s a simple cake recipe that reminds me of being a kid. I remember making chocolate chip cakes using yellow cake mix and store-bought chocolate fudge frosting. This cake is way better. The yellow cake batter has that perfect birthday cake smell and taste. The chocolate chips are rich and flavorful, and the frosting is to die for.
A quick note on the frosting: I originally made an American-style chocolate butter cream for this cake but tossed it because it was too sweet. Instead, I made a dark chocolate frosting that is so delicious (and easy to make) you will be licking the spatula like I did.
To celebrate my 100th post, I’m sharing ten of my personal favorite recipes to date, in no particular order.
Yellow cake recipe adapted from Best Birthday Cake by Smitten Kitchen.
Yield: Two 9-inch round layers or 24 cupcakes.
Preheat oven to 350° F/ 175° C
Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans. For extra insurance, butter and line with parchment paper.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until light in color and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and blend. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk. The mixture will look curdled at this point. Add the flour mixture in batches, mixing on low speed until completely incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again, do not over mix.
You should have a nice, thick batter at this point. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Divide the cake batter evenly between the cake pans and tap on the counter to remove air bubbles. Bake 35-40 minutes until golden brown and a wooden pick (I like to use bamboo skewers) inserted into the center comes out clean of cake batter (melted chocolate is okay).
Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely before frosting. You can make the layers a few days ahead, wrap in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.
In a heavy saucepan, bring the cream, espresso powder and sugar to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and stir, about 6 minutes, until the sugar melts completely and the mixture thickens slightly.
Add the chocolate, butter, vanilla extract and salt to a mixing bowl. Pour the hot cream mixture on top. Allow to come to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
Set the mixing bowl with the chocolate inside a larger bowl with a layer of ice cubes on the bottom. Beat the chocolate, using a handheld mixer, until thick and glossy. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula until combined.
Frost the cake layers right away. The frosting should have a lovely, spreadable consistency.
I have a treasured star fruit tree in my yard, which produces a crop of fruit several times a year. I end up with so much of this delicious tropical fruit; I’m forced to think of new ways to use it (even though my neighbors are very happy to accept my fruity gifts).
A few months ago, I wanted to make a star fruit upside-down cake, but the fruit on my tree wasn’t ripe enough. Instead, I made this delicious kumquat upside-down cake. The kumquat cake was better than I thought it would be. The tart kumquat skins, though a little chewy, were perfect with the sweet caramel-covered cake.
With my star fruit tree loaded with ripening fruit, I anxiously awaited the moment when I could make the upside-down cake again. Unfortunately, my waiting was prolonged, because one of my neighbors decided to take it upon herself (without asking) to pluck the ripest fruit from my tree as she walked her dog. She isn’t very tall, though, so the top branches were left untouched and I was able to find 2 tree-ripened fruit to make the long-awaited cake.
Visually, the star fruit upside-down cake is stunning, with drippy caramel and cake squeezed between the thick slices of fruit. Despite its fragile appearance, star fruit holds up well to cooking. It keeps its distinct star shape even in sauces. The flavor, however, is very subtle. Star fruit is very juicy, mildly sweet and a little tart, reminiscent of a kiwi.
I used a different recipe for the cake batter this time, and made a richer caramel topping. The cake is more substantial and buttery. It is very moist, with a touch of nutty flavor from the addition of ground almonds. The caramel topping could easily be made with a touch of rum to accent the tropical fruit even more.
So which cake is better, Kumquat or Star fruit upside-down cake?
I’ll just have to make them both again to have a real taste test.
You can make the entire cake using a large (10”) cast iron skillet. If you don’t have one, use a standard 9-inch cake pan. It’s up to you how much fruit to use. I recommend cramming as much as you can into the pan, because it will shrink together when it cooks.
Melt the butter and brown sugar (and rum if using) over medium heat in your skillet or a heavy saucepan, until the sugar is melted and bubbly, about 5-10 minutes. If you added rum, cook 5 minutes longer on low heat. Try not to stir it around too much, because it isn’t necessary. Remove from the heat. If you are using a cake pan instead of a cast iron skillet, pour the caramel into the bottom of the cake pan.
When the caramel is cool, arrange the fruit from the outside-in. Squeeze as much fruit in the bottom as you can. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 325° F/ 170° C
Combine the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs to the butter mixture one at a time, beating until combined. Add the vanilla extract. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the yogurt everything is blended.
Pour the cake batter over the fruit layer and spread evenly (it will be thick). Bake 50 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes.
Carefully turn the cake out onto a large platter, taking care as there will be hot caramel that may drip through the sides of the pan. Best served warm or room temperature.
I have decided that quiche is the perfect breakfast when you have family visiting. You can make it ahead of time, and whip it out for breakfast to impress even the pickiest of in-laws. Not that mine are picky. No. my in-laws are the best.
I always make two quiche. Why? Because there are two crusts in a pack of frozen pie crusts. Yes, I use frozen pie crusts. A homemade crust will always taste better, but a frozen one is good enough when you want something easy. I like to make a spinach quiche, usually with some bits of bacon or sausage and caramelized onion. I also like a delicious mushroom quiche. This one has Gruyere cheese, but you can use whatever cheese is your favorite.
Quiche is awesome because it’s easy to prepare. It looks beautiful. It travels well (I send a slice with my husband to work). It makes a great breakfast AND a great lunch. It’s versatile –throw in whatever ingredients you want. It’s also really, really delicious.
One thing I don’t advise: don’t freeze your quiche. I served a frozen quiche this Christmas and the bottom of the crust was soggy. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t very good, either. I’m picky, though. My mom loved it.
Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C
Heat 2 skillets on medium-high heat. You are going to prepare the onions in one, and the mushrooms in the other (to save time). You can also prepare them separately in the same skillet.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the top is golden and the center no longer jiggles. Cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.