Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cardamom Almond Cookies

For the past few days I've watched my friends post about baking pies and cookies in preparation for Thanksgiving.  My friend H baked and shared some wonderful chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal cookies.  Frankly, that was the first time anyone has baked cookies for me in a while.

So now I'm craving cookies.  Admittedly, nothing says holidays to me like cardamom.  Something about that smell and flavor takes me back to my childhood.  Cookies like Maamoul or Iraqi Kleicha are the cookie of choice during the big holidays.  Now if you are not familiar with these cookies then you are missing out.  Some have compared the flavor of maamoul to shortbread. It is made by pressing a buttery dough into a wooden mold, which is typically decorated with an elaborate carving. This carving makes a beautiful impression on the cookie, and also identifies the filling. Like other Middle Eastern sweets, it features walnut, pistachio or date filling, which is placed into the mold and enveloped by the dough.   Orange or rose water gives this cookie’s filling its extraordinary, delicate flavor. The cookies are removed from the molds for baking showing the beautiful impressions left by the mold.

Since this is the busy time of the year for most chefs and caterers I really didn't have a couple of hours to dedicate to these cookies.  I just wanted the familiar flavors but in a simpler cookie.  If you know me, you know I don't bake.  While I appreciate the art of baking, measuring cups and spoons are foreign objects to me in the kitchen.  When I cook, I taste and adjust the flavors as I go, but there is no fixing a dough once it's formed.  I took a leap and decided to use a tried and true cookie recipe, but alter a few ingredients to achieve those wonderful Middle Eastern flavors.

Cardamom Sugar Cookies


1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cups sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1 heaping tablespoon cardamom powder
1/4 tsp. rose or orange blossom water** (optional)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flower
pinch of salt
toasted slivered almonds


Cream together eggs, sugar, rose water and butter in a medium mixing bowl.   Sift together the flour, salt and cardamom. Add the coconut into the flour mixture and stir; (this will allow the coconut to suspend in the cookie and not sink to the bottom).   Slowly incorporate the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Mix until throughly combined.  Shape the mixture into a log, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375.

Unwrap the log and cut it into 1/4 inch slices with a sharp serrated knife.  Put them on the prepared cookie sheets spaced an inch apart.  Sprinkle a few slivered almonds on each cookie. Press them in so they bake into the cookie.

Bake for 7-12 minutes, until golden brown.  Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely.  

**I know many of you are not fans of rose/orange water, but you should really give it a try with these cookies.  You are just using a 1/4 teaspoon in this recipe so it will not over whelm the flavor.  It adds a floral note to the cookie that makes it authentically Middle Eastern.  If your still hesitant then you can substitute with vanilla extract.

I was thrilled with these cookies as my baking experience is limited.  The flavor and texture were absolutely amazing.  And my house was filled with those warm notes of cardamom.

I hope this has inspired you to try one new recipe this holiday season.  Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving.


  1. I can just smell the scent of cardamom floating out of the oven!

    Any hints about the best brand of rose or orange water and where to get them in the Marietta area?

  2. I hope you enjoyed these cookies Jan! Ziyad is my favorite for both the rose and orange blossom water. I believe Harry's and WF carry it.