As I believe I have said on many occasions, I am not much of a baker—I don’t have the discipline for it. From time to time, however, I do try my hand at it. In this case, I was moved to make shortbread for the first time after helping our younger boy make some for a school project. The recipe he was given to work with was not very good and so I felt the need to redress it with some better shortbread for our own consumption. I looked around the interwebs for recipes, found them mostly interchangeable and finally settled on Melissa Clark’s Shortbread, 10 Ways in NY Times Cooking. For the base, that is. In her variations she suggests some spiced versions and I took that as encouragement to devise my own additions. I made it with powdered cardamom seed and ajwain [affiliate link] sprinkled in with the dry ingredients as they were mixed. You can therefore view this a variation on her “Spice Shortbread” variation. The resulting shortbread has a flavour, though not the texture, reminiscent of the Indian nankhatai and makes for a killer accompaniment with masala chai. Give it a go and see what you think.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 3/4 tspn salt
- The seeds of 7 pods of green cardamom, powdered finely
- 1 big pinch ajwain, crumbled between the fingers
- Heat oven to 325 degrees
- While the oven is heating first pulse the flour, sugar and salt together in a food processor a few times to mix.
- Add the butter and pulse two or three times.
- While the dough is still quite crumbly sprinkle the powdered cardamom and crumbled ajwain all over it. Then pulse a few more times.
- Turn the still slightly crumbly dough out into a 9×9 baking pan and press it in evenly.
- With a fork prick six straight parallel lines across the dough and place the pan in the oven.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes.
- Cool on a wire rack and cut into however many pieces you’re making while still warm (as it cools fully it will harden somewhat).
- Serve with masala chai or just by itself.
- This is at its best when eaten when still slightly warm but will still be very good once cooled.
- I’ve stored it covered on the countertop and enjoyed it for 5 days after baking it.
- I’ve made a version of this with ghee in place of butter and jaggery for most of the sugar. The flavour was outstanding but the texture didn’t quite come together. I ended up taking the baked shortbread, crumbling it up on a plate and forming it into tight laddoos by hand. It was rather good. If there’s interest I can try to replicate it and post a recipe next month.