Yesterday was the first day of winter as well as the shortest day of the year, but I hardly noticed, it was rather gloomy all day with rain and dark clouds. The rain proceeded to fall heavily all through the night and is supposed to last through the weekend, but this morning I woke up to a bright and clear day. Sharp would be the right word for it. It's like the rain swept through and cleared the air, it's so refreshing. My thoughts for an afternoon walk may have just been cancelled, though, because the clouds are gathering again and a few drops are falling, despite some patches of blue on the horizon. That's a California winter for you, storms and bone-chilling rain one day, sunshine the next. Ah well, the rain is a welcome change from last year, dry all through the winter and well into the spring. Today the sun seems to be playing games with us, peeking in and out, now shining brightly, now behind a dark murky curtain. Hmm, maybe I will take a walk after all, because the sun is just now boldly showing its face again.
Anyway, I've been baking cookies over the past few days, finally, and even made my great-grandma Taylor's honey caramels, much of which I'd like to give away because that stuff's rich--a little goes a long way--and also because everyone, everyone, who's tried it loves the stuff and people make requests for it every year, but I've been wrangling with which cookie recipe to share here because each one is a winner. One is biscotti, festive and full of crystallized ginger and citrus zest, actually a rehash of a recipe I've already posted, and wow, is it good. Another, my ginger cookies, a recipe I've tweaked over the years into something of my own making, made all the more special because it only debuts at Christmas. And then finally these cardamom crescents, a delicate sable-like cookie rolled and dusted in powdered sugar, the cardamom amped up with a touch of cinnamon. They're surprisingly fragrant and, when consumed with a cup of tea, make one feel rather dignified and grown up, as though sitting in a fancy tea house in Paris of an afternoon...or something like that.
I've yet to photograph them (update: they are now photographed), but I think I'll go ahead and post because 'tis the season for sharing and also because there isn't much time left before Christmas day, and I'm sure most people want to spend the weekend relaxing with friends and family, not in a frenzy baking up a storm at the last minute. Merry Christmas to all of you, and I hope everyone has a safe and warm holiday and a happy New Year.
Adapted from Bon Appetit, December 2011
-The cinnamon in these is barely detectable and mostly serves to boost the cardamom and overall warmth of spices. I went with walnuts rather than pecans as Bon Appetit suggests, partly because I had walnuts on hand and an extra trip to the store wasn't appealing, but mostly because I like walnuts and cardamom paired together and the pecans seemed too sweet an addition. The dough is a little crumbly but still easy to shape--just squeeze in your palm to form a log, then gently bend in the middle and pinch the ends to create a crescent shape, smoothing the surface with your fingertips while shaping.
2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. ground cardamom
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. kosher salt
1½ cups powdered sugar, divided
1 cup walnuts
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 Tbsp. vanilla
Arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 350° F. Line two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk together the flour, cardamom, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Combine ½ cup powdered sugar and walnuts in a food processor, and pulse until a coarse meal forms.
Beat butter and vanilla in a large bowl until creamy (I used a wooden spoon, but you can use an electric mixer). Add nut mixture and beat to blend. Add flour mixture and blend well. The dough will be crumbly. Gather dough into a ball, kneading a little to keep it all together.
Measure one rounded tablespoon of dough, form into a ball, then roll into a 1½-inch long log. Gently bend into a crescent shape, pinching and shaping ends to taper. Repeat with remaining dough, placing about one inch apart on prepared sheets.
Bake, rotating sheets halfway through baking front to back and top to bottom, until bottoms are golden 12-15 minutes. Sift remaining 1 cup powdered sugar into a shallow wide bowl. Working in batches, roll warm cookies gently in sugar to coat. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Roll or dust cooled cookies with powdered sugar. Store airtight at room temperature.
Should make about 50 cookies, although I only got 35 because I made them slightly too large.