I'm about to say something that I'm sure will appal a lot of you.
I realised the other day that I don't really like autumn.
I feel the same way about spring. Both summer and winter are full of excitement. Holidays, Christmas, my birthday. I like both the heat of summer and the cold of winter. But I hate this liminal time of year that is neither one thing nor the other. The months of spring and autumn slip away as I'm dreaming of the next season.
All week, it has been grey and foggy and miserable in London. Yesterday afternoon, we all gathered round the office windows in excitement at spotting a tiny patch of blue sky. It was, of course, gone within a few minutes. Sometimes I've not been able to tell if it's raining or if the air is just heavy and damp. Despite that, until this morning at least, it's not been cold. I dutifully put my coat on every morning because I feel that I should but by the time I've walked to the station, I'm uncomfortably hot and spend the rest of my commute with it scrunched in my arms. It has just confirmed to me how irritating I find this time of year.
Cardamom is not a spice that I use a lot, not least because the seeds can be a complete pain to grind. Last weekend, we were served some cardamom biscuits with a cheese plate at one of my favourite restaurants,
The Cinnamon Club, and I went home thinking about the flavour. It's delicate and floral and every-so-slightly exotic. Orange seemed a natural pairing (as evidenced by this cake from Emma).
Rather than simply adding some orange zest to the shortbread dough, I made a sticky syrup with the zest and juice and a touch of butter and sugar. It's an idea I stumbled across in a cupcake book and that I used in this chocolate and burnt orange swiss roll. It rounds out the orange flavour and gives it a warm, caramel undertone that seems perfect for such depressing days as we've been having recently. The cardamom is subtle, enhancing the orange rather than overwhelming it. I like to top the shortbread with some slightly haphazardly applied dark chocolate but it is by no means essential.
I used a mixture of rice flour and corn flour (corn starch) to keep these cookies gluten free. I also find that this combination of flours gives a crisp yet buttery texture that feels very authentic. The fact that it is gluten free is really just an added bonus. Feel free to play around with other flours though. One word of warning though, I tried to make these with olive oil rather than butter and it didn't work at all. I have come to the conclusion that butter is really essential for shortbread and have decided to embrace it.
Burnt orange and cardamom shortbread
Inspired by the burnt orange buttercream in Sensational Cupcakes
Yield: Approx 20 depending on size
For the burnt orange syrup:
- Zest of 1 orange
- Juice of half an orange
- 15g (1 tablespoon) unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon unrefined caster/granulated sugar
- 115g (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 55g (1/4 cup) unrefined caster/granulated sugar
- 120g (1 cup) rice flour
- 50g (1/2 cup) corn flour/corn starch
- A pinch of salt
- 2 pods of cardamom, ground finely
- To make the syrup, place the orange zest, juice, butter and sugar into a small pan and heat over a low heat. The sugar should dissolve and the mixture start to bubble. Heat until it turns a golden brown and becomes syrupy (be careful, if you heat it too much you will end up with a solid lump of burnt sugar). Set aside to cool.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cooled orange syrup and beat until incorporated.
- Mix in the flours, salt and cardamom and gather together the dough with your hands.
- Roll out on a lightly floured surface, cut into shapes and place on a baking tray lined with non-stick paper/silicone. Chill in the fridge for half an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 170C/325F (fan).
- Bake for 12-15 minutes until the edges of the cookies are just turning golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes on the baking tray before transferring to a wire rack to cool. When cool, drizzle with melted chocolate if desired.