In keeping with the quick satiation of my sweet tooth, I’ve become a collector of cookie recipes. I find that making cookies is a quick and cathartic process that you can spend a weeknight doing, and enjoy for a few weeks (or less, in my house). I found the idea for the owl-shaped shortbread cookies from this photo. However, there was no recipe to accompany it. The construction seemed simple: whole-almond beak and chocolate-chip eyes, on shortbread cookies. Always on the hunt for stretching my idea of spices to be used in baking, as well as to compliment the cozy fall feel of these owls, I sought out a recipe using ground cardamom. I learned to use cardamom in Indian cooking, both in desserts and savory dishes. This recipe is a great place to start experimenting with this warm and earthy spice; often coupled (and substituted) with clove and cinnamon.
Cardamom Shortbread Cookies
Adapted from Finecooking.com
• 1 ½ Cups Unsalted Butter, softened
• 3 ½ Cups All-Purpose Flour
• 2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
• 3 Teaspoons Ground Cardamom
• 1 Teaspoon Salt
• 1 ½ Cups Powdered Sugar
• 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
• 1 Teaspoon Almond Extract
• ½ Cup Dark Chocolate Chips (this is not an exact measurement, and I didn’t mind disposing of the extra)
• ½ Cup Whole Almonds (again, approximately)
Tools and Supplies
• Wax Paper
• Parchment Paper
• Rolling Pin
• Various cookie sheets
• Two bowls, One large (the powdered sugar and flour is wild)
• Standing Mixer/Hand-mixer/Whisk/Hand-Masher
• Circular Cookie-Cutter
• 1 Fork
• 1 Spoon
With a hand mixer (or with a whisk/hand-masher) and after your butter has softened sufficiently, cream the powdered sugar, salt, and butter together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl measure out the flour, cornstarch, and ground cardamom; use a fork to mix the dry ingredients. In quarter portions (or so,) begin incorporating the flour into the sugar and butter mixture. Add the vanilla and almond extracts at any time during this part of the process. I used a whisk and spatula, even though shortbread cookies are a tougher dough- it can be done with ease! Once the mix has formed dough, dump it onto a large piece of wax paper, wrap it up, and refrigerate for about 20 minutes (or less depending on the temperature of your kitchen). You want the butter in the dough to harden slightly, but still be workable; much like the texture of a pie crust. Start lining the cookie sheets with parchment paper. Also, pre-cut two large pieces of wax paper. Next, take the dough out and split it, then replace one halve in the fridge. I found it easier to work with this recipe in two parts. Sandwich the batch of dough you plan to work with, between the two pieces of wax paper, and use a rolling pin to roll the dough to ¼-½ inch. At this point, pre-heat the oven to 325°.
Use the circular cookie cutter to slice out your owl bodies. Place the owls one inch apart on the parchment-lined cookie sheets. Now on to fashion the owl: Roll dough into ½ inch balls, and place two of the balls on each of the owl bodies. Next, press a chocolate chip into each ball, to create owl eyes. Take the almonds, pointed-end down, and wedge in between the eyes, acting as the beak. To create the owl wings, press the curved edge of a spoon (bottom of the spoon facing the owl belly,) on each side. To finish the hoot nibbles, add feathers by pressing the top of fork tines into the dough. Be careful not to press the spoon or the fork all the way to the bottom of the cookie- this will make the cookie weak, and they could break after baking.
Bake the cookies for about 20-27 minutes, depending on how thick they are. They are done when the dough has slightly browned.