Posts tagged ‘Cardamom’

Cardamom web feature
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I discovered cardamom as a baking ingredient about a year ago in Sweden, where it is used widely since the Vikings brought it back from their travels to far-flung corners of the world. I cannot have enough since (and I am not alone – Ben had 40 cardamom buns as his birthday cake!). More exotic and interesting than cinnamon, it works beautifully in both summer and winter bakes.

Despite being a common ingredient of Persian and Middle-Eastern baking, as well as Nordic pastries, cardamom may be difficult to find in the UK or mainland Europe. In Britain, it is more often associated with curries, as big green cardamom pods are a common ingredient of Pilau rice. For most baking recipes, however, you will need ground cardamom, rather than the whole pods. Where to find it?

Of course, you can buy green whole cardamom pods in most supermarkets and then crush them to get to the dark brown seeds inside. However, this operation can be quite long and fastidious (it took me about 20 minutes of crushing and some motivation for the photo sequence below!).

Cardamom pods, seeds and ground seeds

Cardamom pods, seeds and ground seeds

When I find myself around London’s Marylebone I pay a visit to Totally Swedish, a wonderful little shop on Crawford Street, where you can buy Kockens Kardemumma ground cardamom (also available in their online shop). Ground cardamom can be found in other online stores as well, for example Ottolenghi’s.

For best results, however, it is important to grind the seeds immediately before use, to keep their flavour and fragrant smell. If you have the time, it is worth buying cardamom seeds (easily available online, including via Amazon) and grind them at the last minute.


Flavour combinations

Cardamom tastes delicious combined with: rosewater, orange, pistachio, walnuts, hazelnuts, coffee and cinnamon.


Try cardamom in these recipes

Swedish cardamom and cinnamon buns (kardamomma bulle)
Autumn gold dairy-free cardamom and walnut cake


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Walnut cake feature
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This recipe is inspired by the coffee, cardamom and walnut cake in Fiona Cairn’s beautiful book Seasonal Baking (which I wholeheartedly recommend). I love baking with seasonal ingredients and the caramel and walnut decoration reminds me of golden autumn leaves. This is the perfect cake to have with a warming coffee after a brisk walk in the park on a Sunday afternoon!

In addition to making it dairy-free (of course!) I substituted the buttercream with a soya-based coffee and cardamom cream, which is lighter and less sugar-heavy.

The round and warm scent of cardamom makes a good addition to autumn and winter bakes (have a look at my Swedish cardamom and cinnamon buns). For this recipe you will need the dark brown seeds inside the cardamom pods. Although supermarkets generally sells the green pods, rather than the seeds, there is no need to go through the fastidious process of de-seeding the pods, as the seeds are easily available online, including via Amazon. It is important to ground the seeds immediately before use, to keep their flavour intact.

Ingredients (for 6-8 people)

275g caster sugar
275g icing sugar
175g margarine, plus more for the tin
125g flour
100g walnuts halves
100g ground almonds
3 eggs
6 tsp (about 30 g) freshly ground cardamom
4 tbsp (about 50ml) decaf coffee
3 tbsp (about 40ml) whipped soy single cream
1tsp vanilla extract
1 bag (7gr) baking powder

How to make it

1. Prepare the ingredients: cut 175g margarine in pieces and leave it out to soften; roughly chop 50g walnuts; sieve together 125g flour and 1 bag (7gr) baking powder. Grease a 20cm round cake tin and line with baking parchment.

2. Preheat the oven to 180°C / fan 160°C / gas mark 4. Keeping them separate, place both the 50g walnut halves and the 50g chopped walnuts on baking trays and roast for six minutes. Cool.

3. Using a food mixed or an electric whisk, cream together 175g margarine, 175g caster sugar and 1 tablespoon decaf coffee until very light and fluffy. Lightly beat 3 eggs, then add them to the mixture. Gradually add 50g ground almonds and 3 teaspoons freshly ground cardamom. Gently fold in the flour-baking powder mix and 50g chopped walnuts; don’t over-mix.

4. Pour into the tin and bake at 160°C (fan) for 60 min, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

5. Prepare the caramelised walnuts: lay 50g walnut halves on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Put 100g of caster sugar and 100ml of cold water in a saucepan and dissolve the sugar over a gentle heat, stirring with a metal spoon. Increase the heat to a boil, stop stirring and occasionally brush the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water, to prevent crystals forming. Boil until the mixture turns a beautiful caramel gold and has thickened.

6. Have a sink or washing-up bowl of cold water to hand. Plunge the base of the pan into the cold water, then, using a teaspoon, drizzle the caramel over the walnuts on the tray and leave to set.

7. For the coffee and cardamom cream, mix 275g icing sugar (sifted), 50g ground almonds and 3 teaspoons ground cardamom. Using a food mixed or an electric whisk, add 3 tablespoons decaf coffee and 3 tablespoons whipped soy cream. If it is too runny, add more icing sugar. If it is too stiff, add more whipped soy cream, until it reaches the desired texture.

8. When the cake is completely cool, cut it in half horizontally. Spread half of the coffee and cardamom cream over the bottom half, then place one half over the other. Spread the other half of the coffee and cardamom cream on top.

9. Decorate with the caramelised walnuts and the caramel shards. Enjoy!

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P1080957 feature

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Do like the Swedish do and share these buns and a coffee with a friend! Having a coffee break with friends or family is a social institution in Sweden, known as fika, and pastries (in particular cinnamon and cardamom buns) are so much a part of it that they are often referred to as fikabröd, fika-bread.

This recipe is based on the one by Linda Lomelino of the wonderful (and highly recommended) Swedish blog Call Me Cupcake, with some personal tweaks. Even if you have never used cardamom or fresh yeast in your baking before, it is really worth sticking to the Swedish recipe and giving it a try, as these are the two ingredients that give the buns their fragrant, aromatic flavour.

Fresh yeast is easily available online, in most whole food shops or from real bakeries.

In Britain, cardamom is more often associated with curries than with sweet pastries; cardamom pods are the big green pods in Pilau rice. For this recipe you will need the dark brown seeds inside the pods. Although supermarkets generally sells the green pods, rather than the seeds, the seeds are easily available online, including via Amazon. For this recipe, it is important to ground the seeds immediately before use, to keep their flavour and smell.

Cardamom pods, seeds and ground seeds

Cardamom pods, seeds and ground seeds

Ingredients (for about 18 extra-large buns)

840 g all purpose flour (1400 ml)
500 ml milk
325 g soft butter
180 g (200 ml) granulated or brown sugar
50 g fresh (live) yeast (or 14 g, that is two envelopes, of fast action dried yeast)
3 tablespoons freshly ground cardamom
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Pearl sugar, chopped almonds or granulated sugar for decorating
1 egg, lightly beaten [optional]

How to make them

1. Before starting mixing the ingredients you will need to proof the fresh yeast. Heat 500 ml milk in a saucepan or in the microwave until it is approximately 37°C (98.5 F). The temperature is important: if the milk is hotter, the yeast will burn; if the milk is colder, the yeast will not activate (if you do not have a cooking thermometer you can use a medical one – just don’t tell anyone). When the milk is approximately 37°C, sprinkle 50 g fresh yeast (or 14 g of fast action dried yeast) and add 90 g granulated or brown sugar. Stir well until dissolved, then leave aside for 5 minutes.

If the yeast is alive and active, it will release in the water and feed on the sugar. After a while, you should be able to see a bubbly foam forming on the surface, which is carbon dioxide being released (see photo 1). This is proof that the yeast is active. If after 5 minutes you cannot see any bubble, unfortunately your yeast is not working. You need to throw the milk solution away and start again. It is annoying, but it’s better starting again now than seeing your buns lying flat in the oven!

2. While waiting for the yeast to activate, mix 150 g soft butter, 2 teaspoons freshly ground cardamom and ½ teaspoon salt until smooth in a large bowl. After the yeast has activated, add the milk solution to the butter mixture.

3. Gradually add 840 g all purpose flour, then work until the dough is smooth and elastic.

4. Cover the bowl with a cloth and put in the oven, turned on at the minimum temperature. This is not to start the baking, but to help the dough rising. Leave to rise for about 45-60 minutes, until doubled in size.

5. Meanwhile, mix 175 g soft butter, 90 g granulated or brown sugar, 1 ½ tablespoons freshly ground cardamom, 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract for the filling. Set aside.

6. When the dough is ready, roll it out into a large rectangle, about 40×50 cm. Spread the filling on top.

7. Fold the dough in half (you should have half of it layered on top of the other half).

8. Cut out long strips of dough (about 1-2 cm wide).

9. Properly spinning a cardamom bun into a knotty shape is an art: here is how the professionals do it. If you haven’t mastered the art yet, you can just twist each strip (as in photo 9a) and then roll it (as in photo 9b).

10. Put the buns on a baking tray covered with baking paper, cover with a clean cloth and leave to rise for 30 minutes. In the meantime, pre-heat the oven to 250°C (480F).

11. If you are not worried about egg allergies, brush the buns with a lightly beaten egg (the more egg you use, the browner the buns will be after baking). However, this is not an essential step – skipping it will make your buns egg-free.

12. Sprinkle the buns generously with pearl sugar, granulated sugar or chopped almonds and the remaining cardamom and cinnamon. Bake for about 8-11 minutes, depending on the size of the buns.

13. The buns are at their best when they are warm. Enjoy!