Part of being a good parent is putting on a good face when you are troubled. Making sure that personal, or in the case of last Friday, national trauma does not pierce your child’s bubble of safety, security and happiness. And this time of year especially, when my children are over the moon excited about Christmas (they have started having trouble falling asleep already!!) , things like Christmas cookies must go on. So despite the fact that I have been having trouble sleeping and just generally feeling kind of numb with horror, I made a batch of vanilla M&M marshmallows tonight for Sammy’s Holiday Party on Friday at school. I am also planning to get caramels done–I hope–for the teachers. And maybe a cookie for Sammy’s party also. And when it feels kind of silly and artificial compared to what other parents are contending with this season, I remind myself that I am so grateful for my children and for the opportunity to give them a wonderful Christmas experience.
In the meantime, I apparently bought way too cool of a toy for Sammy to give to Toys For Tots (Disney Princess Squinkies), and she fell in love with it. Now don’t get me wrong, she never once suggested keeping it, she was very excited to donate to a child who might not otherwise get anything (although she was confused about that since we do believe in Santa in this house; we told her Santa sometimes needs help). But, when I tried to warn her that maybe Santa did not know she liked this toy (I only just bought it and did not think I would have time to again leave my small town to go shopping), she told me Santa can do anything and this was between her and Santa (I think there was an implied “Butt out!” at the end of that!). I am torn between laughing hysterically, loving that her sense of Christmas magic is so strong, and thinking oh sh*t I gotta run to Costco tomorrow. In between caramels and cookies. And it is an hour away. Alas.
But she did not ask for much this year (we don’t watch commercials or even much TV so my kids are usually clueless as to the latest greatest toys) so I cannot bear to disappoint her.
So about these cookies… These cookies started with a Martha Stewart recipe my mom and I made during our first cookie baking day a few weeks ago. We tinkered slightly, but mostly made them as directed. I did not have a pizza wheel though and the end result was a delicious mess that was perfect at the edges and under-baked in the center. I had to re-bake all of the center cookies, once they were sliced. Also, I have mentioned before that I am a bit picky when it comes to holiday cookies and how they look and I just could not get over the ragged, crumbly edges. And I also did not see why they would not work as an icebox cookie, simplifying everything. So I made a triple batch of the dough, rolled them into logs, and put them in the freezer while we ate the ugly first batch.
When my mom came back for round 2 of baking, I sliced and baked off one of the logs. It worked perfectly. I did not get around to finishing the remaining logs until this past weekend, but it was mindlessly cathartic and resulted in a delicious and attractive-in-a-rustic-way cookie. Perfect for holiday baking and a definite repeater.
One note about the cardamom: ground cardamom is a spice that fades quickly with time. So do not hesitate to add more cardamom to the recipe. You don’t want it to be out of control of course, but you do want to notice the cardamom, it really turns this shortbread-like cookie into something special and unique. Similarly, I think the coarse gold sparkling sugar really adds a special oomph to the cookie for the holidays and is worth searching out.
Cardamom Pistachio Icebox Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 t ground cardamom, plus more if needed to be fragrant
1 large egg, separated, white lightly beaten
1/2 t vanilla
1 cup AP flour
1/4 t salt
1 T finely chopped pistachios
1 T coarse gold sparkling sugar
Beat butter, sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons cardamom together until creamy and combined. Add egg yolk and vanilla, scrape sides and bottom of bowl, and beat until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reserve the egg white in the fridge.
Whisk together the flour and salt. Add to the butter mixture and mix on lowest speed. When barely combined, sniff the dough. If you cannot smell the cardamom, add more, sprinkling 1/2 teaspoon at a time, until you can tell the cardamom is present. It should not be overwhelming but nor should it be undetectable. Mix just until the dough is combined. Chill for 30 minutes.
Remove dough from the fridge and shape it into a log on plastic wrap. Then roll it into a cylinder wrapped snugly with plastic wrap. A trick to help it keep its shape is to place the log inside of a slit paper towel roll, but I was out. Let it chill until firm enough to slice, probably overnight–I froze mine first.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325 F. Slice the logs into 1/8-inch thick cookies and place them on parchment or silicone-lined cookie sheet. Place them about 1 1/2-2 inches apart; you will get 12 cookies to a sheet. Brush each cookie lightly with the beaten egg white. Sprinkle each cookie with finely chopped pistachios and coarse gold sprinkles. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Let cool on sheet.
These cookies will keep in a tin for quite some time, at least a few weeks. They are very similar to shortbread in that respect, although I have not tested it past 2 1/2 weeks yet.