Tag Archives: cardamom

Ma’amoul Cookies from my Great Aunt’s Armenian Vegan Cookbook

2 Jun

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While my family has always appreciated good meals, as a child, I seldom spent time in the kitchen. I cultivated my interest in food independently, experimenting with recipes, photographing, and sharing these experiences on my blog. As I grew older, my love of food and my Armenian heritage became defining aspects of my identity. I longed to learn about traditional Armenian cuisine, but did not know where to begin. That was until my great aunt, Dikranouhi Kirazian, released her new cookbook entitled Armenian Vegan. 

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Armenian Vegan contains more than 200 traditional Armenian recipes, including appetizers, breads, main courses, and desserts, using no animal products. For seven years, my aunt secretly labored over this book with the help of her husband, George. She told no one about the project, leaving my extended family in shock upon receiving copies in the mail.

I relished flipping through the pages, discovering recipes that I had never heard of before along with vegan adaptations of classic dishes. Dikranouhi presents a practical and healthy approach to cooking, with simple instructions and ingredients accessible to novice cooks. She writes thoughtfully, sharing personal anecdotes and the cultural significance behind certain foods.

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While reading the dessert section, these walnut-stuffed cookies caught my eye. Flavored with Mahlab, ground cherry pits, and delicate rose water, Ma’amoul are ubiquitous throughout the Middle East. I substituted a few ingredients based on what I had on hand, replacing Mahlab with ground cardamom and rose water with orange blossom water.

Though somewhat time-consuming to shape, these cookies’ handmade touch contributes to their charm. While nestling the sweet walnut filling inside a pocket of supple dough, I imagined my aunt learning this technique when she was a girl. Feeling a personal connection to a recipe makes eating it so much more fulfilling. Most importantly, however, the flavors here are wonderful. Semolina flour, traditionally used to make pasta, provides a toothsome texture and tender crumb, its robustness offset by a sliver of walnut-cinnamon paste. To finish, an elegant coating of powdered sugar makes these dainty treats ideal for serving alongside a cup of tea.

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Recipe adapted from Armenian Vegan 

These cookies can be adapted using various nuts and spices. Possible combinations include pistachio and rose water or date and orange blossom water. 

For the cookie dough:

  • 2 1/4 cups farina or semolina flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cardamon, preferably freshly ground
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup melted margarine or butter (for non-vegan option), melted and cooled
  • 1/2 cup soy milk or cow’s milk (for non-vegan)
  • 2-4 tablespoons orange blossom or rose water

For the walnut filling:

  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Pinch of allspice
  • Powdered sugar for dusting

Yields about two dozen cookies.

1. In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the farina or semolina flour, sugar, salt, and ground cardamom and mix thoroughly with a whisk or fork. Mix in melted margarine or butter with a spoon. Bring milk to a boil, add to the flour mixture, and mix well. Knead the dough with your hands until it reaches a smooth pasty consistency, about 1 minute. Add the orange blossom or rose water, knead a few more times to combine. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest at room temperature for 2-3 hours.

2. Meanwhile, make walnut filling. Place walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice into a small food processor. Process on high speed until the mixture reaches a moist, pasty consistency, about 1 minute.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven. When the dough is ready, measure out tablespoons of dough. Roll each piece into a ball and make an indent in the center, creating a little cup. Place 3/4 teaspoon of walnut paste into the cup, flatten it, then place another flattened ball of dough on top. Seal the seams tightly but carefully with you fingers. Repeat with remaining dough. If you own a Ma’amoul mold, you may use it instead.

4. Place stuffed cookies an inch apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 minutes on the lower level of the oven, then transfer them to the top shelf for an additional 3-5 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Transfer the parchment onto a cooling rack, and allow the cookies to cool completely. Once cool, dust cookies with powdered sugar.

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Cardamom-Lemon Sticky Buns

6 May

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I have a love-hate relationship with social media. With Instagram, whenever I enjoy a delicious meal or notice something pretty on the street, I immediately reach for my iPhone camera. While I love capturing beautiful photos of special moments, I recognize the constant pressure to share that accompanies this platform. Through publishing photos, users validate the importance of their experiences, measuring positive reinforcement through ‘likes.’

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While making these buns, I stopped intermittently to snap photos. I climbed on top of chairs to achieve the perfect angle and even paraded around my house with a hot pan in order to find ideal light. Even though I am smitten with the final product, this hilariously arduous photo shoot hindered me from fully enjoying the baking process.

While I do not plan to delete my Instagram account, it is important for me to be aware of social media’s impacts. That being said, now we can talk about these sticky buns! The combination of fragrant cardamom, lemon, and warm yeast created an intoxicating smell while baking, and made for a more sophisticated flavor than the traditional cinnamon variety. While somewhat time-consuming, the techniques are relatively simple. Be patient with rising times and do not overwork the dough. You can even shape the buns then allow them to rise overnight, a standout dish for weekend breakfast or brunch.

Recipe slightly adapted from Food52.com

I found the lemon glaze from the original recipe to be quite sour. Instead, I’ve included a simple cream cheese glaze, which I think would offset the tanginess of the citrus. 

For the sticky bun dough:

  • 3/4 cups whole or 2% milk, just warm to the touch
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled 
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cardamom (preferably freshly ground)
  • large egg, beaten
  • cups (approximately) all purpose flour (plus more as needed)

For the filling:

I only used about half of these ingredients. Two tablespoons of butter and 1/3 cup of lemon-sugar were enough to coat the dough. 

  • 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • tblsp fresh lemon zest (from about 3 large lemons)
  • 4 tblsp very soft butter

For the cream cheese glaze:

  • 1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tblsp milk (if you prefer a hint of lemon flavor, replace one tablespoon of milk with lemon juice)
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (or enough to make a glaze consistency), sifted
  • Toasted pecan pieces, for topping (optional)

Yields about 14 buns.

1. Combine the warm milk, melted butter, and sugar in a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir in the yeast and let it sit until the yeast is foamy, about 7-10 minutes. Then, stir in the salt, cardamom, and beaten egg.

2. Stir in 2 cups of flour. Gradually add rest of flour little by little, until the dough feels sticky to the touch but doesn’t actually stick to your fingers. You want to avoid adding too much flour as this will keep the dough from rising as well as it could (I had about 1/4 cup left over). Knead the dough in a mixer on medium-low speed with a bread hook for about 6 minutes or by hand on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes.

3. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel, and set somewhere warm to rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours. Proceed with making the filling and assembling the buns.

4. While the bun dough is rising, mix together the granulated sugar and lemon zest and set aside. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans (or a 9X13 pan). After the dough has risen, take it out of the bowl and on a lightly floured surface roll it into a large rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. Spread the dough rectangle with the soft butter, then sprinkle it evenly with the sugar-zest mixture.

5. Roll the rectangle up lengthwise into a long jellyroll. Slice it with a sharp serrated knife into 1-inch thick pieces. Arrange the pieces in the prepared baking pans, leaving a little space around them for them to rise and grow. Cover and place in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about another hour. Or, put the rolls in the refrigerator to slowly rise overnight. Take them out in the morning. If they haven’t risen much in the fridge, let them come to room temperature and give them a few hours to rise.

6. When the rolls are almost finished rising, heat your oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the rolls in the oven until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Take them out and allow them to cool to lukewarm before drizzling with the glaze. While the glaze is wet, top with pecan pieces for extra crunch and flavor contrast.

7. To make the glaze, whisk together the milk, lemon juice (if using) with powdered sugar until it reaches glaze consistency. Drizzle over the sticky buns. These buns are best eaten the day they’re made, though they rewarm relatively well. If you want to keep them longer, you can take them as soon as they’ve cooled to room temperature, wrap them well in tinfoil and stick them in the freezer. Let them defrost at room temperature and gently rewarm them in the oven before serving.

Cardamom-Almond Pound Cake

2 Oct

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I have never been a picky eater. Even though I ate just about everything as a child, certain foods made more appearances than others. I enjoyed tomato sauce pasta, white rice, and grilled chicken multiple times per week. Sometimes multiple times per day, if my grandmothers were babysitting me.

This same idea applies to dessert. I cannot recall how many chocolate cakes and chocolate chip cookies I have sampled in my lifetime. Too many. Cakes spiced with cardamom? Just one–a buttery Armenian Easter bread that I look forward to every year. Despite my love of this bread, I had never thought of using cardamom in any of my own baked goods. So when I saw this recipe for cardamom-almond pound cake in the August issue of Bon Appétit, I knew I had to try it. Cardamom has an awesome nutty/spicy quality that gives this sturdy pound cake an exotic flavor. My favorite part of any loaf cake is the crunchy top, which, in this case, is studded with golden brown slivered almonds.

Recipe courtesy of Bon Appétit 

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche (I used full-fat sour cream instead)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

1. Position a rack in middle of oven and preheat to 350° F. Butter a 9x5x3” loaf pan; line bottom and long sides with a strip of parchment paper, leaving overhang.

2. Whisk baking powder, cardamom, salt, and 2 cups flour in a medium bowl; set aside. Whisk milk and ½ cup crème fraîche in a small bowl; set aside.

3. Using an electric mixer equipped with a paddle attachment, beat sugar and ¾ cup butter on high speed until light and fluffy–about 4 minutes. Do not rush this step as it gives the cake its light texture. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions and occasionally scraping down sides and bottom of bowl with a spatula. Then add vanilla and almond extracts.

4. Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with crème fraîche mixture in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients; beat just until combined. Do not overmix. Scrape batter into prepared pan, smooth top, and sprinkle with sliced almonds.

5. Bake cake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 55–65 minutes. (Tent with foil if browning too quickly.) Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cake cool in pan for 15 minutes. Using parchment overhang, gently remove cake from pan and transfer to rack; let cool completely.