“I know what you are learning to endure. There is nothing to be done. Make sure nothing is wasted. Take notes. Remember it all, every insult, every tear. Tattoo it on the inside of your mind. In life, knowledge of poisons is essential. I’ve told you, nobody becomes an artist unless they have to.”
- Janet Finch, an excerpt from “White Oleander.”
I haven’t kept up with this space as much I should, I know that. There’s something about creation that makes life difficult to sustain. If we’d learnt anything so far, it’s that I don’t do well with balance. I fall into the void, deeply. And while I’m beginning to make an emergence, however slow, however pained, the sunken is a wound I am yet to heal. But this is far from a lament. It’s a canticle, and in it, I pledge. I have an entire collection of new recipes I hope to share. I miss this, and I’m going to work just as hard on it as I once did.
I’ve been coming back to simple baked goods lately and these are the type of thing I crave. They’re shortbread-based, with a composition similar to a meltaway or snowball. The cashew interior is wonderful; golden brown, nutty, and roasted. It has a depth that goes well with the rich flavours of coffee, cardamom, and vanilla too. They hold their height well, which I think is the best part. When I want a cookie, I want one that’s robust, buttered, and sugared, with slight strength and a disintegrating crumb. These are it.
roasted cashew cookies with coffee and cardamom
45 g (1/3 cup) cashews
220 g (1 ¾ cups) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons corn starch
2 teaspoons coffee powder
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon salt
170 g (¾ cup) unsalted butter, soft at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150 g (1 1/4 cups) confectioners’ sugar, divided
Pre-heat the oven to 180 C (350 F). Adjust racks in the lower and upper thirds of it. Line two large baking sheets with non-stick parchment paper and scatter the cashews over one of them. Roast until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool completely then process to a fine meal in a food processor or blender.
Tip the roasted cashew meal into a mixing bowl and add in the flour, corn starch, coffee, cardamom, and salt. Whisk to combine then set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, vanilla, and half (60 g; ½ cup) of the confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until creamy, 3 to 5 minutes. Pause mixing to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl then set the speed to low and add in the dry ingredients. Beat until a soft and clumpy dough has formed, no more than 30 seconds. Tip out and onto a sheet of plastic wrap then use your hands to bring it together into a smooth disc. Cover and chill until just firm, about an hour.
When you’re ready to bake, pre-heat the oven to 170 C (340 F). Sift the remaining (90 g; ¾ cup) of the confectioners’ sugar into a shallow bowl for coating.
Set the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Use a rolling pin to roll it out until it’s about 2.5-cm’s (1-inch) thick, then stamp out as many circles as possible from it using a 4-cm (1.5-inch) round cutter. You should get about 16 - 18 cookies. Divide between the sheets, leaving a few inches apart for spreading. Re-roll the scraps and repeat.
Bake, rotating the sheets halfway through, until light golden-brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Let stand for a few minutes then toss in the sugar until well coated. Place onto a wire rack and let stand for the coating to slightly set, another 10 minutes. Toss each again in a thin and final coating. They’ll keep well for 5 days stored in an airtight container at room temperature.