Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Spice of Life

A friend once asked me, "What are your three favorite spices?"

Well, that's an easy one, I thought: cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger.

All three have a sweetness but also a warmth, so they work extraordinarily well in both baked goods and savory dishes. (They're also all wonderful in tea or coffee for just a little extra richness in the flavor.) All three remind you of home, yet set your senses and palate wandering to exotic locales at the same time.

Contradiction, paradox... what life is all about, really.

But you're not here for philosophy, are you? You're here for tales of sweet, tender morsels fresh from my oven. I know you.

I had thought it was a warm day yesterday, but when I managed to mow both lawns right after work with having to down only one glass of honey-sweet jasmine iced tea (wow... new favorite!), I figured it must not be too hot out. Therefore, why not turn on the oven?

I had a mission, you see. Well, two, really.

First, I had this incredible-sounding recipe for candied ginger-cardamom bars from a Dear Reader (thanks, Tina!) that I had to try because it combines those three favorite spices.

And second, I had stopped by the tech office yesterday to chat with the lone consultant not on vacation this week. As usual, the Tall Guy greeted me with those three little words that I can never resist:

"Where're my cookies???"

You'd think I'd be able to say no to such shameless begging, wouldn't you? And really, though he tends to act and look very boyish when he begs like this, the Tall Guy really does live up to his name and could probably bench-press me, so I shouldn't fall for that "poor little me" act.

But I do. I'm not immune to such appeals to my culinary vanity.

So, with reason and recipe, I headed into the kitchen last evening to bake. (Don't worry, all doors and windows were open to let the heat circulate out of the room.) The recipe is pretty straightforward and ends up rather like a thick, soft shortbread in its butteriness.

But the spices! Oh! the spices! Loaded with cardamom, balanced by cinnamon, and sprinkled generously with candied ginger... how can I resist?

I had one piece, still warm from the oven, and while I savored each bite as it was, I was mentally wandering... wouldn't this be grand with good vanilla ice cream? Or hey, what about using this as a base for an autumn cookie bar with a cooked apple (or pear!) and date filling and a nutty streusel on top?

Hum, hum, hum... happy thoughts humming in my head. Guess I'll just have to make this recipe again... and again... and again.

Thanks, Tina... good ideas always spice up my life.


At 7/22/2005 1:37 PM, Anonymous Tina said...

Glad they turned out so well, and your ideas for eating them with ice cream or making them into autumn cookie bars sound great! A cup of Chai would probably be a tasty accompanyment, too.

Speaking of cardamom and dates, I have a recipe for cardamom-date cake lying around somewhere that I've been dying to try, when I do I'll let you know how it went, and pass it along.

At 7/22/2005 1:46 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Chai would be absolutely perfect with those, you're right. And it would go great with that coffee cake, so keep me posted on how that goes. (I have an excellent date-pecan coffee cake recipe that I usually fall back on... perhaps the next time I make it, I should add cardamom!)

Mmmm... hungry... must.. find.. dessert... now...... ;)


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