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Baking with Cardamom

Why let cinnamon and nutmeg have all the fall baking fun? These four sweets make the case for the unique and complex spice that is cardamom.

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I love reading about how different cultures employ spices in their respective cuisines. There’s such a variety of applications for each and every spice. For example, you might think of cinnamon as a spice reserved for sweet baked goods, but it’s also commonly used in North African tagines and slow-cooked savory stews. Regardless of how people use their spices, there’s one universal truth: Spices make basic dishes extraordinary. As a professional baker, I’m always developing new recipes and trying to find ways to update the classics (mostly desserts, in my case). Spices play a critical role in my culinary process, and one of my all-time favorites—and most-used—is cardamom.

Native to India, cardamom is available internationally and embraced by a wide array of cuisines. Harvesting cardamom pods is extremely labor intensive, so they can be quite expensive. But luckily, it’s a strong spice, which means you only need a little to make a big impact on your cooking and baking. If possible, I recommend buying small amounts of cardamom at a time to make sure you go through it before it loses its potency. Most of us keep our store-bought spices far too long (me included!), and it makes a real difference to have the fresh stuff around. I prefer to buy whole green cardamom pods and grind them myself. Green cardamom (which differs from the pungent and smoky black cardamom that’s often used in savory dishes like dal) has an herbal quality that works well in baked goods, and you get the boldest flavor when you buy it in pod form.

This collection of recipes showcases cardamom’s incredible versatility and the way it can add layers of complexity to your baking creations. I hope these recipes will inspire you to experiment—and fall in love—with cardamom, one of my most beloved spices.

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