Dec 10, 2012

Vintage Monday - Spicy Ginger Cardamom Cookies

This is a very personal post. It's kinda weird to write to strangers whom I consider good friends (that's all of you who read this). Because food blogging does that, it creates a suportive community.
I personally feel that every word that is written, wether it's a happy one, sad, hilarious, whatever, is worth it if it reaches that one person who needs it.

Like the story about the boy who was picking sea stars that were stuck in the sand and throwing them back into the ocean so they would live. A man passing by saw him and asked what he was doing. The boy told him. And the man said 'Why do you bother? There are millions of sea stars and saving one won´t make a difference'. The boy picked up another star and threw it back into the water. He turned to the man and said 'To that one star, it made all the difference'.

It is so important to remember that even the tiniest bit of love we give will be multiplied eventually.

One of the reasons I started blogging was because I read about Mikey's peanut butter pie, a tribute to Jennie's husband who had passed away suddenly. As I read one blog after another I vividly remember wanting to have a food blog so I could take part in that amazing kind of supportive gesture. 

I did the next best thing, and started selling a cupcake at my Café (to those who don't usually read this blog I used to have a coffee shop which I sold two months ago) and using its profit to help a place nearby that houses kids that are going through a hard time. It was the only thing I could do at the time, and in a way, the spirit of the pie travelled all the way to Buenos Aires and found someone in need of support. 

Because I believe good things and actions must come out of tragedies.

Seven years ago I was in Washington DC, holding my brother Facundo's hand, both literally and figuratively, during his last days. It was a very sad time of course. I talked a bit about it in a post or two. Tragedy happens to hundreds and thousands every day all around the world. It's happening to someone right now, this very second. I want to go and hug them and tell them that time does help.

But grief is a personal and unavoidable road, there's no way around it.

In two days, the actual anniversary, I'll meet with many of his friends from school and from life, together with my parents and other brother. We did the same last year since a few of his friends that live in Europe had all come down to spend Christmas here. We do it to celebrate his life, not to be sad. 

My brother was amazing and led one of the fullest lives I ever saw. Despite being dealt a very bad set of health cards, he went on with life like there was no tomorrow. Sometimes I feel like he knew he had to live one whole life in half the time. He taught film and video production at Gallaudet, a university for the deaf and hearing impaired, which led him to make this short documentary about audism and started an interesting project; and later taught media at The Catholic University of America.

The bonds that have formed between all of us who knew him just blows my mind. There's a common ground that shapes our friendships forever. We'll forever be together through him. And like one of his colleagues said in a service held the day after he died, 'In spite of the pain you're feeling now, and knowing this day would come, you wouldn't trade a single moment with him'.

He left such a mark on those who knew him. I keep hearing his voice all the time, giving me advice, laughing with me. I knew he would be so happy and proud with my little blog. In addition to extensively researching the pros and cons, do's and dont's of being a food blogger and giving me a detailed list of it. And calling me all the time with a new idea or info he had found.

Many times I stay still and ask myself how would Facundo approach this. It usually leaves me feeling I´m not doing enough, but in a good way, in a take-action kinda way. It always makes me smile.

You know, there's no way to talk about the silver lining about someone who died young. Someone who had so much to add to this world. It's simply unacceptable.

But they do leave us a lot of things to pick up along the way and make our lives better. Death is a problem for those of us that still have a lifetime to live without them, a life that suddenly seems so empty and so long. It's so definitive. And many, many, many, many, many times, if not most, so unfair.

These were his favorite cookies. 

adapted from The Baker's Dozen Cookbook, edited by Rick Rodgers

This is a mildly spiced cookies, so you can customize the spiciness to your taste, adding more ginger and pepper. I suggest you use a handheld electric mixer, it makes it much easier to mix.

Makes about 50 small cookies


2 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
8 or 9 fresh cardamom pods, ground
¼ teaspoon salt
2 Tbs cool brewed strong coffee
¼ cup unsulfured molasses
2 Tbs honey
1 Tbs minced fresh ginger
¾ cup sugar
12 Tbs (170g) unsalted butter, at room tº
Additional sugar, for rolling cookies


In a medium bowl sift flour, baking soda, ground spices and salt. Reserve.
In a small bowl mix coffee, molasses, honey and fresh ginger. Reserve.
In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add dry ingredients in three additions alternating with molasses mixture in two additions. Mix well. The dough will be shiny but not sticky.
Make a cilinder and wrap the dough in parchment paper or plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until firm. You can leave it refrigerated for a day.
Preheat oven to 350º. Line a bakind sheet with silpat or parchment paper.
Take out the dough from the fridge and put about ½ cup of sugar in a shallow plate or bowl. Give the dough cilinder a few rolls on the counter if you want a more rounded final shape when the cookies bake. I personally don´t mind.
Cut the dough in ½ inch slices and coat each one with sugar. Arrange in the prepared baking sheet, leaving some space to grow between each cookie.
Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, until beggining to color. Let cool on wire rack.
Store in an airtight metal container.


  1. I´m sending you a hug. I can´t write anything else, I have some tears in my eyes...

  2. What a heartfelt post. I am sure there were tears in your eyes when you were writing it. It is good to remember those we love and honor them by making something they very much enjoyed.

  3. Ditto the hug. Beautiful post.

  4. What a lovely post, and a nice way to remember your brother.

  5. Thank you for sharing your memories and personal story. I wish you peace and renewed strength as you gather with your brother's friends and loved ones.

    The cookies look wonderful. I made my first cookies with cardamom just yesterday-- but only have ground cardamom. Maybe I could use that rather than the pods? I'll let you know how they turn out.

  6. Dear Paula, there are so many things to say about this beautiful post. First of all, I know how you feel about all your readers becoming friends - it's strange, isn't it, how you meet total strangers through your blog who you feel a kinship with. Second, through the wonderful words that you write, I know what a warm, loving, genuine person you are. I wouldn't feel the way I do about your posts if that weren't true. And lastly, I'm so sad and sorry that you and your family had to go through such a devastating loss. I can't imagine losing someone so dear to me at such a young age. I'm sending you nothing but good wishes and virtual hugs today!

  7. Thank you for sharing your pain and hope with us Paula. How wonderful that the love of your brother has formed a bond between so many still living - what a tribute to his life!

  8. So nice of you to remember your brother in such a special way. I'm touched reading your story.

  9. Such a heartfelt story about your brother. I know it is tough to share some things but it is a great way to honor him and it may even help someone else.

  10. It´s so comforting to read your comments. Thanks to everyone who took the time to do it, it means so much!

  11. Oh :( Beautiful post...Sounds like he lead a fantastic life while he was here.

  12. When I first started to read, I said: spicy cookies, awesome! But then I kept reading and I felt my heart squeezing. It's a beautiful way to keep his memory alive, baking his favorite cookies and telling "strangers" about how he touch all of those lives. I think blogging is partly sharing our inner thougths. It's like a public journal where everyone can have an opinion, and sometimes, give your shoulder to cry on.

  13. Aww, what a touching post Paula. It's great to get things out there whether they're very personal or not, and whether we're strangers or not. We're all here to support you and be one of those 'friends' that you've never met. :)

    And I can totally see why these cookies were his favourite. BIG hugs. Christmas must be a hard time for you and your family.

    Sweet 2 Eat Baking

  14. What a beautiful story Paula. Love does travel far and I am so glad to hear that you are celebrating your amazing brother. HUGS!

  15. Homemade slice and bake cookies are so delicious! These look great.

  16. Such a touching story, Paula. My hugs to and the rest of your family members. You made me thought of my late brother too. I am sure he knows about your blog and always with you. Love your wonderful cookies too!

  17. Oh Paula, this is such a beautiful post! You are an incredibly sweet and kind person!!! xox

  18. A perfect post! From the tender and brave story to the cookies that were your brother's favorite. I enjoyed every single word, thank you for sharing.

  19. thank you for sharing such wonderful memories, such beautiful words from your heart.

  20. What a beautiful post. I see we're in the same sorority of sisters whose brothers died too young. I'm sad for both of us, but I celebrate my brother's life and that I had the honor of being his sister. I still hear his voice, too. :)

    I hope your celebration of his life was simply beautiful and uplifting. And that you all ate ginger cardamom cookies and smiled.

    1. Thanks Jenni, it´s so nice to meet you. Sorry to hear about your loss but glad that you too celebrate his life! I think it´s very important to do it.

  21. I came here after seeing this post shared by Jenni (Pastry Chef online). I was intrigued by the recipe, but moved so much by this beautiful post. Your brother sounds like he touched many lives. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Thanks so much Jody for that comment, and for stopping by!

  22. Paula - your positive spin on such a tough thing is touching. Loss is never simple - whether it happened one day ago or ten years ago.

    I am constantly amazed by the support that can be found on the interwebs. It restores ones faith in humanity.

  23. I find my self everyday now checking your blog for new recipes...and yes, it is my first time writing a comment. Your beautiful but yet sad story has touched my heart. Couple of months ago I received a phone call that my cousin has passed. His life was cut in half so suddenly. It was a heartattack and there was nothing he could've done...
    Eventhough his story was cut short, he lived and enjoyed his life to the fullest. Now I know that his story was not cut short his story still lives in our hearts and it will continue to live on...Just like your brother still lives in your heart & his loved ones. Thank you for sharing & most of all thank you for letting me remember my cousin Keith Park!

    1. You´re welcome. I´m glad you don´t feel alone, and I wish I knew your name...

  24. Paula, This is such a meaningful, lovely post! I’m so sorry for your loss. So touched by the way your brother has touched your life. I also lost a brother, there is not a day that goes by, that I don’t think of him.
    I happen to be reading this on Sunday the 16th…and as you probably know, there has been a terrible school shooting here. Babies that were only 5 or 6 years old…your last few words seem so poignant at this time. Hugs!

  25. Paula, I am crying a little bit now as I write this... thinking if you and Facundo, and of all the other young women and men taken before their time. Like your brother, I have had friends help me to learn how to live life to the fullest, and those are lessons I will never forget. I send you virtual hugs until the day we can actually meet and I can give them to you in person. Thank you for this honest and love-filled story. Having read your posts in reverse order, I can so completely understand why the holiday spirit might be a bit hard to find for you. Take a cookie (which sound amazing, by the way) and go someplace special to have a chat with your always makes me feel a little better... ~ David

    1. I always look forward to the day when your comments appear David. And to the day we finally meet! Thanks for being a good friend.

    2. Me, too! I have been thinking about blogging friendships lately and they remind me of old-fashioned correspondence. People used to get to know one another through letters for years before they met. They developed deep friendships through words, and that is what is happening here, too. Thank you for the gift of your friendship. I hope your Christmas Day is filled with love. ~ David

  26. Dear Paula,
    I started at your post from today, went to Lora's and now am reading all three posts about your brother, Facundo. He sounds like a fabulous, dear, sweet, brilliant and extraordinary man and brother. and I love the relationship that you had with him. So so special. I loved reading this and I feel horrible that it took me this long to find this post and read it!
    The cupcake you sold at your café to help those kids. . this is why you are Paula and why you are so special. From your 3 posts, your brother sounds a lot like you, my friend. Thank you for sharing these posts and stories with us!

    1. Oh Alice, the post over at Lora's opened some emails and comments that made my day, especially this one and on the ginger cake post. It's so touching that you took the time to read and write to me today. And it's never late, it's always the right moment. I'm so thankful to have crossed paths with you! And when I see those conference pics with Nancy, I can imagine us meeting and keeping in touch for ever. Hugs my friend.

  27. Wow, what a post, what a memorial to your brother. I've been searching the net looking for a recipe for something spicy, ginger and buttery and had in my head all day it had to include cardamom. I haven't been able to put my finger on a recipe and say "yes, that's what I'm thinking of". I am so delighted to have found this recipe - I have half the ingredients so tomorrow after work and a quick top up at the supermarket, I am going to make these biscuits - and all the while I will be thinking of your brother, the love you have for him and my dear departed Dutch father who would have loved these, I can hear him raving when he tastes them... thanks for sharing..


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