Recipe courtesy of Nandita Godbole

Pistachio, Cardamom and Saffron Cookies

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 1 hr 45 min (includes chilling time)
  • Active: 15 min
  • Yield: 15 to 18 cookies
There is something decadent in the simplicity of shortbread cookies. Bursting with flavors, this easy cookie is gorgeous to behold, its heady aroma of saffron, pandanus and cardamom are inviting and intoxicating, and it is even more deliciously addictive at first bite. These cookies will surely test your willpower and your festive spirit of sharing. My paternal grandfather owned a cookie shop called ‘Nandita’s’ in the mid-1970s, in Thane, a suburb of my hometown of Mumbai. He was a chef and restaurateur in his youth and loved to cook, particularly desserts. We called him Jadiya Dadaji -- or plump grandpa, as his love of good food showed in his cheeks and belly. Each Diwali, he would come home to cook something special for my father. To calm us eager kids, he brought with him one or more large tins filled to the brim with cookies. Sometimes my brother and I each got our own tin, at other times we got one large tin -- to share. These cookies are an homage to him, Jadiya Dadaji, and the love of nuanced flavors and cooking that he instilled in our family, particularly my mother and me.




Special equipment:
a multi-cavity cookie tray (e.g. mini muffin tray, a muffin-top tray, or a hemisphere pan), a cooling rack, decorating tools of choice, a pastry brush
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a multi-cavity cookie tray (e.g. mini muffin tray, a muffin-top tray or a hemisphere pan) with the 1 tablespoon butter and set aside to chill.
  2. Combine the warm milk with the saffron threads, stir and set aside for 5 minutes until the saffron threads begin to bloom and the milk takes on a golden hue.
  3. Cream the remaining 1/2 cup butter with the granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl for 2 to 3 minutes until the butter is soft and the sugar has melted in. Add the crushed cardamom pods, finely chopped pistachios, the saffron milk with the saffron threads and a pinch of grated nutmeg if using and the pandanus water. Mix until well combined. Slowly add in the all-purpose flour and salt and mix well again. The mixture will be sandy in texture. Use a spatula to break up any lumps and stir it all until well combined and there are no dry spots.
  4. Portion the cookie mixture using an ice cream scoop and scoop it directly into the prepared chilled cookie tray. Lightly compress the mixture into the cavity using the back of a spoon. Fill each cavity to the top as these cookies will not rise. Chill any unused cookie mixture between bakes.
  5. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until the edges begin to lightly brown. The cookies do not change color or rise during baking. Carefully unmold from the cookie tray. Place them on a wire rack and allow them to cool completely before storing in an airtight container in a cool place until ready to decorate.
  6. To decorate: Arrange the cookies on a wire rack with a drip pan or cookie sheet underneath.
  7. Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Place the melting white chocolate wafers in a heatproof bowl over the simmering water. The bottom of the bowl must not touch the water. Maintain a slow simmer and do not let the water boil. Using a silicone spatula, stir until the chocolate is melted. Quickly stir in one pinch of saffron threads while the chocolate is warm.
  8. Carefully pour the white chocolate over the cookies or dunk cookies into the chocolate. Alternatively, use a spoon to drizzle the melted chocolate over each cookie. Sprinkle the pistachio slivers, gold dust or sprinkles and more saffron threads before the chocolate hardens. Cool completely.
  9. Serve when the chocolate is firm.
  10. Store in a cool, airtight container for up to a week.

Cook’s Note

Pandanus water (aka kewra water) is a flavor/essence extracted from the screwpine flower (not a pine). This is available as a fragrant, clear liquid usually in a clear glass bottle. Most stores that carry Indian and Middle Eastern groceries (particularly those dedicated to it) will have it. Alternatively, it is available online. The brands I prefer: Ahmed, Dabur, Laxmi. Keep all utensils cold until ready to use. Do not decorate the unbaked cookie with pistachio slivers as these tend to burn easily during the baking process. Cool the cookies completely before decorating with white chocolate. The gold dust is very delicate and scatters easily. Work quickly and with care in a draftless space. A dusting with gold stars, gold candy ‘pearls’ or gold ‘sugar’ is an acceptable alternative. Another alternate to decorating: In a small shaker jar, mix finely crushed pistachio with edible gold ‘stars’ and sprinkle generously over the chocolate doused cookie. Add the saffron threads before the chocolate hardens.