These Cardamom Vanilla Bean Toasted Coconut Shortbread Cookies are a fragrant mix of flavors and textures.
When I was 4 years old, MTV debuted Video Killed The Radio Star on our bulky television screen. I grew up staring at machines. We think of RIGHT NOW as the internet age, but computers fascinated me even before we had smartphones and constant information at our fingertips. I played King’s Quest 4 and Maniac Mansion on our Apple IIGS. Prodigy, AOL discs (and disc and discs), chat rooms, instant messenger, IRC, DeviantArt, the original Blair Witch viral campaign, LiveJournal…
I’ve been eating this stuff up my entire life for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a midnight snack. Computers were such a big part of my life that my first career was as a Microsoft network administrator. I’ve always been obsessed with these machines. As a socially awkward introvert, computers and the internet have been an amazing way for me to channel my creativity and meet like-minded people. They’ve also provided one hell of a crutch, and dare I say an addiction.
I stare at screens day and night, and I don’t even have the excuse of a desk job anymore. These days I rarely watch TV, but I shudder to think about how many hours my eyes have spent glued to a computer or smartphone. As I’ve focused on decluttering my life, all of the mental clutter has become much more apparent. I never thought I’d break the Facebook habit, but I barely look at it anymore. That has me re-evaluating everything. Recently, I watched two different YouTubers share their digital detoxes. It looked god awful, but I decided to try it anyway. Anything is possible for 24 hours, right?
What does a digital detox mean, exactly? Basically, no computer, smartphone, kindle or television. Jeff was visiting family this past week, so it seemed like a good time to try (also, he didn’t seem overly enthusiastic when I asked him to join me). I borrowed an old fashioned boombox from a friend so I could listen to some CDs we hadn’t given away yet (I was thrilled to discover one of my favorite Luscious Jackson albums in the mix). I made sure to have a few regular books and crossword puzzles.
The verdict? It was easier than I expected, but I spent a large part of the day visiting my parents. That felt a bit like cheating, so I’m going to try this again in April and hopefully challenge myself a bit more.
Some observations, in no particular order:
- It occurred to me as I was getting dressed in the morning that I had no idea how to check the weather. I could, you know, open the front door, but that didn’t give me the forecast for the entire day. We’ve had very inconsistent weather recently. I like being prepared.
- As I drove toward my childhood home, I realized there could have been a terrorist attack that morning and I would have had no idea. I turned on the radio but had missed all the headlines. Since they were talking about the latest stupid thing Trump said, I assumed for the moment that I hadn’t missed much.
- When I arrived at my parent’s house, my father was reading a good old-fashioned print newspaper. They still have classified sections! Lots of people want to buy old record collections. You can buy a dog for $1000. Seriously, though. Visit your local shelter instead.
- I usually take notes on my smartphone. I wanted to jot down observations about the day and had to scribble notes on the back of a receipt in my purse. I’m going to keep a journal with me from now on.
- Mornings were easier than I expected. I started doing things sooner than I normally would. Instead of staring at a screen, I looked through the kitchen window and noticed the sun rising up over the trees. I don’t care if that sounds cheesy. That actually happened, so shut up.
- I drank less coffee than normal.
- Reaching for my phone and my laptop was a reflex. I had to hide them.
- I was very happy to have the CDs. Staring at a screen all day and night masks how quiet my surroundings are. Like right now. I’m sitting in silence.
- That night, I was so self-satisfied with my experiment, and I was certain I would continue into the next day. I spent almost the entire next day staring at screens. Nothing has changed.
I was inspired to make this recipe after being recently reminded of an old favorite – my Butterfinger Shortbread Cookies. One of Jeff’s cousins made them and sent me pictures. I’m going to need to remake those as well, but I didn’t have one of the required ingredients handy (I’ll let you guess which one). Anyway, this recipe was visually inspired by those cookies.
To be honest, I didn’t add the chocolate and toasted coconut to all of the shortbread. Cardamom + vanilla is one of my favorite flavor combinations, and I kind of loved the shortbread without the topping as well. The chocolate and toasted coconut add a lovely richness and texture, but you lose a bit of the purity of cardamom and vanilla. You can always do what I did, and top some but not all of the cookies.
Cardamom Vanilla Bean Toasted Coconut Shortbread
- 8 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour (approximately 1 3/4 cups)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon
- 1 vanilla bean
- 6 ounces unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature
- 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2-3 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
- 3 tablespoons bittersweet chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line one large or two standard baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and cardamom. Using a paring knife, slice the vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Use the dull side of the blade to scrape out the seeds and add them into the flour mixture, using your fingers to break apart any clumps.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla extract on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for a few more seconds. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in 2-3 stages, mixing until no dry patches remain. Wrap the cookie dough in plastic film and flatten into a disc. Chill until the butter firms up, approximately 15-20 minutes.
- While the dough is chilling, toast the coconut flakes in the oven until lightly caramelized, 2-4 minutes, stirring once. (Note: Keep an eye on them; they can burn if you’re not careful.) Set aside.
- Either between two sheets of parchment paper or on a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to approximately 1/4 inch thickness, then use a 2-inch cookie cutter to stamp out the shortbread. Place the cut cookies on the prepared sheets, and continue re-rolling the dough until all the cookies are cut.
- Place in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to give the butter a chance to firm up, then bake for 10-15 minutes, until the cookies are lightly golden on top. Allow to cool to room temperature.
- Place the chocolate chips in a small dish, and microwave in 20-30 second increments, stirring every time, until the chocolate has melted. Brush each cookie lightly with chocolate, and top with a sprinkle of toasted coconut.
Please read my full post for additional recipe notes, tips, and serving suggestions!
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I’m impressed you were able to do that. I twitch like a junkie going through withdrawal if my wifi stops working! That probably means I should give it a try at some point. Also, your shortbread looks absolutely gorgeous! I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I probably would leave off the chocolate and coconut – Cardamom and vanilla sounds perfect just as-is.
Joanne @ Fifteen Spatulas says
I totally laughed out loud when you talked about noticing the sun coming up. It’s really amazing the things you start to notice when you put the tech stuff away. This was inspiring, thank you. Gorgeous cookies too!
michelle @ hummingbird high says
Honestly, a digital detox sounds amazing. I spend a scary amount of time in front of the screen, either on my computer, phone, or TV (and sometimes all three at once, which is just depressing). Also, lol, I’d forgotten about how AOL used to send people a crazy amount of CDs in the mail!!! Oh, the late 90s (or was that early 2000s?)!
These cookies look stunning, btw.
Marta @ What should I eat for breakfast today says
I did a small detox in New Zealand. I just used my phone to take pictures and videos. But no internet. So there was no reason to hold it too much. But why did it make you drink less coffee?
Jennifer Farley says
That was such an unexpected thing! It might have been a coincidence, but I think maybe it had to do with me being more mindful. I love coffee, don’t get me wrong. But on most days, I spend several hours each morning (like right now) attached to my laptop; answering emails, checking news & social media, reading blogs, etc. Drinking coffee just becomes another mindless activity.
Claudia | The Brick Kitchen says
hahaha this is so true for me as well. the only time recently that I’ve had a kind of detox was visiting Cuba, because there was no internet so I didn’t just my phone or laptop for the whole week – but it wasn’t really a normal week in any way. It did make me realise just how often I’m checking instagram and facebook though! These shortbread cookies look lovely too – especially with the chocolate topping <3
These sound delicious! I need to make these as soon as I have all the ingredients. I would really like to know if there a reason you need to shape it into a disc, roll it out and cut it. Couldn’t you just form the dough into a log and chill it then cut it into 1/4 inch slices?
Jennifer Farley says
Hi Mary! You can totally do it that way instead. I know that’s how a lot of (most?) people roll their shortbread, and I’ve tried it. I prefer my method because I like the cookies to look very round and uniform. When I roll the dough into a log, I never get the cookies quite as round and uniform in thickness. Because there’s no water involved, the cookie dough doesn’t get elastic if I re-roll it. Rolling, cutting, and re-rolling is a fairly quick and clean process, especially when using 2 sheets of parchment. You can do whichever way you prefer :)
When I cut cookies from a log, I use unwaxed dental floss. Put it under the log, cross the ends and pull. You won’t distort the shape of the cookies that way like you do when you use a knife. I haven’t tried rolling dough between sheets of parchment, I might, now! This is what I really like about reading recipes online, instead of from cookbooks, I get ideas from other people’s experience.
Hi, Is there something liquid missing from the receipe? There’s no dough forming after step 3. I am lost… It looks so good on the photos! Thanks!
Jennifer Farley says
Hi Marie, there’s no liquid missing. A couple things might be happening. The dough sometimes takes a minute or two to come together as the flour absorbs into the butter. If you press some of the ingredients between your fingers, do they come together? Also, did you weigh out the ingredients or use measuring cups? Measuring cups might lead to more flour than is desired (weighing is always the preferred method for baking since flour there’s a slight chance of this happening, but people get mad at me when I only included ounce measurements). Sometimes if the dough is very crumbly, I’ll add in a tiny drizzle of extra vanilla extract to see if that helps bring it together. BUT, if you press on the ingredients and they come together, you can probably finish pressing it together in the plastic wrap. I hope that helps! Shortbread dough is very forgiving.
Thanks for your reply! You’re right! I didn’t weight the flour. This is probably the reason. When pressing the dough/flour between my fingers, I noticed that it came together a little but not as much as expected. I ended up adding a little bit of milk to save the day. I will try this receipe again soon… weighting everything!
Jennifer Farley says
It makes such a huge difference anytime there’s flour involved! Cookies, cakes, cupcakes… I won’t even look at recipes for baked goods that don’t include flour weight measurements anymore, and I’m embarrassed that some of my older recipes are missing them. It makes all the difference in the world!
Ohh, these cookies are stunning, love anything shortbread + chocolate, but throw coconut and cardamom into the mix? Amazing! Also this post made me so happy, I don’t think I’ve heard the word “boombox” since the late 90s. Good for you for doing a digital detox! We should all take a page from that book.
Carrie @ poet in the pantry says
I love the idea of a digital detox. I did a social media detox for a while and found that to be quite refreshing! Imagine…no screens… Kind of hard between my day job and the blog, but I’m willing to try.
these shortbread cookies are wonderful!
Trish - Mom On Timeout says
Shortbread is my absolute favorite. This combination is life-changing, I’m sure. Gorgeous photos as usual!
Joanne Ozug says
The cardamom in here is so perfect. Just a hint, and not too much!
Toni | Boulder Locavore says
I would love to give this a try!!
Melissa Sperka says
These are a must-make for my holiday baking!
Lori @ RecipeGirl says
These are beautiful. I’m thinking they’d make nice holiday cookies!