I’d been making chocolate chip cookies (like these) for years before a batch I took to work was greeted with rapturous praise and declared “the best cookies ever” by my coworkers. At first, I was confused. Sure, the cookies were good, but I had used a standard chocolate-chip cookie recipe. Curious and a bit skeptical, I tasted one. My coworkers were right. The chocolate chip cookies looked normal, but had a subtle aromatic flavor sneaking in between the chocolate and the butter. I could swear I tasted cardamom, even though I hadn’t used any. I didn’t figure out what I’d done until I got home.
The Surprising Secret: Infused Nuts
Turns out, the answer to this magical flavor was in the nuts. In the Tupperware I had stored my pecans, I had tucked away a few bags of spices (think: cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, roasted curry powder and whole nutmeg) that a friend had gifted as a souvenir after her trip to Sri Lanka. Trapped inside the airtight container, the aromatic spices infused the pecans with flavor. The pecans were baked into the chocolate chip cookies and carried all those amazing flavors with them. Mystery solved.
Tip: If you haven’t used cardamom in your baking yet, here are a few recipes you need to try.
How to Make Infused Nuts
Ever since, I’ve kept the same container on a shelf in my pantry with a mix of aromatic spices (the original bag of whole cardamom pods is still in there, still fragrant after a few years!) and 2-3 cups of chopped nuts.
Keep Nuts in a Loose Plastic Bag
If you want to try this at home, know that the nuts shouldn’t be in an airtight bag; the smells need to be able to get in. I use a plastic bag from the bulk goods department of the grocery store. A paper lunch bag works for short periods of time, but over the long term can soak up the natural oils from the nuts. Pecans or walnuts both absorb the flavors well. As I use the nuts, I’ll replace them, so that I always have flavor-infused nuts on hand to use in any recipe that calls for them—they’re downright magic in carrot cake! (Give it a try.)
Store With Your Own Spice Blend
Additionally, refresh the spices if their aroma starts to fade. Personally, I’ve stuck close to the original mix—cardamom, roasted curry and nutmeg—but the possibilities are endless. Cloves, star anise, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, even peppercorns. The more fragrant, the better; it’s the aroma that will seep into the nuts and give them flavor.
And if you don’t use nuts in your chocolate chip cookies, I advise you to start, just so you can use this trick!