The cardamom technique comes from Charmaine McFarlane, the pastry chef at Golda café in Brooklyn, and produces incredibly fragrant ground cardamom. And you don't have to discard the pods! She recommends using this ground cardamom in baked goods like breads, cakes, cookies and winter desserts, like steamed pudding cakes and cobblers. (When she's making "cool desserts"—ice creams, custards, fruits—and wants the cooling effect of fresh cardamom to come through, she crushes the seeds and discards the pods.)
Heat the oven to 300° F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Spread the cardamom pods over the sheet, then bake for 10 to 15 minutes, checking after 8. You want the green of the pods to have faded to an olive hue—but you don't want them to turn brown! Remove from the heat and let cool. The toasted pods can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to 1 month.
Grind the cardamom pods in a clean spice grinder or mortar and pestle. You want a fine powder. You can store the ground cardamom pods in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 1 week.
To make cardamom-sugar, mix together the sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the ground cardamom. Add salt and stir to combine. Taste and adjust the quantities of sugar, cardamom, and salt to your liking.
For the toast:
Heat the oven to 350° F. Ready a baking sheet or two (enough to fit the bread slices.) Spread the bread with the cream cheese, being generous and spreading all the way to the edges, then sprinkle with the cardamom-sugar.
Bake for 10 minutes, then broil until golden-brown and bubbling, watching closely!
Serve with roasted, sautéed, or raw apples, if you'd like. I used this technique from Deborah Madison for buttery, caramelized rings that sit nicely on toast.