Monday, March 3, 2014

Chai Spice Cookies, Cheater's Version

Chai Spice Cookies
Photo by Pam Stephan
The first time I tasted chai, we were in Karachi, Pakistan visiting some friends. Tea is a big deal in that culture, and my friend knew how much I loved to try strong hot tea. She put together some whole spices in a saucepan on the stove, added boiled water, and two thick slices of fresh ginger. When that was fragrant, she brought it to a boil, turned off the heat, and tossed in a couple of spoonfuls of dark and curly tea leaves. After a few minutes time spent steeping, milk went into the mix, then the whole brew was strained into cups. It was a delight for the nose, tongue, and eyes! I could not get enough chai tea during that visit.

These cookies use some of the same spices, plus candied ginger, which actually keeps the cookies moist and chewy. When buying the candied ginger, don't settle for dried-up chunks, find a moist variety that is rolled in sugar. And about the cardamom - I grind my own from the seeds, but that's just because I adore the high notes that their oil produces and can't resist playing with them. Store these cookies in a well-sealed container and they will ripen in flavor daily. That is, if they last beyond the first day!

1 package Betty Crocker Molasses Cookie mix, 17.5 oz.
1 stick of butter, softened
1 egg
1 tbsp water
1/4 cup finely diced candied ginger 
1.5 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp clove
1 tsp ground cardamom
1-2 tbsps molasses, if desired

Preheat your oven to 350F. Measure all the spices into a cup. Chop all the candied ginger into a pile. In a bowl, beat the butter, egg, and water together. If you're using extra molasses, add that to the bowl and mix well. Now add the cookie mix to the bowl, sprinkle the spices and ginger bits over all. Stir this together until smooth, with no dry lumps in the batter. The dough will be stiff. 

You can scoop out tablespoons of dough onto cookie sheets and bake right away. But what I do is to scrape all the dough into a plastic container, seal it well, and chill it overnight. This makes scooping the dough easier, plus chilled dough bakes up with that crinkly, chewy texture really well. So if you chill the dough, scoop it out with a tablespoon. I like to press one side of the dough into sugar, the place it sugar side up onto the cookie sheet and flatten the dough ball with a glass. 

Bake these darlings for 8 minutes, then cool them on a rack. Don't scrape them off the cookie sheet right away, because they can tear up. Wait about 2 minutes, then remove them and finish cooling. Or eat them if you just can't wait!

Chai Spice Cookies with Cardamom and Molasses
Photo by Pam Stephan

Chai spices vary, so experiment by combining other ingredients such as: allspice, or even a 1/4 tsp black pepper (finely ground).