I made these chai spice sugar cookies over the weekend, they were so good I couldn’t wait to share them. It’s no secret that I love all kinds of tea, or that a chai latte is much more likely to be on my cafe table these days than a coffee. It’s a little odd then that matcha has made its way into everything from ice cream to smoothies, brownies to bread in my kitchen over the last few months but chai hasn’t made it beyond my tea cup. I though it was time for masala chai, one my most loved teas of all time to have its moment in the sunshine, or in my mixer as least.
So as I was sitting over my steaming cup of chai and savouring that happy heady aroma of spices that wafted from it, I started envisaging the perfect chai spiced cookie to sit along side my daily cuppa. I had to be something not too rich. I didn’t want it to compete with my perfectly steeped brew but it should be tasty and a little naughty all the same. Chai spices are enticing, and dredge up a lifetime of warming memories. While I happily drink it all year around it’s a flavour and scent that is especially suited to family celebrations like Easter and Christmas. A little jar of home-made chai tea spices or a pretty wrapped pack of these cookies would always be a welcome gift to have on hand during the holidays. It’s also a versatile drink, while a dash of milk is traditional and a froth of milk and sweetness makes it decadent, it’s equally so perfectly balanced that some days I just love to drink it black and savour it’s unadulterated delights.
So what exactly is Chai?
Well honestly in most countries chai or cha just means tea, any sort of tea. So for example my beloved matcha means ‘powdered tea’ or sencha translates to ‘simmered tea’. When chai is mentioned in the west though it usually refers to masala chai, a traditional tea originating in India. A masala chai involves simmering black tea with milk and a combinations of spices. The spices would have varied depending on season, availability and the region but the most common are:
- Cardamom – intensly fragrant, fundamental to a good chai
- Cinnamon – warming and sweet
- Fennel seed – light licorice or anise flavour
- Ginger – a fresh and spicy note
- Black pepper – a hot and spicy kick
- Clove – strong and musky
- Coriander seed – sweet and mild
- Star Anise – sweet licorice flavour
Chai Spice Sugar Cookies Recipe
Chai spice sugar cookies
- 1/4 cup milk (plus a splash extra to allow for reduction during heating)
- A chai tea bag
- 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
- 1 t salt flakes
- 1/2 t baking soda
- 1 1/2 t cream of tartar
- 1/2 cup butter at room temperature
- 1 cup raw sugar
- 1 t ground ginger
- 1 t ground cinnamon
- 1/2 t ground cloves
- 1/2 t ground cardamom
- 1/2 t allspice
- 1/4 t finely milled black pepper
- For the spiced sugar coating
- 1/4 c raw caster sugar
- 1 t ground cinnamon
- Heat milk in a saucepan until boiling, pour over the chai teabag in a small cup. Leave to cool.
- Cream the butter and sugar in a mixer. Add the cooled chai and mix again. At this stage the mix will look lumpy and may separate.
- In another bowl combine the flour, salt, baking soda, cream of tartar and spices. Stir to mix evenly.
- Add half the flour blend to the mixer and turn on the mixer again until fully combined. Then do the same with the second half.
- Line cookie trays with baking paper or silpat.
- Place caster sugar and cinnamon in a low dish. Roll cookie dough into balls then roll each ball in the sugar mix to coat. Place on tray allowing room for the cookies to spread.
- Bake at 180 °C for 10-12 minutes (170 °C if using a fan forced oven). Allow cookies to cool for a few minutes before removing from the tray to avoid breakage.
Tips & tricks with the chai spice sugar cookies
- You can’t substitute baking powder for the baking soda and cream of tartar. The combination of the baking soda and cream of tartar working together will ensure the best rise giving the cookies the right soft and chewy texture. Substituting will likely result in flat crispy biscuits … *sigh* … you can tell I’ve tried this in the past can’t you? While baking powder and soda are both rising agents they work quite differently , it’s like trying to make bread and replacing the yeast with another rising agent, it doesn’t work.
- Doubling down on the chai spices, is it necessary? Possibly not but the milky long brewed chai in addition to the ground spices results in an unmatched depth of flavour that is well worth the tiny bit of extra effort. Really.
- Mix your sugar spice mix for coating in a shallow bowl, it makes it easier to cover the balls of cookie batter without coating your kitchen in the mix too.
- Don’t skip the step of leaving the cookies on the hot tray to cool a little before moving to a cooling rack. These are buttery, rich and chewy cookies and those tempting crackles will open up and break if you try to move them straight out of the oven.
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