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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chai Spice Sugar Cookies

These are not your Grandma's Sugar Cookies! This sugar cookie makeover features some interesting additions. First of all, who would think of putting cream cheese in sugar cookies? Well, the folks at Cook's Illustrated seemed to think it was a good idea.

Honestly, I had my doubts. After all, I've been using an 18th Century sugar cookie recipe for years and was perfectly happy with it. It wasn't overly sweet and the addition of some extra spices really gave it some interesting flavor notes. Still, the cream cheese thing intrigued me so I decided to give it a go.

I used their Chai Spice version that features warming spices like ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and a little pepper. The result was fantastic. I really love this cookie because it delivers something a little extra.

The cookie itself is nicely cracked with a lovely sugar coating but the spices really add the oomph! They're not overwhelming but just enough to make your taste-buds perk up and go "what is that flavor?" The cream cheese also adds an interesting depth of flavor but not something you can actually pin down and say "Oh, there's cream cheese in this."

The spices linger ever so nicely on the tongue and really fool you. Biting into this cookie you get a nice crunch followed by a middle that is slightly soft and chewy. Initially, it seems a common sugar cookie although with wonderful texture. However, as you chew you discover this lovely blend of slightly warm spices. It's like getting an extra treat and I love sweets that surprise with a pleasant but unexpected flavor.

You really will have to try these. While I still love my Shrewsbury Cakes and think they are fabulous for most any occasion, I have to give props to the folks at Cook's Illustrated for this makeover of the humble sugar cookie.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups sugar, plus 1/3 cup for rolling
2 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
6 tbs. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 tbs. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. each of ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cardamom, ground cloves
pinch ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.

In bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat together 1 1/2 cups sugar and cream cheese. Pour melted butter over sugar and cream cheese and beat to combine. Some lumps of cream cheese may remain, but will smooth out as you continue. Add cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves, and pepper and stir to combine. Add oil and mix until incorporated. Add egg, milk and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add flour mixture and mix until soft dough forms.

Divide dough into 24 pieces or use a 2 tbs. cookie scoop. Roll pieces between palms to form round balls and then roll the balls in the 1/3 cup reserved sugar. Place on cookie sheets - 12 to each sheet. Flatten cookies slightly with the bottom of a glass dipped in water. Sprinkle cookies evenly with remaining sugar.

Bake 1 sheet at a time for 11-13 minutes or until edges of cookies are set and begin to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool on pan for 5 minutes. Using a large spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack to cool to room temperature.

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