Chewy Chai-Spice Sugar Cookies

I first made these chewy sugar cookies last year when the recipe was published in Cook’s Illustrated’s November & December 2010 issue.  I made the classic version multiple times throughout the holiday season and they always received rave reviews.  Mostly because the texture of these cookies in unbeatable.  They are just the tiniest bit crisp on the outside, then the inside…if there is such a thing as perfectly chewy, well, these are it.

Last weekend, when menu planning for our guests, I decided it was the perfect time to try the chai-spice version of these cookies.  So I got out some spices and lined them up.  And mixed them right into these perfectly textured cookies.

The result?  Perfectly textured, subtly spiced, absolutely delicious cookies.  Think snickerdoodle, but more complex.  The spice flavor was subtle enough that you could actually enjoy these with a cup of chai and not be overwhelmed.  Next time, though, I may double the spice amounts.  Because if I’m enjoying a chai-spice cookie, I’d prefer to have it with a tall glass of milk.  Or possibly sandwiched around a scoop of vanilla ice cream?  Yum.

Chewy Chai-Spice Sugar Cookies
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Yield: 2 dozen cookies, per the recipe (I used a medium dough scoop and got 3 dozen)

Ingredients

2 1/4 cups (11 1/4 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz) sugar, plus 1/3 cup for rolling
2 oz cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and still warm
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.  Which flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

2. Place 1 1/2 cups sugar and cream cheese in large bowl.  Place remaining 1/3 cup sugar in shallow baking dish or pie plate and set aside.  Add cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves and black pepper to sugar & cream cheese mixture.*  Pour warm butter over sugar and cream cheese and whisk to combine (some small lumps of cream cheese will remain but will smooth out later).  Whisk in oil until incorporated.  Add egg, milk, and vanilla; continue to whisk until smooth.  Add flour mixture and mix with rubber spatula until soft homogenous dough forms.

3.  Divide dough into 24 equal pieces, about 2 tablespoons each (or use #40 portion scoop).**  Using hands, roll dough into balls.  Working in batches, roll balls in reserved sugar to coat and evenly space on prepared baking sheet, 12 dough balls per sheet.  Using bottom of drinking glass, flatten dough balls until 2 inches in diameter.  Sprinkle tops evenly with 4 teaspoons of sugar remaining in shallow dish (2 teaspoons per tray), discarding any remaining sugar.

4. Bake, 1 tray at a time, until edges are set and just beginning to brown, 11 to 13 minutes, rotating tray after 7 minutes.  Cool cookies on baking sheets 5 minutes.  Using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

*For plain old chewy sugar cookies (which are equally delicious), skip the addition of the spices.

**I used a “medium” dough scoop and got 36 equal pieces.  I liked the size of mine, and that I had so many.  Whichever side you use, just make sure to watch the cookies.  They are done when the edges are set and just starting to brown.  It’s important to take them out at just that time so the texture stays just right.

Source: Cook’s Illustrated, November & December 2010

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