I recently made a batch of vanilla sugar and was just itching to use it. I was patient and waited 2 weeks (almost) so I'd end up with a nice potent batch. Remembering my fondness for vanilla chai lattes, I figured a cookie version of this would be a lovely homage to them.
I made several batches of these little buggers until I arrived at what I was tasting in my mind - vanilla at the forefront, with warm chai spices and a hint of black tea, all carried within a crisply shelled yet chewy cookie.
One nice thing about experimenting, was that with the same exact batter, 2 distinct cookie aesthetics and textures can be obtained. Whether you want a traditional sugar cookie texture and appearance as shown above, or a craggy shelled and gooey centered cookie as pictured below...
the only thing needed is a pint glass in which the bottom has been spritzed with canola oil, and dipped in vanilla sugar. To get a more traditional sugar cookie, simply press down on each round mound of dough till it is about equal with the width of the glass, as well as reduce baking time by a minute. That is it! I must admit, I was a little astounded at the difference this made. I loved them both, but I do lean towards the craggy and extra chewy variety.
Another bonus about this recipe is that there is no special equipment needed - just a couple of bowls, a nice sturdy spoon, and a little elbow grease. No waiting for butter to reach room temp either - its melted!
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon1/4 tsp allspice
1 1/2 tsp Penzey's Spices cardamom1 stick unsalted butter, melted
4 Tbsp vegetable shortening, melted
3 bags of your favorite chai tea
1 large egg
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3 Tbsp milk or low fat coconut milk
2 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup vanilla sugar for rolling the cookies before baking
Preheat oven to 350 and make sure there is a rack in the middle position in the oven. Place butter and shortening in a small saucepan over medium low heat until the butter is just melted. Open the chai tea bags and empty the contents into the warm melted butter. Set aside.
Whisk together flour, soda, powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and cardamom in a medium bowl. In a larger bowl, lightly beat the egg and stir in sugar and light brown sugar. Pour in the melted butter, shortening, with the steeped tea leaves. Add the vanilla and stir well.
Add a 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined. Continue this until all ingredients are mixed together, taking care not to over mix. Measure out the vanilla sugar into a small bowl.
Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment, or silicone baking mats. Roll about 2 dozen slightly smaller than golf ball sized balls - I believe this is roughly under 2 Tbsp of dough per cookie. If you have that size disher (#40 I believe), by all means, use it to portion out the dough. It is still essential to roll the dough into a pretty evenly round ball.
Working with 8 balls of dough at a time (these bake up in 3 batches), roll them in the vanilla sugar and place on the cookie sheets leaving plenty of room in between. Here is where your cookie appearance choice comes into play - for a craggy top with squidgy inside, let them be. For a smoother, more traditional sugar cookie appearance and texture (crisp edges, chewy center), lightly spray the bottom of a pint glass with canola oil and dip the bottom in the vanilla sugar. Gently press down on each ball till it is even with the edge of the glass. Bake in the oven for 12 - 14 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking time. Just a heads up, the flattened balls will bake up slightly faster than the unflattened, so keep an eye on them.
Remove from oven and let cool on tray for 2 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool enough to where you won't burn your tongue when housing the cookies. These cookies probably won't last very long anyways, but be advised that they really don't last long. I've found that even in a very airtight container they only are very good for a couple days. They start to get crisper as time goes on. If any one knows a way to prevent this (should I not be using melted butter?!), please let me know!