September 25, 2009

Sugar and spice

Since the first day of fall officially passed this week, something will a little spice, something that could be eaten alongside a plateful of apple slices and cheese, seemed fitting. Remember those almond butter cookies I first posted a few months ago? Well, they're perfect for a chai tea inspired cookie. Just add a few ground spices to the mix, and you've got a nutty, subtly spiced cookie to munch on.

I first tried the spices with peanut butter cookies, but I'm partial to the almond butter version. Peanut butter cookies have never had much appeal for me, any way. The almond butter is just a different flavor and slightly more versatile. The peanut butter and the spices seemed to compete with each other just a little too much, so the almond butter works better in complementing the blend of spices, a warming combination of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves, and black pepper. And, as is usual with spiced baked goods, the chai-like flavor should deepen and intensify over a few days, so the cookies will only get better and better.

They can overbake very quickly, so be careful and watchful of the baking time. It's much better to slightly underbake them than slightly overbake them, because they finish cooking while cooling on the baking sheet. They won't look done when you pull them from the oven, but they'll soon set and turn into a very chewy, soft cookie. If cooked even just a minute too long, they'll end up a little crunchy and rather disappointing.

As stated above, they taste good with an apple, a crisp, tart one like a Ginger Gold or a Pink Lady, and perhaps a few slices of aged white cheddar or creamy brie. I'm all about cheese and apples and making cookies to eat with them. It's just the thing to eat in the fall.

Chai-Spiced Almond Butter Cookies
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp kosher salt
1 ¼ tsp cinnamon
¾ tsp ground cardamom
¾ tsp ground ginger
¼ heaping tsp ground cloves
¼ heaping tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup butter (2 sticks), salted, room temperature
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup smooth all-natural almond butter, unsalted
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Adjust oven rack to low center position and preheat to 350ยบ F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, beat butter with a wooden spoon until creamy. Add sugars, and beat until fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Beat in almond butter until fully incorporated, then eggs, one at a time, then vanilla extract. Gently stir dry ingredients into almond butter mixture.

Working with 2 tablespoons of dough at a time, roll into large balls, placing them 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Lightly press down each dough ball with the back of a dinner fork.

Bake until cookies are puffed and slightly brown along edges, but not top, 10 - 12 minutes (they will not look fully baked). Cool cookies on sheet until set, about 4 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Cookies will keep, refrigerated in an airtight container, up to 7 days.

Makes about 40 cookies.

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