Deciding on the perfect assortment of holiday cookies to bake for our annual Christmas party is serious business. I start by printing a master list of cookies I’ve made in prior years and approach it like picking a jury. As new food publications land in my mailbox I eagerly add new recipes to the list, boldly striking others that no longer seem to fit the bill. My goal is to achieve a balance of kid-friendly, spicy, soft, crunchy, and savory cookies. After about a month of ruthless editing I usually land on blend of old and new recipes that will carry us through the season.
Of all the cookies that have graced our table over the past decade one of my standbys is classic shortbread. Buttery and soft, with the ability to be flavored nearly any way I want, it always has a place at our holiday festivities.
This year I decided to give our shortbread a warm, spicy twist by flavoring it with a mix of spices commonly found in my favorite chai tea. While not a classic holiday flavor, it is perfect for this time of year. The warm flavors of cardamom and cinnamon beautifully compliment a rich glass of eggnog or mulled wine. The cookies even have a festive twinkle thanks to the edging of sparkling sanding sugar.
These delicious slice and bake treats have already been a hit at two festive occasions this month. They have even proved giftable when stacked in a simple clear bag and tied with twine and a pretty gift tag. I’ve handed out the recipe half a dozen times. Though there is no guarantee, given their popularity there is a good chance they’ll be making an appearance next year too!
Sparkling Chai Shortbread Cookies
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 large egg white for rolling
3 tablespoons or more of sanding sugar for rolling
1. In an electric mixer beat the butter until fluffy and light yellow, about 5 minutes. Then beat it in the sugar until very fluffy and pale yellow, almost like a butter cream frosting.
2. Beat in the vanilla extract until smooth. Then, with the mixer on low, add in the flour, salt, and spices until completely incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
3. Remove the finished dough from the bowl and place it on a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough until two clumps and roll each once into a log about 2-inches in diameter. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill it for at least 6 hours or up to overnight.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or Silpat.
5. Lightly brush each log of dough with an egg white that is been lightly beaten with a fork. Then roll the logs in the sanding sugar until they are evenly coated.
6. Slice the logs into rounds about 1/4-inch thick and place them on the lined cookie sheets 1 inch apart. Return the cookie sheets to the freezer to chill until the oven is preheated. When the oven is ready bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, rotating them halfway through to ensure even baking. Then remove the cookie sheet from the oven and carefully transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.