Adventures In Baking: Chai Cookies Edition

Athena ScalziAs I mentioned in my apple cider post last month, it is truly the season for pumpkin spice! However, there is one seasonal flavor that I think is leagues above pumpkin spice, that being chai. Chai is truly a divine drink, especially iced chai lattes! So when I saw one of my favorite food bloggers of all time, Half Baked Harvest, post a recipe called Chai Spiced Maple Sugar Cookies with Browned Butter Frosting, I knew I had to make them.

And so began my perilous journey! Well, maybe not perilous. But we’ll just say it was to keep the story interesting. Anyway, the ingredients list is super simple! I know it looks long and intimidating but that’s just because there’s so many spices in it. The cookies are basically just butter, brown sugar, flour, and eggs for the most part! And then you throw in all those delicious spices like cinnamon and ginger that are the epitome of seasonal flavors. Same with the frosting, it’s really not hard! I know browned butter sounds fancy and tough to accomplish, but I can assure you, the frosting was a piece of cake (wait, aren’t we making cookies?).

The only ingredient on the list I found to be an issue was the chai sugar. I’d never heard of such a thing before, as amazing at it sounds, and couldn’t find any at the store. But it’s optional so whatever!

Here is the amazing picture of them included with the recipe:

leaf shaped chai maple cookies

(Image courtesy of Half Baked Harvest)

Aaaand here’s mine:

kind of ugly cookies with frosting on top

(Image courtesy of my dad holding them while I take a picture with my phone)

So yeah. Kind of not how I had hoped. But for starters, I didn’t have a leaf shaped cookie cutter. Or any cookie cutters. And I also made them too thick to turn into sandwiches, so I just put the frosting on top instead! Honestly I’m a rebel.

Unfortunately, they’re kind of ugly. Especially since the frosting is on top and I don’t even have any chai sugar to sprinkle on! I kind of blame myself for them being ugly though since I didn’t use a cut out shape or anything, just scooped them with a cookie dough scooper. They didn’t spread out at all, so whatever shape you put them in the oven as is what they’re going to look like when you pull them out.

As for taste… they’re pretty okay. They’re not bad by any means but they’re not exactly what I wanted them to be. I don’t know if it’s my fault or the recipe, but they were a little lackluster. The frosting definitely adds to it, but the cookie itself without frosting is just alright. The frosting is quite good at least.

I had a friend that rated the cookie 7.5/10 and another say 6/10, so that definitely says something. One said they didn’t taste like much, which I can agree with. If I ever make them again, I think I’ll put in a higher quantity of spices than what the recipe says. They just taste kind of plain. And they’re a little tiny bit on the crumbly side. Again, this may all be user error.

Here’s what they looked like without frosting!

plate full of chai cookies

They’re very basic looking. I really wish I had a cookie cutter shape. And yes this picture was taken outside because I have garbage lighting in my house. The bottoms of the cookies got browned before the cookies were really done, but it was far from detrimental or anything.

So, yeah, made about two dozen cookies if not a smidge more, and had to buy almost no new ingredients for it, it’s pretty simple! I recommend if you make this, you should attempt to make it a little more flavorful or sweet or something. And if you have a leaf cookie cutter, definitely do it the way it was intended to be done.

Let me know if you like pumpkin spice or chai better in the comments, or neither, and have a great day!

-AMS

32 Comments on “Adventures In Baking: Chai Cookies Edition”

  1. Sounds very yummy! Looks like chai sugar is like cinnamon sugar, but with chai spices instead of just cinnamon mixed with sugar. If you click on it in the recipe it takes you to a recipe for it if you want to try it yourself. I bet it would be scrumptious on toast!

  2. You know what, I actually like the look of them without frosting! But then, I like my cookies pretty plain, so that’s just me. They look tasty, in my opinion.

    And ditto for me on chai spice *and* on Half Baked Harvest (I have both of her cookbooks!).

  3. That site made me drool like a basset hound! As to cookie cutters-a glass makes an excellent ball, Christmas ornament, or frog egg., but those cookies look fine to me!

  4. In the vein of fall recipes, I made these last week! https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/brown-butter-pumpkin-oatmeal-cookies/

    They’re very tasty and spicy, and don’t require cookie cutters. I had to follow the linked directions for how to make pumpkin pie spice, since my grocery store didn’t have it pre-made. I don’t have a mixer, but the only labor-intensive part is squeezing out the water from the canned pumpkin. Next time I would skip the icing (unnecessary!) and maybe add raisins.

  5. For cut-out cookies, thin is usually the important part. Roll them out and just cut into squares. It should help their crumbliness.

  6. They sound great. I never thought about Chai cookies until I found them at my local Aldi and was pleasantly surprised. I’m sure that home made is better, but with my baking skills buying them is the safer option.

  7. It had never occurred to me that I could *eat* chai things! I might give the recipe a try, with gratitude for your efforts – knowing in advance to increase the spices will be so helpful.

    Also the image credit on your frosted cookies made me lol.

  8. I think your issues with the cookies browning on the bottom before they were completely cooked could be because they were too thick. So rolling the dough out and even just cutting it into squares with a knife might give you a better result, although making circles with a glass or a biscuit cutter could work too. Regarding the taste, it’s possible that the Chai Sugar is an important part of it. I’d try making them again with homemade Chai Sugar before dismissing them as bland or changing the spice proportions.

  9. I sent the recipe to my daughter. She is away at college for her freshman year and is coming home soon. She is a big baker and not being able to do that is one of the main things she misses about being away and we are always on the lookout for new cookies she can make. Thanks for the suggestion.

  10. Ever since I learned to make chai from my Indian boss by way of my bestie, I have been using homemade chai spice blend and what I call `oatmeal cookie spices’ (i.e. pumpkin pie spices, I’m guessing) pretty interchangeably. Just about anything can go in homemade chai spice mix, though cardamom is typically a dominant note; I grind decorticated cardamom with cloves, allspice, black peppercorns, a star anise or two, plus (pre-ground) cinnamon, ginger, & nutmeg. You could also add fennel or coriander. I generally like to put 3 or 4 t/C flour when making muffins, which is about…one-quarter of what this woman recommends. I find most american baked goods way too bland & too sweet: I suppose because sugar is so much cheaper than spices (or nuts, or fruit, or a lot of other things I think make cookies & muffins interesting.)

    If using the mix for tea, there’s no need to grind the spices since you can easily filter out fresh ginger peels, cinnamon sticks leftover from Indian Rice, entire cardamom pods, etc while transferring the tea from the pan to tea pot. It’s easy to make at home—bring the spices & hefty amount of black tea to a boil, simmer 5–10 min, add milk (molassus/honey/sugar & vanilla as desired) & heat*, and strain: a nice contrast to hot chocolate when you want a spicy, rather than just sugary drink, to warm your insides.

    *add the milk & heat to desired temp, because throwing it in with the tea & spices will cause it form a skin. Its proteins are a lot more fragile than tea or spices.

  11. I always double the spices in baking. Actually most cookbooks have their recipes much too bland, which is why they tell you to season to taste in the fine print at the end. Why they don’t just print recipes that taste good, I wish I knew. Possibly the recipe testers use only completely fresh spices, and not the old ones you’ve had in the cupboard for years. My advice to recipe followers would be to taste and adjust accordingly.

  12. What I would suggest for next time is rolling out your cookies with a rolling pin, & sprinkling them with the chai sugar. Cut them out with a glass if you’ve got nothing else.

  13. Hey Athena, they look awesome. Don’t judge home baking by commercial products. Also, I have chai masala (chai spice mix) from my local South Asian grocery which I use upon occasion on very un-traditional things like in cheese sauce. Make sure you can smell the spices through the plastic or they aren’t fresh (usually the plastic is very thin).

    Here’s another experimental project for you: Spicy Aztec hot chocolate cookies. I used to have a recipe for these on G+ but alas! But it was basically a brownie-like bar cookie with grated Abuelita hot chocolate disc and finely ground hot pepper. So good! I made them because I’m elderly and disabled, and really loved the Aztec hot cocoa from my local bookshop cafe in Cambridge MA. So I made a proxy.

  14. My daughter and I made these same cookies last winter! We tinkered with the recipe, though. I think we just did a confectioner’s sugar, milk/water, and spices glaze. I will check with her when she is home in a week.

  15. Long time baker here (because my mum is a baker and she let me help from an early age, lovely early training) and I think your unfrosted cookies look lovely. Yeah, that filling does not make them look great, but I usually don’t get a cookie to come out pretty the first time I make them.

    Here is a trick: When she did not have a cookie cutter she would use a knife to cut out shapes. Make some nice diamond parallelograms. You could also do the drinking glass trick if you don’t have a rolling pin. Take a tablespoon/cookie scoop worth and use a nice wide and flat bottomed drinking glass like a high ball to flatten the ball down into a more or less even round. This is helpful with some cookies that don’t spread when baking, but have too sticky a dough to roll out. It is likely to work with this dough, but will probably crack at the edges. Still you’d have some nice rustic cookies that you could sandwich if you want to do that.

    If you want to work on the recipe to make it more of what you want, try cutting the recipe in half and then adjusting. I always try to work with a smaller batch when fiddling. Sometimes I’ll use half eggs by mixing them up and weighing them with a gram scale.

    My current project: Improved oatmeal cookies with lots of cinnamon. Not there yet, but I’m getting happier with each one.

  16. I think experimenting with recipes is half the fun! For seasoned cookies, I would usually mix the seasonings in with the flour before mixing the flour into the wet ingredients, to get as even as possible a distribution of the flavors.

    My favorite chai spice cookie recipe is just a nice sugar cookie recipe with cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves added to the flour mix – for parties, I used to split the dough in half and add cocoa powder and cayenne to one half to have a blend of regular and Aztec chocolate chai spice cookies. :-)

  17. @ Bryan “I never thought about Chai cookies until I found them at my local Aldi”????

    They have CHAI cookies at Aldi????? Excuse me, I’ll need to leave the office for a minute to…run an errand, yeah.

  18. My favorite spice cookie is a molasses spice cookie with a Swedish mix of spices: cardamom, orange peel, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, and black pepper. So I suppose I must be more in the chai spice camp. And I agree that the dry spices going in the flour along with salt and leavening is the right way to get a good even distribution.

  19. Athena, didn’t you tell us not long ago that you have been a straight recipe-follower? Well, this time you experimented, and you’re contemplating further changes! I think that’s great.
    I’m another one who thinks the unfrosted cookies look real tasty.

  20. I initially found this post completely baffling because I am used to “chai” just meaning “tea”, so…tea-flavored cookies? Tea-flavored coffee?? Ewww? I’ve googled up the American meaning now.

    Second the suggestions to roll them out thinner, and either use one of the cutting methods mentioned or just spend a few dollars to get some metal cookie cutters. I make sugar cookies with various spices regularly, so I’ve got a couple dozen of various generic and seasonal shapes, though a lot of them are stranded in Russia right now.

  21. I’d find some way to work white chocolate into the recipe.

    Mmmmmmm, whiiiiiiiite chooooooooocolate.

  22. I usually make oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with cinnamon for the holidays to share with friends and family. Always been a favorite of mine so I cobbled together a recipe I use now. I like to kid myself they are pretty good. Never tried Chai cookies, have to see if my store carries such a thing.