If we practiced tea time like the Brits, we’d have an excuse to devour these chai shortbread cookies every morning and afternoon. I’m slightly looney about chai. It’s such a unique combination of spices (including my cardamom fetish), which feels both warming and cooling at once. The intoxicating aroma of chai instantly transports me to India, where I spent two months exploring the colorful culture with my twin sister Dimity and my husband (then boyfriend) Bobby.
I remember rambling around one of Rajasthan’s dessert cities, running our hands along the painstakingly carved grooves of ornate facades and peering into abandoned rooms where kings once lived.
In one such empty room, a man materialized from thin air, shuffling around the corner with a tray of piping hot tea, beckoning us to stay. He served the clay mugs, explaining that the chai would cool us by helping our bodies sweat (though it’s just as pleasant and effective on ice). Oh, it was marvelous! Rich with fresh spices, laden with whole milk and sweetened with honey. Then, he pulled a scroll from his back pocket and unfurled it on the dirt floor, pointing at the calligraphy on a black-ink family tree.
This is the sort of ethereal dream that happens in India when you glide through with a sense of adventure. In my storybook, the Brits brought back tea to feel comforted when the mirage of dessert oases and generous hospitality had faded into the ever-stormy weather outside the pub.
Chai Shortbread Cookies
- Prep Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
- Yield: 48 cookies
- Black tea leaves – 4 teaspoons
- Ground cinnamon – 3 teaspoons
- Confectioners sugar – 1/2 cup
- Ground cardamom – 2 teaspoons
- Ground allspice – 2 teaspoons
- Ground clove – 2 teaspoons
- Black pepper – 1/2 teaspoons
- All-purpose flour – 2 cups, plus extra for dusting
- Salt – 1/2 teaspoon
- Unsalted butter – 2 sticks (8 ounces), softened
- Use a clean coffee grinder or mortar and pestle to grind the tea leaves. Combine in a small bowl with the remaining spices.
- Whisk together the spices, flour and salt in a medium bowl.
- In a large bowl or electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar. Use a fork or the mixer to beat until pale and fluffy.
- Slowly mix in the flour mixture until just combined.
- Divide the dough into three pieces and transfer each to a piece of plastic wrap. Shape the dough into logs about 2 inches wide and roll in the plastic wrap like a burrito. Transfer the logs to the freezer for 1 hour. (If storing for longer for baking another day or week, triple wrap the dough).
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut logs into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Space 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.
- Bake for 13-15 minutes, until the edges turn golden brown. Cool before serving.
- Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week (though they’ll doubtfully last that long!)