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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Chai Snickerdoodles, Spice Queens, and the End of the Flowers

Chai Snickerdoodles

Chai Snickerdoodles, Spice Queens, and the End of the Flowers
by Victoria Challancin

Because I had chosen a complicated menu for this week's cooking class, I needed an easy dessert to offer the cooks for their repertoire.  What better than an American classic cookie, Snickerdoodles?  Although these cookies seem timeless, it seems that their history can be traced the New England with the earliest printed recipe appearing in 1889, perhaps coming from the German schneckennudeln,  or cinnamon-dusted sweet rolls.  Made of common pantry staples such as butter, sugar, and flour, these cookies, which can be crispy or soft, as preferred, are easy to make and even easier to consume.  My first exposure to them came not from my family though, as these weren't a part of my mother's extensive baking recipes, but rather from my freshman roommate, who introduced me to them on our first day together.  They have been a staple for me since then.

This version is slightly updated by the addition of chai spices [you may remember my Chai Concentrate which I wrote about here].  This recipe really delivers. Why the addition of extra spices you ask?  Well, it is simply because I love spices.  Love them.  Use them copiously and with joy.

In my very private musings, I secretly think of myself as The Spice Queen.  I know, in know, it's a bit pretentious and over-blown, but truly I gravitate to cuisines that use ample amounts of spices and I, myself, love to toast and grind all manner of blends, from Ras el Hanout, Curry blends (see my Garam Masala here), Middle Eastern baharat ( or Dukkah, or Za'atar) Cajun blends, and so many more.  Whether this love comes from deep in my DNA or simply is an offshoot from the countless spice markets I have loved all over the world, spices permeate my world.  I hunger for them; I seek them out; I read about them; I use them.  And while I am probably known locally for my extensive use of herbs, their culinary counterpoints are equally employed.

Once when my son was a teenager returning from a year of study in France, he commented off-handedly on the way our house smells.

Aghast, I said, "Our house smells?"

"Of spices, Mom.  I always smell spices when I come in the door.  I think I missed that smell."

Whew!  The smell of spices.  A good thing.  A good thing indeed.

Spices for sale in the Meknés souk in Morocco

Not beautiful, but so crispy and good

Cook's Notes: I prefer these cookies crisp, rather than soft and chewy.  If you want the softer, simply adjust the cooking time and remove them before they begin to brown on the edges.  Also, if you want to make them in the traditional way, just use cinnamon and sugar, omitting the other spices.  But you'll be missing something special...

Note that I gave another recipe for these, but I prefer the spice blend here and will thus call these Chai Snickerdoodles Redux.

Recipe:  Chai Snickerdoodles Redux
(Recipe adapted from one given to me over 40 years ago)

2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl combine the sugar and spices.  Set aside 1/2 cup of this mixture and place in a small bowl.  Add butter to bowl and cream with sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until completely incorporated.  Add vanilla and beat again.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, cream of tartar and baking soda.  Add to sugar mixture and stir until fully incorporated.

Chill dough for 15 to 30 minutes.  Shape dough into 1-inch balls and roll in reserved sugar mixture.  Place on baking sheet, leaving at least 2 inches between balls.

Bake for 12 minutes, or until edges are firm and beginning to brown.  Cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

More Puptides and the End of the Flowers
Every year I mark the end of the wildflower season with a twinge of sadness.  Watching the campo, or fields near our house, change from day to day is a constant marvel for me.  After the beginning of the rainy season here in Central Mexico, the world comes to life in every form, from the largest cacti to the minutia of the tiniest of tiny flowers in myriad colors.  Of course, with the gradual drying out of the flowers, come the seed pods, many of which cling to Roscoe's beautiful coat.

 The end of the yellows

 Roscoe, impersonating a native American headdress made of sticky seedpods instead of feathers

 I always try to catch Angus cavorting in the many flowers, but he won't be still enough to co-operate with photo shoots;  here I snagged one while I had him on a leash.  My, my, this dog does keep me laughing.

©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved.

Like life, recipes are meant to be shared, but please ask for permission before using photos or text.  Thanks!

Chai Snickerdoodles and the End of the Flowers


Eha said...

Hello Roscoe, big pat to you, Angus! One week older: any wiser, hmm? Don't think I had ever heard of snickerdoodles - the name alone makes one want to reach for the ingredients :) ! Yes, I love all these spices too, Victoria, and oft tend to use them 'out of context', ie in socalled 'fusion' cooking. All bar Cajun: perhaps I have not met the right teacher or recipes, but I tend to shy away from most 'Louisiana' recipes :) !

Hotly Spiced said...

I would love to walk into a house that smelled of spices. It would be very homely, I imagine. I love the list of spices in these cookies although I have to say, I've never added black pepper to any cookie as yet. It would be interesting to try them xx

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I can imagine that your house only smells wonderful Victoria! And I can't believe how tall those stacks of spices are! :o

janet @ the taste space said...

We always get excited if our house smells like curry.. because we make curry often and it doesn't always smell it the traditional hurry. I think sustain may be the culprit! Your house sound like it would smell delicious, too!

Nancy said...

Snickerdoodles hold a special place in my heart. They were the first cookies I learned to make in home ec. class. Love your spin on them. My mouth is watering so thanks for sharing.

Roscoe is so big and adorable:)

Ben said...

Every time I come to your blog I really wish I was taking one of your classes. I've never tried those cookies before but I'd love to make them. Well, cookie season is almost here and I need to use the oven of my new house soon :)


Sawsan@chef in disguise said...

I love all the spices you added Victoria!
I love cinnamon but with all the other spices this must take the cookie to a whole new level said...

I never tried these cookies. I am sure they are quite tasty with all those spices.