I have not been so prolific lately. Eating less, but more of my leftovers, this new nod to frugality leaves me a bit lackluster for postings. I am not, however, lackluster for December and all of it's joys.

My favorite of yearly traditions happens in December: cookie baking. In the spirit of giving, I suppose, the long-standing tradition of Christmas cookies does not fall dormant with me. I not only celebrate Christmas, I am excited about it and of the prospects of giving sweet things to people I know and love, and perhaps even to some of those that I may not know so well. When my freezer hasn't been so blessedly stocked in years passed, I start cookies the week after Thanksgiving, letting them linger in the frozen depths for a few weeks. Batch a day baking in the past has garnered me 12-15 varietals of treats to pack into tins, and by the time I'm finished I hardly notice the work. I start with long-curing things like rum balls and fruitcake (I opted out of that this year), and end the week before Christmas with last minute candies like fudge.

But this year, my freezers are full to their brims, and I am starting later than usual to be ensure proper freshness in my finished labors. This afternoon I made chai snickerdoodles, playing around with the spice mixture to include the chai blend I have from the Spice House. Snickerdoodles are something I don't often make. Maybe it's their ridiculous name, but they often seem bland or unsatisfying to me. They're not. I think what I missed all this time was proper seasonings, something more sophisticated to satisfy my snobbish palate. But no matter their exquisite taste, they really remind me of how much I enjoy baking cookies.

Baking cookies is really unlike any other type of baking. They change each moment; a minute or two of baking time makes worlds of difference, and so does the temperature of the cooling sweet. The flavor of a hot or warm cookie is often vastly different than a cooled one. Because of how delicious they were, and because it was a frigid, blustery Sunday afternoon, I took the time to fully appreciate all the changes they went through - even listening to the sounds they made as they cooled on the pans.

Just out of the oven.

Fat balls of butter-heavy dough melt just enough in 10 minutes of oven heat, but they don't have so much butter that they spread into crisp and not chewy cookies. They come out of the oven puffed with hints of cracks, and then fall gently, deflated, remaining chewy in their middles. I ate one hot, one warm, and one at room temperature, and loved them all ways. Both my boys loved them, too. I found enough space to hide the remainders in the freezer, where they will remain fresh until giving time... away from all of our leering hands.

This particular variety has chai spices in both the dough and in the granulated sugar coating. The chai spice from the Spice House doesn't have any nutmeg in it, so I added a little. It does, however, have quite a lot of cardamom which lends a slight bitter note to these new favorites.

Chai Snickerdoodles (slightly adapted from Amrita at The Sweet Art)

makes 3 dozen depending on the size you make them
  • 1 1/2 c. raw sugar (I pulse it up briefly so it resembles granulated a bit more)
  • 1/2 c. of butter
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2 eggs (room temperature - you can soak them in hot water for 15 minutes or so if you forget to take them out)
  • 2 3/4 c. AP flour
  • 2 t. cream of tartar
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 t. Cassia cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 t. chai spice from the Spice House (or use spice mix proportions from The Sweet Art)
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
For rolling, mix together in a small bowl:
  • 1 t. Cassia cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. ginger
  • 1/8 t. nutmeg
  • 1/2 t. chai spice mix
  • 1/4 c. white granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 350.

Cream sugar and butter together until fluffy. Add oil, and then eggs, beating a full minute after each addition.

Mix all remaining dry ingredients together in a small bowl, then add them to the butter, oil and eggs. Mix briefly until a soft dough forms.

Form balls of dough, and roll in the sugar/spice mix. Bake at least 2 inches apart for 8-10 minutes until done, and let cool for several minutes on the baking sheet before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Cooled 5 minutes on the pan.

I'm not sure that there is anything better than turning on the oven on a cold day, and then gobbling up warm cookies as they emerge. And while not particularly "Christmassy", I have a feeling that this varietal will go over well. I'm sure I'll have plenty of more traditional cookies rolling out of the oven during the next week or so that I won't need to worry. Meanwhile I'll go on enjoying my freezing December, the Christmas season, and eating more warm cookies. And I'll be more than thankful for all three.