There are many perks to working in higher education. One is that I always have a ready and willing sample pool for baked goods. College students will happily and enthusiastically eat anything that’s free.
Another is that every once in a while I get a glimpse into the “cool” stuff the kids are eating and drinking. While I don’t have any research to back up this up, over time I’ve noted that college towns I’ve visited and worked in often have a higher density of ethnic/ alternative restaurants relative to the general composition of the area’s population. Part of this, I think, is because colleges and universities bring with them diversity that may not be native to the area. Another piece goes back to the relative socioeconomic status of college students. Frugality can breed creativity and maybe, just maybe, a population more willing to try new things–especially if they’re cheap. To this end I’ve got one word: Mongols. But, as usual, I’ve drifted off-topic.
Which brings me to dirty chai.
I know what you are thinking, and I think it too every time I order one. That’s part of the fun. As introduced to me by an undergraduate, a dirty chai is a chai latte with a shot (or two) of espresso. In a word, it is a revelation. Seriously. The chai contributes its signature spicy and sweet while the espresso adds a certain robustness of the “you complete me” caliber. Naturally, the first thing I thought upon trying the dirty chai is “how can I make this into something else?” So, I give you the dirty chai shortbread. In the (hopefully) never ending quest to perfect my shortbread/sable technique, I experimented with yet another recipe.
I’ve had a good recipe for chai shortbread for a long time. Unlike the earl grey cookies these don’t actually utilize tea. Instead, a chai spice combo of cinnamon, cardamom, clove and black pepper is used to achieve the complex sweet-spicy profile. To make it dirty, I added a about a teaspoon and another half (for good measure) of espresso powder. We have a Nespresso machine that uses those lovely jewel-like capsules. They come in a million flavors but to be honest, TD and I can’t tell the difference between them. I just buy the different colors because they look pretty. But anyhow, if you use Nespresso, you could just cut into one of the capsules and the espresso is of a fine enough grind it’s ready to go. Alternately, finely ground regular expresso or even instant espresso powder would all get the job done.
These are unusual, but also a little adventurous.
Dirty Chai Shortbread Cookies
Adapted from Cooking Light, December 2007
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (about 6 3/4 ounces)
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tsp finely ground espresso powder (instant or regular)
- Dash of ground cloves
- Dash of freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- 10 tablespoon butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon ice water
- Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 7 ingredients (through sugar), in a food processor and pulse to combined.
- With processor running on low, add-in butter a tablespoon at-a-time until dough begins to look like lumpy sand.
- Sprinkle dough with 1 tablespoon ice water and pulse until dough just comes together.
- Divide dough in half. Shape dough into 2 (6-inch-long) logs; wrap each log in plastic wrap. Chill 1 hour or until very firm.
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- Unwrap dough logs. Carefully cut each log into 12-18 slices using a serrated knife. Place dough circles 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 375° for 10 minutes. Cool on pans 5 minutes. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks.