To get these Chai Shortbread Cookies going, it required taking a basic batch of shortbread dough and adding a variety of spices to burrow in flavors reminiscent of the tea. We used a combination of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and a pinch of finely ground black pepper to flavor the dough, which was made simply of good-quality butter, confectioners' sugar and flour. Note we used unsalted butter as we typically do - if you use salted butter, take out at least 1/2 teaspoon of the salt called for.
To speed the process of getting the cookies into the oven, rather than rolling the dough into a log and refrigerating it to slice off rounds, we rolled the dough into balls and flattened them with the bottom of a glass. Dipping the glass in granulated sugar in between flattening will not only add a little crunch to the tops of the cookies, but will help them release and not stick to the glass. To keep these cookies tender, bake them only until the tops are set and the edges are a light golden - they are fairly fragile right out of the oven, but leaving them on the baking sheet for a minute or two will help them firm up enough to transfer to a wire rack.
While the cookies were off cooling (with a little doggy near-by waiting for any crumbs to fall!), we whipped together a mixture of half-and-half, instant espresso powder, confectioners' sugar, butter, cardamom, cinnamon and ginger to create a creamy, spiced buttercream. If you don't have espresso powder, instant coffee powder would be okay - since it is not as powerful, use double the amount called for. If you're worried about using it because you don't like coffee, it doesn't come across as "bam! I'm all you can taste". What it does add is a slightly bitter depth, which helps cut through the sweetness and round out the spices. You can measure the filling out with a teaspoon to scoop on half of the cookies, but if you don't have the patience for that, drop the filling into a pastry bag (a zip-loc bag works well too!) and squeeze away!
Once topped with the crisp un-filled cookies, creating a dainty sweet sandwich, we added some interest on top by sifting over a mixture of confectioners' sugar and cocoa powder. The cookies by themselves are mildly spiced and when I first tasted one by itself, I felt a little underwhelmed, though the melt-in-your-mouth texture was spot on. When paired with the dosed filling and another cookie however, the marriage was a blissful combination and my expectations were fulfilled!
Chai Shortbread Cookies