Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sugar and Spice...


Out of everything I make during the holidays, this has got to be my favorite.

I'm a lover of spices and can appreciate the assault on the senses they can do. I think that's a big reason why I love holiday baking. I get to abuse things like cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin pie spice, and no one gives me any lip about it. And you know I'm a cinnamon freak so this time of year is just dangerous.

I've been making these in particular for the last 3 or 4 years. What's special about this year though is I'm finally making them the way they're supposed to be made... With cinnamon chips!!!



Yup, cinnamon chips.

Those little morsels of goodness were my unicorn. For the past 4 years, every holiday season I was out and about for at least 2 weeks before finally giving up for the year. Combing supermarkets, turning those organic food markets that smell like fish and hippies upside down, always looking for these mythical chips. I would ask the stock person in every store that I went to, and every single one of them replied with the same dumbfounded look. As if we were in the wild west and they were a bartender and I just walked into their saloon wearing a pink cowboy outfit with tassels all over it asking for a glass of ice water. But then one day about a week before Thanksgiving, we were walking around Walmart and I saw them. Sitting right there next to the chocolate chips as if they belong on the same shelf. I couldn't believe my eyes. It took me 11 years, but I finally understand why the Nazg├╗l went bonkers every time Frodo put on The Ring. That's exactly how I felt, like I finally found the one thing I've been after for so long. And in Walmart of all places!

Anyway, get out there to your local Wally World and give them a try. They're creamy like chocolate but have a cinnamon flavor. I'd be lying if I told you I didn't eat a few handfuls. 

It's ok though, I can do that. I bought like 4 bags.


Spiced Cinnamon Coins:

                     2 sticks ~ Butter, SOFTENED
                     3/4 cup ~ Dark Brown Sugar
                      2 each ~ Eggs
         1 1/4 teaspoon ~ Cinnamon
            1/4 teaspoon ~ Nutmeg, freshly grated
            1/4 teaspoon ~ Ground Ginger
            1/4 teaspoon ~ Pumpkin Pie Spice
            1/8 teaspoon ~ Salt
               1 teaspoon ~ Vanilla Extract
                2 1/2 cups ~ Flour
                     2/3 cup ~ Cinnamon Chips, coarsely chopped
                                     Turbinado Sugar


Notes:

  • Notice how I put "softened" in all caps. That's my attempt to remind you to put out your butter so that it softens. I know I might as well be screaming at the wall but it's worth a shot.
  • I used dark brown sugar because I had it and the flavor is deeper. You can use light brown sugar or regular sugar if you must. 
  • Coarsely chop the cinnamon chips as best you can. You don't need to chop them all, but at least half would be nice. If you leave them whole, when you go to cut the cookies later, it can rip the dough apart. Yeah, it's easy to put back together, but still, do what I say, ok? Ok. You don't want big chips everywhere anyway. You want little chunks here and there, don't you? Alright then, 
  • If you don't know what Turbinado Sugar is, it's basically natural brown sugar or sugar in the raw. It's a coarse sugar that gives a great crunch. I love using it as much as I can and in this recipe it's almost a necessity. It helps deliver that crispy outside of the cookie. You can find Turbinado sugar just about anywhere.
  • Now, if you have my problem that I had for so long and can't find cinnamon chips, the alternative that I used for 4 years were butterscotch chips. Found right next to the chocolate chips, it goes nicely with the spices of the cookie. If you use butterscotch chips, up the ground cinnamon by about 1/2 teaspoon. 
  • A fair warning: These cookies are small, about an inch wide at best. And on top of that, they're addicting. That has to be the worst combination in the history of sweets. You can easily have 10 of them before you know it. This recipe will give you about 40 cookies depending on how much you roll and how thin or thick you cut, so plan accordingly. If you think 40 cookies is too much, who cares? Make half and freeze the other half. But I wouldn't freeze more than a month.


Time to make some coin:


  • Take the softened butter and sugar and cream it in a mixer. Not creaming it till light and fluffy, but just until it's a nice paste. The dark brown sugar is going to make it look like mud. It looks disgusting, but it's great!

  • Next add the eggs one at a time until combined, then add all the spices, the salt and the extract



  • Once it's combined, take out the bowl and with a spatula, fold in the flour and the cinnamon chips





Yeah, I have a purple spatula. Wanna make something of it?!

Now the fun!

There are a few ways to do this:

  • First, if you have a work surface you like for such things, sprinkle some of the turbinado sugar on it and plop half of the dough on to the sugar. Work it into a log shape and then roll it till it's about 1/2 inch thick. Take the rolled dough and transfer it to a long piece of plastic wrap and roll it up and close off the sides





  • Or, if you have patience, you can do everything I just said on the actual plastic wrap. Covering the dough with half the wrap and squeezing it out, then pulling the other side over to squeeze it out some more, then rolling it until you get your long, 1/2 inch thick rope of dough.





  • Either way will work. Whichever you do, be sure to close it off good because from here you put the rolled up dough into the freezer for at least 2 hours to chill. Like I said, you can leave it in there for about a month, but let it cool off for at least 2 hours. That way when you go to cut it, it will be a much easier process. 




  • Once the time has passed, turn on your oven to 350. Take the dough and roll it in a little more turbinado sugar. Get a nice coating on there and then cut the dough about a 1/4 of an inch thick. Place the coins about an inch apart on a parchment lined cookie tray that was sprayed with cooking spray. Something I like to do at this point is grate some more nutmeg on the top of the cookies, but I'm spicy like that. Put them in the oven for 16 - 20 minutes, until the edges get a little color and the center is a little firm





And that is that. Put them somewhere to cool and you are done. If you baked them right they should be nice and crispy around the edges, enough to give you a good crunch, and somewhat chewy in the center. If you cooked them too long, they'll be crispy all the way through. Which is a big "who cares" because they'll still be freaking good. I actually like them all crispy.




These puppies are small but they pack some flavor. Don't be mad at me if you eat them all in one shot.

Easter Egg: If you haven't noticed, this is the cookie that is pictured in the header of my blog. Only more Pac-Man-y.

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