What's Baking: Coconut Chai-Spiced Cookies

As my profile notes, chai lattes are one of my favorite things. Given that my favorite version comes from Starbucks (don't judge me), I don't get them as often as I'd like, since our nearest 'bucks is an hour's drive away. Sure, sure, I can buy the Tazo chai mix and make myself a chai latte at home, but it's just not the same! Lately, I've been on a black tea kick at home, and my new favorite is Zhena's Gypsy coconut chai black tea -- it is SO good. (I've had the best luck finding it at World Market, if you're interested.)

Since I love the combo of coconut and chai in a tea, I thought I'd give a tea cookie version a try. These shortbread cookies are gently chai-spiced, crunchy, and delicious. And given their firm texture, they are  perfect for dipping in a hot cuppa tea.

Coconut Chai-Spiced Cookies (printer-friendly version)
makes about 3 dozen

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch of ground black pepper
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
white/clear sanding sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spread the shredded coconut on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat. Place in the oven and toast the coconut until golden brown, about 8 minutes, stirring half-way through the cooking time. Remove from the oven. Once cool, place the toasted coconut a food processor and process until coarsely ground.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves, and black pepper. Set aside.
3. In an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the salt and vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture in two batches. Then stir in the toasted coconut.
4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Gather it into a ball and then flatten into a disk. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least an hour or up to 48 hours.
5. Preheat the oven to 325. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. Roll out the dough until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Use a 1 3/4-inch to 2-inch fluted cookie cutter to cut the dough into rounds. Set the rounds on the prepped baking sheet about one inch apart. Sprinkle sanding sugar over top each round.
6. Bake the cookies for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden in color. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
7. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to one week.

 (inspired by this Smitten Kitchen recipe)