(jump to recipe)
Apple Cinnamon is so quintessential “October”, I don’t think anything else can even come to mind if you tried. Especially in the US, where it is synonymous with Fall, and all things cozy, warm and annoyingly, tooth achingly sweet.
Which is why, when tasked with pairing this bold, rich and fragrant “Apple Cinnamon Black Tea” by Simple Loose Leaf, I turned to one of my favorite fall-themed cakes for inspiration: apple cinnamon cake with brown sugar cream cheese frosting. The tea brings the Apple and Cinnamon to the table, and the Cream Cheese Cookies you see on the top, bedazzled with turbinado sugar, do the rest!
These are actually simple sugar cookies, transformed by King Arthur flour into something much more complex (yet retaining all of the ease) with the addition of cream cheese and almond extract, adapted again, for simplicity, by Smitten Kitchen.
I tinkered with the proportions a bit to reduce the sweetness, and dressed them up with turbinado sugar instead of rainbow sprinkles (not that I have anything against them and here’s the proof). The slight tartness and softness of the cookies works really well with the strong apple and cinnamon flavors in this tea, derived purely from small chunks of dehydrated apples and actual cinnamon chips.
The tea has its way to make itself known; as soon as you open it, the flavors smack you right in the face! The cookies on the other hand are mellow yet flavorful, modest in appearance, yet completely up to the task. I dare say they are a perfect match.
Not that these cookies needed any more reasons to be deemed perfect, but here’s two more: you don’t need to bring the butter and cream cheese to room temperature i.e. no prior planning is needed to make these cookies; and secondly, it takes under 2 minutes to pull the cookie dough together, because we make it entirely in a food processor.
Let’s get right to it!
We start by blending the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in the food processor for few seconds, just to mix everything well and aerate the mixture. Then, add the cold (yes, straight from the fridge!) butter and cream cheese, cut into big chunks, and process for 10 seconds or so, until the mixture is dry and powder. Add the egg and extracts, and process for 12-15 more seconds until the dough comes together into a ball, and that is it!
After that, scoop out the dough using a 1 1/2 or 2 tablespoon cookie scoop, and form into a ball. While still a bit warm due to the warmth of your palms, drop the ball in a shallow dish filled with turbinado sugar and roll around, coating it generously. Place the ball on the baking sheet, and using a flat-bottomed bowl or the bottom of a glass, flatten the ball until about 1/4-1/2 inch thick.
Repeat till you are out of dough!
You can freeze these cookies at this stage and bake them off later, adding 1-2 minutes to the baking time. Let them freeze on the baking sheet (not touching), and once completely frozen, transfer to a zip top back or freezer-safe airtight container, and freeze for up to 2 months!
If baking right away, do so at 375 degrees F for about 12 minutes, until lightly golden brown on top. Cool in the baking sheet for 10 minutes or so, until cookies are firm enough to transfer. The cookies will be on the softer side.
Brew Apple Cinnamon Black tea, and enjoy the warm cookies, whenever you miss Fall!
For best results, take a bite of the cookie and sip the tea through it. As a self-proclaimed expert on the subject, that’s my recommended approach to get the full effect of this particular tea pairing!
• Recipe •
Cream Cheese Cookies
Adapted from King Arthur Flour via Smitten Kitchen
Makes 18 large or 24 medium cookies
1 1/2 cups (188 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup or 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch squares, cold (straight out of the fridge)
1 oz or 30 grams plain cream cheese, cut into 1/2 inch squares, cold (straight out of the fridge)
100 grams granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup raw or turbinado sugar
Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 1 large or 2 regular baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In the work bowl of a food processor, place flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, and pulse a few times to blend.
Add butter and cream cheese, and granulated sugar, and blend until mixture is dry and powdery, about 10 seconds. Add the egg, vanilla and almond extracts and run machine until the dough balls together, about 12-15 seconds.
Transfer mixture to a bowl and using a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop (or a scoop or spoon of your choice in terms of size), scoop out cookie dough and roll into a smooth ball in the palms of your hands. Mixture should not be sticky. Drop them in a shallow dish filled with turbinado sugar (this tends to clump and settle, so fluff it with a fork first), and roll the cookie dough ball generously in the sugar, until it sticks all over, uniformly.
Transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, placing the dough balls 2 inches apart.
Depending on the size of the cookie scoop, you will end up with 18 or 24 cookies. You may need additional baking sheets.
Using a flat bottom dish or glass, gently press the cookie dough balls down to about 1/2 inch tall. Sprinkle additional turbinado sugar on top the cookies if you wish.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 12 minutes until lightly golden. Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes until cookies are firm, before attacking!
Store in an airtight container for 1-2 weeks.