Behold the Power of… Tea!

What time of the day works for you to sit with a great cookbook and get hundreds of ideas to stir your baking passion? I enjoy reading cookbooks before I shut my eyes and go to sleep. Sometimes I am awake until the wee hours of the morning because as I turn to a new recipe on each page of the cookbook, I envision how I can change a tantalizing recipe into my own creation by incorporating unique ingredients or different flavors. (Maybe that is why it’s called “visions of sugarplums”?) After all, how can I go to sleep with that kind of excitement brewing in my brain!!!

The Good Cookie, a wonderful cookbook by Tish Boyle, is a fabulous recording of cookie and bar recipes that keeps me wide awake with excitement when I read it. Her recipes are definitely competition material as I have used many of them as the blueprint that has enrobed my creative baking thought processes prior to competing in baking contests. Sometimes my cookbooks look pretty worn, and this cookbook is actually falling apart at the spine due to use. Of course, I have little notes jotted beside each recipe along with the dates I created my “masterpieces.”How about you? Do you do that, too? Now let me tell you, these little pennings have been especially helpful to me as I have gotten older. My memory bank just can’t hold it all!

So, let’s think outside of the box for a minute. I am not a tea drinker, but I have found a supreme use for tea leaves. Use the wonderful flavor of tea in a shortbread cookie. No, the tea leaves do not stay in the cookie dough. They only flavor it. Tish Boyle used this method with gusto in her recipe for Chocolate-Dipped Earl Grey Shortbread Wedges. With all of the different flavored teas on the market, you may just find a flavor to substitute for the Earl Grey variety. I did with my award-winning Raspberry Lemonade Cookie Coins. Oh, the wonderful fresh aroma of raspberry as I open the oven door to remove the cookies from the oven!!! Heavenly, I say! Perhaps you also might want to play around with flavors of extracts to complement or change up the recipe even further. Whatever you do, have fun with it and make that recipe your own!

Here’s the blueprint:
2 Tbsp. Earl Grey tea leaves
¾ cup unsalted butter
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup cake flour (not self-rising)
1 cup all-purpose flour
Chocolate Garnish:
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ teaspoon vegetable oil

Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan. In a medium saucepan, combine the tea leaves and butter and heat over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter is completely melted. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to cool and infuse for 10 minutes. Strain the butter through a fine sieve into a large bowl. Discard the tea leaves. Stir in the sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add the flours and stir until just blended. Scrape the dough into the prepared pan and pat it into an even layer. Cover the surface of the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours until firm (or up to 2 days). Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Bake the chilled shortbread for 35-40 minutes until golden brown. While the shortbread is still hot, cut it into 16 wedges with a thin, sharp knife. Transfer the wedges to a wire rack and cool completely.

Garnish the wedges:
In the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring until smooth. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the vegetable oil. Line a baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper. Pick up one of the shortbread wedges and brush off any crumbs. Holding it over the pan of chocolate, spoon some of the chocolate over the tip of the wedge, up to about an inch from the point. Set the wedge on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining wedges. Let the wedges stand until the chocolate is set, about 1 hour at room temperature (or 15 minutes in the refrigerator). Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Niss NiNi