A Cup Of Tea And A Small Morsel – Earl Grey Cookies

Saturday, May 14, 2011

I’m hungry! You think to yourself, at about half past three in the afternoon, when lunch is a fading memory but the time before the next meal stretches out into the distance like the thought of a heaped basket of ironing or the prospect of preparing your taxes. Or perhaps it’s in the morning, and you had an early start and have been rushing round scarcely pausing for breath since wolfing down some toast and a scalding cup of coffee. Or it’s a lazy weekend afternoon and your mind starts drifting from your book, your football game, your rabble of domestic chores that you're putting off by gazing out the window... 

Sticky Penguin's Earl Grey tea cookies
All photos on this post are by the Sticky Penguin, who is completely in love with her shiny new(ish) Emma Bridgewater mug which was definitely worth carting back from London

It could be almost any time, really – once that impudent little gremlin starts to poke a miniature fork in your innards in a most impolite manner, he can be very hard to ignore. And that’s where these cookies come in. They’re a couple of bites of pale golden gently crumbling faint sweetness that just satisfy the little gnawing hole inside, without being achingly sugary or leaving you guiltily licking buttery fingers. They can be enjoyed without any fancy accompaniments, although they’re perfect with a hot cup of tea. And they have a hint of something familiar but slightly unexpected that can keep you coming back for just one more as you try to pin down just what is that taste. The answer might already be in your cup – it’s Earl Grey tea.

These cookies were the first time I’d made a dough that is chilled before being sliced off into pieces and baked. I tend to think of recipes that need resting or cooling time part-way through as an unwarranted bother unless I’m in the mood to make something complicated. But these cookies have converted me – that half an hour they spend in the freezer gives just enough time to sit and relax, to get the washing up done and stick a load of washing on, or – far more likely – to get started on the next recipe for the day’s baking frenzy!

Theoretically, you can leave the raw dough wrapped up in the freezer until you need it (perhaps for some of those unexpected guests!), but while I love the idea of being so organised, it’d need a freezer bigger than the current overflowing chilly and creaking shoe-box. And it would feel entirely unfair to the Other Penguin to start making what have turned out to be his favourite home-made snack, only to thrust them, half-formed, into the freezer and deny him freshly baked cookies right then...

Sticky Penguin's Earl Grey tea cookies

Earl Grey cookies have already become a recurring fixture on the baking list in the penguin household, which is definitely saying something, given my frequent impatience at making the same thing twice when the list of possibilities grows ever longer.

If you’d like to enjoy a few small crunchy morsels for yourself, here’s how they’re made:

Earl Grey Tea Cookies (adapted from The Kitchn)
What you need*
1 cup / 125 g plain flour
¼ cup / 55 g granulated sugar
¼ cup / 31 g icing sugar
1 tbsp Earl Grey tea leaves (I used 3 bags of Twinings' Lady Grey)
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
1-3 tsp water
½ cup / 113 g butter (I've also tried this recipe using a low-fat butter blend, and that worked fine, too)

What you do
A quick preparation note: I’ve only ever made these cookies using a food processor. While that doesn’t worry me at all (it’s still such a novelty to have one!), if you don’t feel the same, or don’t have one, I suspect it can be done pretty easily with a wooden spoon and some elbow grease, as noted in the steps below. If you do go down that route, it's probably a good move to let the butter come to room temperature before getting started.

1. Place the flour, white sugar, icing sugar, tea leaves and salt in the bowl of a food processor (which means there's no need to sieve it - hooray!) and pulse in quick bursts until the tea is finely ground. If you're using good tea leaves and/or making the recipe by hand, I suspect this step can very easily be left out without being missed, and just stir the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl.
2. Add the vanilla and butter and pulse in quick bursts until it is just combined. Add water a little at a time until a dough is formed (the amount I've needed has varied a little each time I've made this recipe, so I've found it's best to add it last, and only use as much as is needed for the dough to move cleanly around in the bowl. If you're not using a food processor, some vigorous mixing and a little pressing and kneading should get the same result.
3. Turn the dough out onto a piece of non-stick baking paper or kitchen wrap. Divide the dough into two roughly equal pieces. Shape each piece roughly into a sausage shape around 3-4 cm in diameter (about as round as the circle made by joining your thumb and middle finger). You can have a thicker log, and larger cookies, but I've found these dimensions a good combination of easy to handle and just big enough for a couple of bites - they're not the sort of flavour that lends itself to a whopping great size like a chocolate chip cookie might. And, of course, when they're so small and cute, it's very easy to have more than one!
4. Wrap the sausage of cookie dough in the non-stick paper or kitchen wrap, and repeat the process with the remaining half of the dough. 
5. Place the wrapped sausages of dough in the freezer to firm up (or the fridge will do if you're not baking on a sticky Sydney afternoon) for around half an hour. Or, if you're organised and want to prepare things in advance, leave them in there for a few days or a couple of weeks until you want to enjoy some fresh cookies. That's if you can resist the lure of fresh cookie dough for long enough - not an option in the penguin household!
6. Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375°F and line two baking sheets with non-stick paper.
7. Remove the chilled dough from the freezer and, using a serrated knife, cut into slices of around ½ cm thick. The recipe makes around 24 cookies, depending on how round and how thick you've made them. And how much cookie dough you may have snaffled along the way.
8. Place the cookies on the baking sheets (re-shaping them a little if they're not quite circular and if that's important to you), and bake for around 10-12 minutes. When the cookies are done, they should be light golden brown around the edges (not a uniform golden brown all over, in which case they will probably be a little too crispy).
9. Allow the cookies to cool on the trays or on a wire rack. If kept in a cool place (or in the fridge, if you happen to inhabit a badly insulated apartment), the cookies will keep well for at least 5 days. If you let them... 

Sticky Penguin's Earl Grey tea cookies

I'm hungry! you think to yourself... and that's quite ok, because now you have Earl Grey cookies to nibble while you take a break and curl around your cup of tea...

* Cup measurements refer to US cups, which aren't the same size as Australian (and other) ones - this is why the alternative weights are also shown.

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