One of my passions that I am looking forward to exploring with you is the beauty of tea. If you were introduced to tea in a tall glass, saturated with sugar, poured over ice on a hot sunny day, you too probably love it…who doesn’t love traditional Southern sweet tea? But, if you had that same bag of tea steeped in a mug of hot water, even with sugar, lemon, or honey, I’ll bet money you weren’t impressed. Yes, it soothed your sore throat or warmed you up on a cold day, but it probably didn’t do much to soothe your soul or warm you heart. Well, neither one of these typical (and I’ll say BORING) offerings is what I am referring to when I use the word “tea.” Although all true teas come from the same plant, there is tremendous diversity of experience offered by the hundreds of varieties of tea that are born from various regions, climates, processing methods, blending, scenting, and flavoring. What’s more, our experiences with tea are not limited to the tea bag or the tea cup. Tea is an incredible medium for imparting unique and sophisticated flavors into food. I want to share a quick and simple recipe that I found for Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies…yes, that is tea you see in those cookies. And they are delicious!
Earl Grey tea is one of my favorite black teas and I have read that it is the most popular tea in the West and the most popular flavored tea in the world. Earl Grey is a black tea scented with the oil of a Bergamot orange (a Mediterranean pear-shaped citrus fruit), so it is described as having a “citrusy” flavor. But, you will not be drinking a cup of orange tea when you partake in a cup of Earl Grey. The citrus scent adds a complexity to the bold flavor of the black tea that is not overtly fruity or easily recognizable as “orange,” but it is a unique flavor that is easily recognizable as Earl Grey. The tea is named after Earl Charles Grey of Britain, who was prime minister of England from 1830 – 1834.
I believe that Earl Grey is rightly described as bold, bright, and refreshing. I find that coffee drinkers enjoy Earl Grey because of its strength and boldness, but they appreciate the hint of sophistication which lightens the flavor profile. I think it is a great tea to introduce to those who are skeptical about black teas from drinking the boring versions I discussed above. There is nothing boring about the aromatic and flavorful Earl Grey. Simply and slightly sweetened with sugar, doused with sugar and milk, or a brightened with a squeeze of lemon – Earl Grey can be enjoyed in a cup in many ways.
Earl Grey also can be appreciated for the fragrance and contrasting bite it delivers to a simple shortbread cookie. You can likely find an Earl Grey tea latte, also called a “London Fog,” at your local spot - it is a blend of Earl Grey tea and steamed milk, sweetened with vanilla syrup. It is a bit of heaven in a cup for the Earl Grey tea lover. The Earl Grey Shortbread Cookie offers a similar flavor profile with the added buttery simplicity of shortbread layered into it. The recipe I am sharing with you couldn’t be more simple:
Earl Grey Shortbread Cookie
2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons loose Earl Grey tea leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
Preheat your oven to 375oF.
- Pulse tea in a food processor to break up leaves slightly. Then add flour and salt and pulse together to distribute tea throughout the flour.
- Using the food processor or a mixer, add the sugar, vanilla, and butter to the flour tea mixture. Mix or pulse just until a dough is formed. Be careful not to overmix the dough to prevent too much gluten from forming which will make the cookies tough.
- Place dough on a sheet of plastic wrap, and roll into a log, about 2 1/2-inches in diameter. Twist each end of wrap and chill the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Slice the dough into 1/3-inch thick disks. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets, 2 inches apart.
- Bake until the bottom edges are just light brown, about 12-13 minutes.
- Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks and cool to room temperature.
You can read more about tea basics on Mon Bon Vivant Blog’s BeauTea-Ful℠ – For the Love of Tea page. I will be bringing more to expand your understanding and appreciation of tea in my future BeauTea-Ful℠ blog posts. We worked on some unique Chinese recipes in class this week that I will share with you. And I actually just took delivery of my new obsession, Culinary Tea, a recipe book by Cynthia Gold and Lisë Stern.
There are over 150 recipes in this book using tea and, from a quick glance, I might be trying them all!