Tea Infused Shortbread
There is something so powerful about the smell of cookies baking in an oven. Whenever the urge to bake some strikes, and I get into the repetition of rolling dough out onto sheets, I tend to forget about that first batch in the oven, and the smell always catches me off guard. It almost feels like I’m in a cartoon watching the smell wafting in front of my face, I close my eyes, breathing in that sweet, molten cookie, aroma as I begin floating through the air towards the oven. This hasn’t actually happened yet, but I like to imagine that there is a chance I could accidentally stumble into a two-dimensional world-- A place where you can defy gravity if you don’t pay attention to the floor going out beneath your feet, or be able to use a brush and a bit of craftsmanship to paint whatever you happen to need at the time: doorways, tunnels, an anvil to drop upon your enemies. (These skills could prove to be quite handy.)
Not that I have many enemies! I like to kill with kindness, a few smiles, and lots of baked goods, which is exactly what this bake is about. There is nothing more joyful than a delicious flower stamped cookie. They give off such a sweet and pleasant feeling, there is no escaping their happiness. The trick, however, is trying to find a cookie that will showcase a stamp. In order for the cookie stamps to really work, they need to be stamped on a cookie without too much rise, so they will hold their shape. Shortbread is a great option, but it is incredibly rich. Such a dense cookie doesn’t really pair well with the summer heat. It needs a light and refreshing flavor. Luckily, I was reading Ruby Tandoh’s new cookbook, Crumb, and came across a recipe where she infused the butter with tea before baking with it. I instantly fell in love with the new possibilities of flavor. Can you even imagine? Tea flavored frosting, cakes, scones... The possibilities are seriously endless! The best part is that I have access to a local tea house and can experiment whenever. It’s wonderful how a classic recipe can turn into something completely different with a beautiful stamp and a simple twist on flavor.
TEA- INFUSED SHORTBREAD
Serving Size: Makes about 14 cookies
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1-2 ounces of your favorite loose leaf tea (I experimented with a white peony, strawberry, and a hibiscus blend. Keep in mind some teas might change the color of your cookie, and some are more potent than others.)
1.) Melt butter and loose leaf tea together in a saucepan over low heat. Let it sit for five minutes over heat before turning it off and letting it sit again for another five. Swirl everything around once in awhile then strain into a container and let it cool down to room temperature.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter-and-sugar mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes. * make sure you have the right dough consistency; not enough flour, and the cookies won’t hold their flower shape. If there is too much flour the dough will crack as you roll it out.*
I decided on a classic shortbread recipe because it holds the tea flavor so well, but I also found a really great recipe from King Arthur Flour that holds a cookie stamp really well Brown Butter Stamp Recipe. Don't be afraid to try out both, and see which one you like better.
Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Roll out the dough and use your cookie stamps to press flower indentations. I have found it helps to dust the stamp with some flour so it doesn’t stick to the dough. Cut around the flowers with a knife, and place them on parchment paper. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Remember to breathe in the aroma, and get lost in a Two-Dimensional daydream. When they cool, offer to friends, enemies, frenemies, anyone who could use a bit of happy in their day.
So tasty, I can't stop eating them!