London Fog Shortbread Cookies #CreativeCookieExchange

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Regardless of where you live or what time zone you're in, I'm declaring that RIGHT NOW, it's Elevenses. That's time for tea and biscuits, thank you very much. (Biscuits being cookies to those of us on the left side of the pond.) I love tea, almost all kinds. It took me a while to warm up to it though because I always associated it with the stuff my mother drank all though my youth. Salada. Only Salada, I think because of the cute little sayings they used to put on their tea bags. Now, I'm sure it's a fine tea—not fancy schmancy—but all I remember is that Salada tea was a total turnoff to my kid nose and palate and it put me off entering the Wonderful World of Tea well into adulthood. (It always comes back to mother, doesn't it?) But about five years ago, I flung off the yoke of my childhood tea aversion and got into it in a big way. And I do mean BIG.

I'm known for my obsessive acquisitive tendencies and tea was no exception. I went from having a couple of tins on the countertop to needing a shelf in a cabinet to needing the entire cabinet to running out to Ikea to buy a free-standing cupboard just for my teas and tisanes (and it still wasn't enough). While I've toned it down of late and no longer need that cupboard, I still love a good cuppa, especially on a rainy day, when I put on some soothing music, fight for space with the dog and three cats on the big poofy chair, curl up with a book and settle in for a nice, relaxing afternoon. 

But what's a cup of tea without a good biscuit/cookie to go along with it? For me, that cookie has to be shortbread—no other cookie will do. There's nothing better—rich, buttery, with its signature sugary crunch. I've never turned one down, in all its forms and variations. The idea of making this favorite tea biscuit with tea as an ingredient, though, never occurred to me until Laura at #CreativeCookieExchange chose "Tea Time Cookies" as this month's theme. Searching on the interwebs for "tea cookies" brought up tons of recipes for matcha cookies—which I've made before—but it was these Earl Grey beauties—London Fog shortbread—that caught my eye. Because I love Earl Grey as much as I love shortbread.

Earl Grey is a classic English tea, a blend of black tea and oil of bergamot, a type of orange (and not the same thing as the herb bergamot). It has an interesting history and it was originally thought that the oil of bergamot was added to disguise the use of inferior tea. Who knew that one of the most beloved teas would blossom from those suspect roots? 

So where does London Fog come in? My first thought was the deadly London fog of 1952 (which, Anglophile that I am, I'd never heard of until I watched "The Crown" on Netflix), but that's not exactly the romantic stuff of tea party dreams and certainly not something to celebrate with a commemorative beverage, is it? Thankfully, this London Fog is an Earl Grey vanilla latte (English tea, Grey, a swirl of milky mist—London Fog…clever) of indeterminate origin, although it's thought to have come from Canada. Not surprising then, that I wouldn't have heard of it since foofy drinks like lattes aren't my thing. I like my coffee black and my tea straight (Starbucks hates me). But these same ingredients in a cookie? Yes, please.

I happened to have an Earl Grey lavender tea on hand (Twinings, again not any fancy schmancy artisanal stuff but it's perfectly fine), which is what I used here. The thin, crisp, tea-flecked shortbread wafer and the notes of citrus and floral positively sing. I also added a sprinkling of sparkling sugar on top because…well, why not? And there you have it, not only a cookie for tea but an entire tea party in one cookie. Pinkies up!

This month's #CreativeCookieExchange theme is "Tea Time Cookies." Be sure to check out the links below because you won't want to miss what the other bakers are bringing to the party.

London Fog Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup confectioner's (icing) sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 vanilla bean split and scraped (or 1 tbsp. vanilla bean paste)
  • 2 tbsp. (3 tea bags) Earl Grey Tea 
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • Sparkling or turbinado sugar (optional, for sprinkling)

Directions

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar.
  2. Add in the vanilla, vanilla bean or paste) and tea and stir together.
  3. Add in the flour and mix until just combined.
  4. Gather up the dough and form into a flattened disk. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or longer.
  5. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  6. Roll out the chilled dough on a well-floured surface to about 1/4" thickness, then cut out desired shapes and place them on the baking sheets. Cover and chill for about 30 minutes (this helps keep the cookies from spreading while baking.)
  7. While the cookies are chilling, preheat the oven to 350°F.
  8. If desired, sprinkle the tops of the cookies with sparkling sugar and press in lightly.
  9. Bake the cookies for about 12 minutes. The edges should just be starting to brown. Cool on the pans for a couple of minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Recipe source Oleander and Palm

Notes

I love my Paderno pastry mat and Joseph Joseph rolling pin, which makes rolling dough out to consistent thickness super easy.

If you're looking for a great source for teas, aside from the larger, well-known companies like Teavana, David's and Adagio, I highly recommend checking out SerendipiTea. Founder/owner Linda is a customer of ours at my day job, and both she and Sonam are not only incredibly knowledgeable but super nice people. Linda also edited a lovely book about tea, written by SerendipiTea's co-founder Tomislav Podreka.

A Note About Links

None of my links to products or companies are affiliate links and I am not compensated in any way. I only recommend and link to things I use, like and want to share.

#CreativeCookieExchange for March: Teatime Cookies

Cookies in the afternoon at “teatime” are a long held tradition, whether served with tea, coffee or even milk for an after school snack. No matter what you serve with your cookies, we’ve got a great list for you to choose from!

You can also use us as a great resource for cookie recipes. Be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life.) You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:

Buckwheat, Blackberry and Saffron Drop Scones #BreadBakers

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These buckwheat, blackberry and saffron drop scones (that would be pancakes to those of us on the left side of the Atlantic) are ridiculously good. Fluffy little morsels with tangy bursts of berries and a hint of saffron and honey. And if this post had a theme song, it would be the brilliant Tom Lehrer's "Masochism Tango." Because I'm totally torturing myself with them right now. Lest you think I'm into weird stuff and run away, let me reassure you… No, as good as these babies are, I chose this month to do the Whole30, which, if you haven't heard of it, is a food "reset" thingy where food groups like legumes and dairy and grains and alcohol and sugar and ACK! gluten are verboten for 30 days, and that means I. Can't. Eat. Them. Nice timing. Could I have signed up in January (it's a big thing in January because resolutions) along with the rest of the world? No. I have to be a rebel. So there they are, looking unbearably delicious, staring at me, tempting me, mocking me. Yes, torturing me. But I'm hanging in. That which does not kill us makes us stronger. Bleh. 

Pancakes are the theme for this month's #BreadBakers challenge, chosen by Mayuri of Mayuri’s Jikoni, who, I'm pretty sure, chose it just to taunt me. (I kid, Mayuri. Honest.) I could easily have bagged it, but A. I have a habit of continuing to bake and cook when I can't eat (ask me about the time I hosted three dinner parties back in the 80s while I was on that stupid liquid diet), and 2. I've baked these many times and they're just too good not to share. 

Pancakes are the perfect food for those of us with the attention span of a flea and/or instant gratification issues because, for the most part, you can be stuffing your face in under half an hour. Plus, you can make them as large or small as you want without messing things up like you can if you don't have the right size cake pan or whatnot. And the big bonus if you make them small, like I do? Smaller means you can eat more because they have fewer calories. Right? Right. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Alternative facts and all.

I'm telling you that you need to make these RIGHT NOW. (Unless, of course, you're an obsessive twit like I am and need to order special ingredients from overseas first—see below.) I guarantee you'll thank me. All I ask in return is that you send some "atta girl!" thoughts my tortured Whole30-ish way. At least until next month when I can once again revel in glutenous gluttony and face plant into a giant plate of these pancakes.

Buckwheat, blackberry and saffron drop scones

Ingredients

  • 100g white whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour
  • 75g buckwheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 40g golden caster sugar or granulated sugar
  • Pinch fine sea salt
  • 1 large egg
  • Pinch of saffron strands
  • 100ml / 3.5 oz. milk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp clear honey
  • 1-2 handfuls ripe blackberries (depending on size), slightly crushed.
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, stir together the egg, milk, honey, vanilla and saffron. 
  2. Add the flours, baking powder, sugar, and salt to a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine. 
  3. Pour in the liquid mixture and whisk together, then add in the blackberries and stir.
  4. Pour in the melted butter (should still be hot) and again, stir to combine.
  5. Heat an electric griddle to 350°F or a skillet over medium heat, then drop the batter onto the griddle (I used a medium cookie scoop), flatten a bit if needed, cook for about 2 minutes, then flip over and cook for 2 minutes more. (The batter should not have any wet spots.)
  6. Serve warm with butter and honey or jam.

Adapted from Delicious Magazine

Notes

The original recipe used only all-purpose flour but I started messing around with it, first using half whole wheat, then all whole wheat and so on. I thought about using buckwheat flour one day when I only had buckwheat honey in the cupboard and thought I'd give both a try. I liked the combination so much I've been making them that way ever since, ending up with this mix of buckwheat and white whole wheat. It's a great little recipe for experimenting with different flours and fruit.

The original recipe also called for golden caster sugar, which has a slight caramel-y flavor and isn't really a thing in the US. You can easily substitute regular granulated sugar with no problem. Unless you're like me and you HAVE to have every impossible-to-find weird ingredient. I ordered the real thing and it took so long to get to me that I forgot why I ordered it in the first place. Do not be like me.

I used a medium cookie scoop to portion out the batter but you can make them any size you like.

#BreadBakers February: Pancakes

Check out the Pancakes from different parts of the world that our fellow Bread Bakers have baked this month:

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely bread by following our Pinterest board. Links are also updated after each event on the #BreadBakers home page

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com.

Apple, Pear and Persimmon Stuffed Brioche #BreadBakers

Apple_Pear_Persimmon_Stuffed_Brioche_Chai_Spice-8.jpg

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Fall. Forget about what the song says. THIS is the most wonderful time of the year as far as I'm concerned. Summer is GONE. Done. Finito. Dead. An ex-season. And for me, that means no more whinging and moaning about the heat and humidity until people want to take me out to sea and throw me overboard with lead weight attached to my ankle. Most importantly though, it means no more baking in a kitchen that feels like a blast furnace. WHEEEEEE!

This certainly hasn't been a typical fall—thanks for nothing, Global Warming! It's mid-October, but the leaves have barely started turning and those that have are just kind of…well, blah. No blaze of color. (Those of you in a no-Fall zone, work with me here.) But the weather has definitely gone from sweltering hot to cool and crisp, and I want something cozy and comforting, something that will give me the warm fuzzies, something that says FALL even if the trees say otherwise. So I'm kicking off the Fall Follies here at the House of Dough with some of the best tastes that fall has to offer—namely, the fruits of the season. This rich, buttery, mock-braided brioche is filled with some of the classics—apple, pears and persimmons—sprinkled with chai spices and topped with a crunchy streusel. You want warm fuzzies? We got 'em right here. So cut yourself a slice or six, make yourself a nice cuppa, curl up on the sofa in your Hello Kitty jammies (not that I have them, no siree), grab a good book and enjoy.

This brioche is my contribution to this month's #BreadBakers, Fall Fruits and Vegetables, hosted by Pavani at Cooks' Hideout. Thanks, Pavani!

Apple, Pear and Persimmon Stuffed Brioche

Ingredients

Dough

  • 2 tsp active dry yeast 
  • 1/3 cup water at 110º F
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 8 tablespoons butter

Filling

  • 1 lb. mixed apples, pears and fuyu persimmons, firm but ripe (about 1 large for each), chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 tsp chai spice blend (recipe below)
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour or Instant ClearJel

Streusel Topping

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 4 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp chai spice blend
  • pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Place the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle the yeast on top, whisk gently and let sit for about 5 minutes, until it looks active and bubbly.
  2. Fit the paddle attachment to the mixer, then add the flour and salt to the yeast mixture in the bowl and mix on low speed, scraping down the sides as needed.. The dough will look very dry and shaggy.
  3. Add the eggs and mix gently. Add the sugar then turn the speed up to medium-low and mix for about 4 minutes, until the dough forms a ball.
  4. Switch to the dough hook and with the mixer on low speed, add the butter  2 tablespoons at a time, making sure each piece is incorporated before adding the next one and stopping to pull the dough from the hook and scrape the sides of the bowl. The dough should be very soft. Once the butter is incorporated. continue mixing for about 10 minutes. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl.
  5. Transfer the dough to a bowl (I love these Cambro containers; no guessing as to when the dough has doubled), cover and set aside to rise at room temperature until it's doubled in size. Punch down the dough, then cover and place in the refrigerator. Check the dough every half hour and punch it down again. After about 2 hours, the dough will stop rising. Refrigerate overnight.
  6. To make the filling the next day, peel, core and chop the fruits, then place in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice and toss the fruits, then add the sugar, chai spice blend, scraped vanilla bean seeds and a pinch of salt and toss to combine.
  7. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat, then add the fruit mixture and sauté until the fruit has softened slightly. The juices will have thickened somewhat. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. When cooled, stir in the ClearJel or flour.
  8. Remove the dough from the fridge and let it rest for about 15 minutes. Lightly flour a piece of parchment paper, transfer the dough and roll it out to a 10" x 15" rectangle (don't sweat it if it isn't exact). Transfer the parchment with the dough to a baking sheet.
  9. Spoon the cooled fruit mixture down the center of the dough, lengthwise. Then cut diagonal strips about 1-1/2" wide down each side of the dough, leaving an uncut border around the filling. (A bench knife works great for making the cuts.)
  10. Working from alternating sides, fold the strips over the filling in a mock braid. Brush the braid lightly to remove any excess flour, then cover lightly with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until puffy and almost doubled.
  11. While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 350°F.
  12. To make the streusel topping, place the flour, sugar, chai spice and salt into a bowl and mix together. Add the butter and rub it in with your fingers until it holds together and crumbs form.
  13. When the dough is risen, whisk the egg and brush it lightly over the dough. Sprinkle the streusel on top, breaking up the larger pieces if needed.
  14. Bake until golden brown, about 30-40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Adapted from Food52 

Chai Spice Blend

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp cardamom pods
  • 1 tbsp whole coriander seeds
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, cut small pieces
  • 3 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick broken into small pieces (or 2 tsps ground cinnamon)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 7 allspice berries
  • 1 tsp white peppercorns

Directions

Place all ingredients into a spice grinder and pulse until you have a fine powder. Store in an airtight container.

Notes

You can substitute an equal amount of ground cinnamon for the chai spice if you prefer.

Make sure you use fuyu persimmons, not hachiya. Both are fairly common but fuyus are short and squatty and can be eaten out of hand like apples, while hachiyas are taller and sort of heart shaped and are generally are used to make purees. Trust me, you DON'T want to confuse the two and use hachiyas for something like this, where you need a firm fruit. A firm hachiya is an unripe hachiya and an unripe hachiya is overwhelmingly astringent. Try biting into one and you might never un-pucker. I did it so you don't have to.

 

 

#BreadBakers for October: Fall Fruits and Vegetables

For this month's BreadBakers, we're baking breads with fall fruits and vegetables (apples, grapes, pears, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, acorn squash, butternut squash and so on). Thanks to Pavani at Cook's Hideout for hosting!

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely bread by following our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated after each event on the #BreadBakers home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com.

BreadBakers