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:

Carrot and Dillisk Bread #BreadBakers

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My decidedly very un-Irish self has always had a soft spot for all things Irish, including Mr. Dough, whose face alone belies his Irish heritage. So we do our part each year around St. Patrick's Day (which, from what I understand, is a much bigger deal in the US—especially New York—than it is in Ireland) to celebrate the Emerald Isle in a fitting way—with food. Food that always includes a classic Irish bread—and I don't mean the abomination known as the green bagel. This year though, I was kind of over endless variations on soda bread and thought I'd try something new, so with great reluctance (insert sarcasm font here), I bought a couple of new cookbooks specifically about Irish breads. Thumbing through, this one immediately caught my eye—Carrot and Dillisk Bread—mainly because I had no clue what dillisk was. Enter Google: Dillisk, also known as dulse, is seaweed. 

Now somehow, when I think of cuisines known for their use of seaweed, Irish doesn’t jump to the head of the line. Japanese, definitely. Irish, not so much. But Ireland not only has a long history with edible seaweed (going back to 1200 BC!)—most especially as a famine food during the Great Potato Famine, when it provided life-saving sustenance to coastal peasants—but harvesting seaweed for multiple uses, including fertilizer as well as food, is fast becoming an important industry in Ireland. (Wait a minute. Fertilizer AND food? Who else is old enough to remember the classic Saturday Night Live skit for new Shimmer? “It’s a floor wax!” “No, it’s a dessert topping!” Just me then? Okay…)

But back to the bread… I was good this time and ordered my dillisk—a North Atlantic seaweed—from local sources in Maine/Canada rather than buying the stuff from Ireland, because who knew when it would actually arrive. Like most quick breads, this one is super easy. I didn't quite know what to expect taste-wise, a little sweetness from the carrots and a salty tang from the seaweed maybe? The texture is dense and moist, it has a slight aroma of the sea and the taste? Well, color me surprised but it tasted just like…cornbread. Yes, cornbread. Go figure. Certainly unexpected but a very pleasant surprise indeed. This is definitely a bread that will go into regular rotation and one that I'd highly recommend trying—forget about those damned green bagels!

This carrot and dillisk bread is my contribution to this month's #BreadBakers theme: Irish Breads, hosted by Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm. Thanks Wendy! Don't forget to check out the links below to see what the other talented bakers came up with.

Carrot and Dillisk Bread

Ingredients

  • 25 g dried dillisk (dulse)
  • 110 g unsalted butter, melted
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • a pinch of salt
  • 50 g granulated sugar (optional)
  • 250 g white spelt or all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsps baking powder

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F and grease and line a 1 lb. loaf pan.
  2. Soak the dillisk in warm water for about 7–10 minutes, then drain, reserving a bit of the soaking water, and chop finely.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix the first 6 ingredients together. 
  4. Sift in the baking powder and flour, folding gently until incorporated. If the mixture seems to dry (it should be a fairly thick batter), add a little of the reserved soaking water.
  5. Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake for 50–55 minutes.
  6. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Notes

I thought I'd try chopping the dillisk first before soaking. Yeah, good luck with that. It was nearly impossible. In its unhydrated state, it's fleshy and rubbery and even after trying to cut it with my sharpest knife and pulsing it in the food processor, it was a no-go. Once it's soaked, the texture completely changes and chopping it up was easy-peasy.

Slightly adapted from Irish Bread: Baking for Today by Valerie O'Connor

#BreadBakers March: Irish Breads

#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.

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.