The week wait for my new oven turned into a monthlong slog of endurance, as I dreamed about everything that I would use the oven for. Cookies, quick loaves, crusty bread, and bubbling pies filled my fantasies. Every time I tried to bake something with the old oven it ended up not quite right- tasty enough, but with irritatingly imperfect. Textural control went out the window. I got tired of opening and closing the door and fiddling with the knobs to properly maintain temperature. And so I put my dreams of baking on the shelf, waiting for the promised day.
And finally, after a lifetime of waiting, it did arrive. The new oven is a thing of beauty. There’s an extra four inches! It runs true to temp! I can fit full sized cookie sheets in it! I can buy full sized cookie sheets now! The possibilities are endless!
And so I spent a week not baking anything, trying to decide the best baked good to christen the oven.
Scones? Cinnamon rolls? Lemon meringue pie! Malted milk tart? The indecision hit me hard. Eventually, the idea arrived when I at work, using my fingers to rub butter into tart dough. A shortbread-ish cookie, with lemon zest rubbed into the sugar, scented with earl grey. The type of dessert I like to make at home- sweet enough to be a treat, but humble enough to eat everyday. (At work it’s a whole different story.)
These cookies are easy. You whisk together dries, rub lemon zest into sugar, and cream butter. The rest is all mixing and shaping. The dough needs to rest for at least 3 hours before being sliced and baked, which is really ideal. It makes it easy to whip it up in the morning and bake in the evening. (Or make the dough, bring a log in your purse on the bus, and bake it off at work, but that’s neither here nor there.) They pull together entirely with pantry ingredients (assuming you keep earl grey tea in your pantry). The cookies are delightfully crisp, and the turbinado sugar adds a bright crunch to the cookies. And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, they are delicious with tea.
Earl Grey Tea Cookies
adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 18 cookies
These cookies are very roughly adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s famous World Peace Cookies. If you’re keeping track of how the recipe has changed, I halved the yield, changed the sugars, dialed down the chocolate, and added in earl gray and lemon zest. Dorie also included coco powder, but I wanted the chocolate to be a grace note in this instance, not the main flavor. Dorie originally called for light brown sugar instead of the turbinado sugar, but I swapped it out because I only had dark brown and I didn’t want that flavor to dominate. I imagine that these would be delicious with brown sugar, if more chewy.
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (95 grams) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon (2 tea bags) of earl grey tea, finely ground (I used a mortor and pestle)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup (75 grams) turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons (25 grams) cane sugar
5 1/2 tablespoons (64 grams) butter, softened
zest of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 ounce dark chocolate, finely chopped
In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, tea, and baking soda. Set aside. In a small bowl whisk together the 2 sugars. Using your fingers, rub the lemon zest into the sugar until the lemon zest is well distributed and the sugar is fragrant. Set aside.
In a large bowl using a hand mixer whip the butter until it is fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula. Add in the lemon zest sugar, the salt, and the vanilla. Beat until the whole mess is soft and fragrant, about another 2 minutes.
Turn off the mixer. Pour in the dry ingredients. Turn the mixer on low, beating the flour in 30 second increments, until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the dark chocolate fragments.
On a clean surface, place a length of plastic wrap. (If you’re like me and often forget to buy plastic wrap, you can also use parchment paper or wax paper.) Turn the dough out onto the plastic wrap. The dough will be crumbly and may resemble sand. This is okay. Begin to form the dough into a log. I found it easiest to shape the dough into a rectangle, then fold the plastic wrap over the dough. Push the dough out, then round, and repeat until the dough is about a foot in length and an inch in diameter. Wrap well in the plastic (or parchment or wax paper) and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or up to 2 days.
When you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 325. Pull the dough from the refrigerator. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1/2 inch pieces. The dough may crumble while you cut. This is okay, just push the dough back together. Place the cookie rounds an inch apart onto the cookie tray. Bake for 12 minutes, until the cookies are fragrant and the edges are set. Remove from the oven and keep on the try until the cookies are cool and have firmed.
The cookies will keep well for a few days if kept in an airtight container.